|A much better day. Still quite windy with the wind coming from the opposite direction – yesterday it was easterly, today it’s coming from the west, but it’s clear & sunny.
I finally got to L’Anse aux Meadows, the only authenticated Norse site in North America, which was a real thrill for me. There have been references to Norse journeys to North America in the Sagas which were mostly oral until they were written down in the 1200s, but until 1960, they were just stories.
That was when a Norwegian explorer & writer, Helge Ingstad, met a local fisherman at L’Anse aux Meadows who showed him what the locals thought was an old Indian camp. Helge & his archaeologist wife conducted excavations over the next 8 summers, finding the ruins of Norse buildings & a few small items left behind when the Vikings left.
Parks Canada continued digging for the next 4 years but recognised that the site was becoming degraded by the harsh climate so they covered it all up again to preserve it but they built exact replicas of some of the buildings.
However, I learned that just about everything I thought I knew about the place was wrong. First of all, the people who came here weren’t Vikings. Vikings are raiders & these people came to trade, looking for timber to build their boats.
Secondly, they didn’t come from Scandinavia. Jasper chips from fire-starters show that most of them came from the Norse settlement on Greenland & some from Iceland.
L’Anse aux Meadows was never a permanent settlement. Evidence of old nails, a furnace used to produce iron from bog ore & woodworking debris indicate that it was used as a base to repair their ships with 60 – 90 people spending 4 winters here under the leadership of Leif Eiriksson.
The Vinland of the sagas wasn’t here because wild grapes have never grown in this area. Wild grapes are found in New Brunswick so these Norsemen who were here mainly in search of hardwood timber would have explored as far south as the east coast of New Brunswick.
At the time, around 1,000 years ago, the Greenland colony had a population of less than 500 & even with some Icelandic crew the cost of operating the Vinland enterprise was not sustainable. The base at L’Anse aux Meadows was abandoned & the buildings burnt.
An intriguing aspect of this site is the concept of a full circle. When early man started migrating from Africa about 100,000 years ago, some went north & west to Europe while others travelled east across Asia & ultimately to North America. When the Norse met up with the native Americans here, it was the first time these 2 branches of the human race made contact, thus completing the circle of migration.
This is the end of this part of my journey. Tomorrow, I turn around & head for home.