Bjarni Herjólfsson

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Bjarni Herjólfsson (fl. 10th century) was a Norwegian explorer who is the first known European discoverer of the mainland of the Americas, which he sighted in 985 or 986.



Bjarni was born to Herjólfr, son of Bárði Herjólfsson, and Þorgerðr in Iceland. In adulthood, Bjarni became a merchant captain, based in Norway, but visiting his father every summer in Iceland.[1][2]

Discovery of America

Bjarni is believed to have been the first European to see North America. The Grœnlendinga saga ('Greenlanders Saga') tells that one year he sailed to Iceland to visit his parents as usual, only to find that his father had gone with Eric the Red to Greenland. So he took his crew and set off to find him. But in that summer of 985 or 986, Bjarni was blown off course by a storm with no map or compass. He saw a piece of land that was not Greenland. It was covered with trees and mountains and although his crew begged him to, he refused to stop and look around. Since no one in his crew had been to Greenland before, they had to search for it.[2] Although he managed to regain his course, he reported seeing low-lying hills covered with forests some distance farther to the west. The land looked hospitable, but Bjarni was eager to reach Greenland to see his parents and did not land and explore the new lands. Eventually arriving in Greenland, he decided to settle with his father. He reported his findings in Greenland but no one seems to have shown interest in them until, after his father's death, he returned to Norway.[3]

Legacy for Leif

After Bjarni had made his official report in Norway, Leif Ericson (Old Norse: Leifr Eiríksson, the son of Greenland leader Eric the Red) bought the ship that Bjarni had used for the voyage, hired a crew of 35 people and set out to find the land. The result is thought to be the Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. This is the first known attempt at settlement by Europeans on the mainland of the Americas. (The North American island of Greenland was settled much earlier.)[2] Leif's brother and sister in law went to Vineland(Newfoundland)


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