THE POLAR EXPEDITIONS AND THE SEARCH FOR THE NORTH-WEST PASSAGE, I

When established in Iceland, these bold fellows, lovers of adventure and of long hunts in pursuit of seals and walrus, retained their wandering habits and pursued their bold plans in the west, where only three years after the arrival of Ingolf, Guunbjorn discovered the snowy peaks of the mountains of Greenland. Five years later, Eric the Red, banished from Iceland for murder, rediscovered the land in latitude 64° north, of which Guunbjorn had caught a glimpse. The sterility of this ice-bound coast made him decide to seek a milder climate with a more open country, and one producing more game, in the south. So he rounded Cape Farewell at the extremity of Greenland, established himself on the west coast, and built some vast dwellings for himself and his companions, of which M. Jorgensen has discovered the ruins. This country was worthy at that period of the name of Green-Land (Groenland) which the Northmen gave to it, but the annual and great increase of the glaciers, has rendered it since that epoch a land of desolation.

Eric returned to Iceland to seek his friends, and in the same year that he returned to Brattahalida (for so he called his settlement), fourteen vessels laden with emigrants came to join him. It was a veritable exodus. These events took place in the year 1000. As quickly as the resources of the country allowed of it, the population of Greenland increased, and in 1121, Gardar, the capital of the country, became the seat of a bishopric, which existed until after the discovery of the Antilles by Christopher Columbus.

In 986 Bjarn Heriulfson, who had come from Norway to Iceland to spend the winter with his father, learnt that the latter had joined Eric the Red in Greenland. Without hesitation, the young man again put to sea, seeking at haphazard for a country of which he did not even know the exact situation, and was cast by currents on coasts which we think must have been those of New Scotland, Newfoundland, and Maine. He ended, however, by reaching Greenland, where Eric, the powerful Norwegianjarl, reproached him for not having examined with more care countries of which he owed his knowledge to a happy accident of the sea.

Eric had sent his son Leif to the Norwegian court, so close at this time was the connexion between the metropolis and the colonies. The king, who had been converted to Christianity, had just despatched a mission to Iceland charged to overthrow the worship of Odin. He committed to Leif's care some priests who were to instruct the Greenlanders; but scarcely had the young adventurer returned to his own country, when he left the holy men to work out the accomplishment of their difficult task and hearing of the discovery made by Bjarn, he fitted out his vessels and went to seek for the lands which had been only imperfectly seen. He landed first on a desolate and stony plain, to which he gave the name of Helluland, and which we have no hesitation in recognizing as Newfoundland, and afterwards on a flat sandy shore behind which rose an immense screen of dark forests, cheered by the songs of innumerable birds. A third time he put to sea and steering towards the south he arrived at the Bay of Rhode Island, where the mild climate and the river teeming with salmon induced him to settle, and where he constructed vast buildings of planks, which he calledLeifsbudir (Leif's house). Then he sent some of his companions to explore the country, and they returned with the good news that the wild vine grows in the country, to which it owes the name of Vinland. In the spring of the year 1001, Leif, having laded his ship with skins, grapes, wood, and other productions of the country, set out for Greenland; he had made the valuable observation that the shortest day in Vinland lasted nine hours, which places the site of Leifsbudir at 41° 24' 10". This fortunate voyage and the salvage of a Norwegian vessel carrying fifteen men, gained for Leif the surname of the Fortunate.

This expedition made a great stir, and the account of the wonders of the country in which Leif had settled, induced his brother Thorvald, to set out with thirty men. After passing the winter at Leifsbudir, Thorvald explored the coasts to the south, returning in the autumn to Vinland, and in the following year 1004, he sailed along the coast to the north of Leifsbudir. During this return voyage, the Northmen met with the Esquimaux for the first time, and without any provocation, slaughtered them without mercy. The following night they found themselves all at once surrounded by a numerous flotilla of Kayacs, from which came a cloud of arrows. Thorvald alone, the chief of the expedition, was mortally wounded; he was buried by his companions on a promontory, to which they gave the name of the promontory of the Cross.

Now, in the Gulf of Boston in the eighteenth century, a tomb of masonry was discovered, in which, with the bones, was found a sword-hilt of iron. The Indians not being acquainted with this metal, it could not be one of their skeletons; it was not either, the remains of one of the Europeans who had landed after the fifteenth century, for their swords had not this very characteristic form. This tomb has been thought to be that of a Scandinavian, and we venture to say, that of Thorvald, son of Eric the Red.