Leif Erikson

Leif Erikson

Leif Erikson - Explorer (c970 - c1020)

Leif Erikson was a Viking explorer who is widely believed to have been the first European to arrive in the New World. He arrived c1000 and established the first settlement at a place he named ‘Vinland’. Believed to be born in Iceland, he was the son of Erik the Red who had discovered Greenland and built the first settlement there.

This page details facts about Leif Erikson's life and the events that shaped his history.

Leif Erikson the Explorer - Fun Facts for Kids !

1: The accounts of Leif Erikson have been passed down as legends and stories through the Viking Sagas. It is, therefore, impossible to confirm total accuracy.

2: He was believed to have been born c970 in Iceland. He was one of three sons born to Erik the Red and his wife Thjodhild.

3: Leif Erikson was descended from a family of Vikings explorers. His grandfather, Thorvaldr Asvaldsson, had been banished from Norway and discovered Iceland. His father was banished from Iceland and discovered Greenland, where he established the first settlement.

4: Leif Erikson had a partner, Thorgunna, a noblewoman of the Hebrides. He also had two sons, Thorkell and Thorgils.

5: He made his way from Greenland to Norway c999. While there he worked for King Olaf I and was converted to Christianity. He was tasked with converting the settlers on Greenland to Christianity, and headed back there c1000.

6: The main two Viking sagas, Saga of Erik the Red and Saga of the Greenlanders, hold different versions of his voyage to Vinland. The Saga of Erik the red tells how he was driven off course by the wind and found Vinland. The Saga of the Greenlanders tells how he learned of a land to the west of Greenland from an Icelandic merchant, Bjarni Herjolfsson, who had seen it when he was blown of course.

7: When Leif Erikson landed in the new World he named the places according to the landscapes he had witnessed. He named the first area ‘Helluland’ (Flat Rock Land), the second ‘Markland’ (Forest Land) and the third area ‘Vinland’ (Wine Land). The areas are believed to correspond to modern day Baffin Island, Labrador and Newfoundland.

8: Leif Erikson found Vinland to have an abundance of grapes with fertile land. He established a small settlement, and stayed there for the winter to explore the area.

9: The following spring, he headed back to Greenland with stocks of grapes and timber. On his return he preached Christianity and his mother was converted. She built the first church at Brattahild on Erik the Red’s estate.

10: Leif Erikson is believed to have died in Greenland c1020. His son, Thorkell succeeded him as Chieftain.

11: His successful journey to America led to other visits for timber and eventually trade. It is believed that the first contact made with the local tribes was made by Leif’s brother Thorvald.

12: Norwegian Archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad discovered the remains of a Viking style settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland. The evidence gleaned from the excavation demonstrated that Leif Erikson had visited America 500 years earlier than Christopher Columbus.

13: Archaeology also indicates that ‘Vinland’ could have been the region around the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

14: In the United States of America, the 9th October is celebrated as Leif Erikson Day.

15: On October 7 2016, following a joint resolution agreed by the Congress on September 2, 1964, President Barack Obama issued the following proclamation:


NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim October 9, 2016, as Leif Erikson Day.
I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs to honor our rich Nordic-American heritage.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

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