Amerigo Vespucci was an early explorer of the New World, who helped Columbus raise money for his later voyages, and he is primarily remembered because America was supposedly named in his honour after his first name. What utter rubbish. Who would name a continent after the first name of a navigator who went there five years after Columbus? How likely is that?
We all know that Viking, Leif Erikson, son of Erik the Red, discovered Newfoundland in 1000AD. It is recorded in the Icelandic Sagas and evidence of his settlement has been excavated at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, the place Erik called Vinland. What is less well known, and sometimes disputed, is that early explorers knew of a star in the east called La Merica. I bet when they first sailed east and banged into a massive great, green continent beneath that star they immediately named it La Merica. So which do you think sounds the most likely, Amerigo or La Merica? What if they’d called Vespucciland. Can you imagine their national anthem now, ‘God bless Vespucciland, land of the free. From the mountains to the prairies… etc.
Now, this has only a little to do with the Viking Quest we are all on in this blog, so back to Leif, or Lucky Leif as he was called. That was until he visited Norway and returned to Greenland having been converted to Christianity and bringing with him a priest. His dad, Erik the Red, was less than impressed, being a traditional, violent, mead-swilling Viking Pagan and against his better judgement, and everyone’s surprise,
let the priest live. His one Christian act, ever, didn’t do him a blind bit of good though. Erik wasn’t so lucky and he died a year later.
Compared to many of his blood-thirsty forebears, Leif seems a bit dull, though, on the other hand, he did sail off into unknown, dangerous, wild, uncharted waters with only thirty five crew and went on to discover Baffin Island, Labrador, Canada and America. He lived for another twenty years before he went to Heaven, or Valhalla, depending on how strong his faith was at the end.