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Introduction

A curious mound, or some rock with mysterious marks, a deep bay resembling the
gloomy fjords of the Scandinavian lands, low sandy shores, or snow-capped hills, are all so
many texts on which to build theories, and write elaborate treatises to connect the present with
the story of the sagas; and one often rises thoroughly perplexed from the perusal of these
labored disquisitions of some students of times so enshrouded in mist.1
This cultured bit of nineteenth century eloquence makes clear the obstacles facing scholars
wishing to locate the remains of the Norse settlement effort in eastern North America. Distance
in time, conflicting literary texts and prolific erudite commentary have all conspired to swamp
this subject in confusion and doubt. It is believed that a good dose of reasoning, fresh
perspectives and wondrous modern technology can be combined to offer hard evidence in the
form of satellite data, regarding the whereabouts of several named colonies mentioned in the
famous sagas.

John George Bourinot, A Historical and Descriptive Account of the Island of Cape Breton: And of its Memorials of
the French Regime, W.F. Brown & Co. 1892, p.8

Leifsbudir, Straumsfjord and Hop:


Removing Conceptual Barriers to Identification
By
S. H. Rosenbaum

his brief paper is a study in lateral thinking and the startling results thereof. The
Scandinavian exploratory journeys to North America as described by certain Icelandic
sagas resulted in several attempted and named settlements.2 LAnse aux Meadows, the
Norse site discovered by Helge and Anne Ingstad in 1960 on the northern tip of Newfoundland,
was originally identified as Leifsbudir or Leifs camp by the first generations of scholars who
studied the site and its relation to the sagas. This identification, although questioned by Ingstad
himself later in life, has unintentionally caused a faulty assessment of the Norse colonization
effort. While archaeologists now see LAnse aux Meadow as a seasonal site briefly occupied,
public perception continues to view the remains as the sum of Viking exploration and
settlement. Although debris found at this site indicate southern journeys, additional settlement
sites have not been found or sought for, and speculation concerning the matter is rife.3 It is time
to review the evidence and propose serious sites for immediate archaeological exploration.
One obstacle to discovering these additional sites is the nature of the literary evidence
itself. Much attention has been paid to the etymologies of various words, the winds, sailing
directions and the days at sea, with repetitive conclusions. I will suggest that these variables
have been misinterpreted. For instance, place-names often served as useful navigational guides
to Norse sailors. If we cannot agree on the location, something in our interpretation of the name
might be flawed. Thinking laterally, the much debated Furustrandir could be understood as
Furthest-shore or Forward-coast.4 Did subsequent explorations and descriptions of
marvelous beaches, such as the multi-colored strands of Prince-Edwards Island, creep into the
sagas and adversely influence the perception of this name both then and now? The place-names
themselves provide the only sound clues to their location; the subsequent descriptive
commentary surrounding them in the sagas must be treated with extreme caution. Such
additional explanatory information could be seen as potential monkish interpolations, included at
the time of writing to flesh out an otherwise terse narrative. The false etymologies provided for
these place-names have pulled scholars down many illogical paths of inquiry. With this factor in
mind, the absolute of the name versus the variables, we can begin the task of identifying
potential sites through the simple process of elimination.

Namely, Grlendinga saga and Eirks saga raua


Sites have been proposed as far south as Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Virginia. The Norse need not have
sailed that far south to find suitable places for habitation.
4
Perhaps fura is to be understood as fjar+a, akin to Old English furra, a superlative adjective. This is just a
reasonable example of what occurs when the wonder-beaches notion is recognized as spurious.
3

We must begin with what we know, while avoiding previous cognitive ruts. There are
four places mentioned in the Sagas where considerable time was spent ashore. One Norse
archaeological site has been found. The saga evidence that best matches this location is easily
determined. Scholars have begun to doubt that LAnse aux Meadows was the place of an
extended stay or colonization, and rightly so. There is evidence suggesting that ship repair had
taken place there, so what Ingstad found in 1960 is in all probability the place where Thorvald
stayed while fixing his ship:
The second summer Thorvald explored the country to the east on the large ship, going north
around the land. They ran into stormy weather around one headland, and were driven ashore,
smashing the keel of the ship. They stayed there a long time, repairing their ship. Thorvald then
said to his companions, I want us to raise the broken keel up on this point and call it Kjalarnes.
This they did.
What prominent headland did Thorvald wish to be marked? The headland mentioned would
have been in proximity to the site of repair. The two cairns present to the west of Black Duck
brook cannot be seen from the sea, as noted by Ingstad;5 they can be eliminated as a possible
location. The dangerous capes around LAnse aux Meadows were in fact once generously
provided with venerable stone beacons, some painted white; what remains of them today is
unknown. Note that the major headland to the west of Cape Bauld is home to a modern
lighthouse and is called Cape Norman.6 If this is the promontory Thorvald thought needed to be
marked, what would have been the significance of this decision? Practical reasons far outweigh
any others; Kjalarnes figures in the stories as a vital navigational aid, not only to warn of
dangerous waters, but perhaps as a sign indicating, turn here to Vinland.
The aforementioned Furustrandir is in all cases understood to be south of Kjalarnes,
our only location thus far that can be identified with a significant degree of certainty. The order
of its placement in the sagas indicates that this coast is also passed with each journey. The lone
memorable detail, the only one that is probably original to the stories, is the tediousness of which
this shore is passed. This information does not indicate a long sandy stretch of beach, as is
always assumed, but simply a long monotonous coastline that continues in some consistent
direction. Is it the rocky and indented east coast? The straight western coast of Newfoundland,
with the near-perfect line of the flat topped Long Range Mountains marching ever closer, is the
logical coast being sailed along. It makes sense really; the relatively temperate Gulf of St.
Lawrence, practically an inland sea, would have been instantly more attractive than the
tempestuous Atlantic coast of Newfoundland. Let us follow this reasonable course to the
southwest and see where Leif would have actually made landfall.

Helga Ingstad, Anne Stine Ingstad, The Viking Discovery of America: The Excavation of a Norse Settlement in
LAnse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland, Breakwater books, 2000 p. 168
6
The Newfoundland and Labrador Pilot, Great Britain Hydrographic Dept. 1887, pp. 341-2

After leaving forested Markland (i.e. the western coast of Newfoundland) at Cape Ray,
Leif turned back out to sea before making his final landfall:
They sailed towards it and came to an island, which lay north of the land, where they went
ashore.7
Logically this landfall would be Cape Breton Island. But what island off its coast would Leif
have encountered first? There are only a few islands lying off the north-eastern coast. St Paul
Island, being hardly the place to enjoy the grass and fine weather, can be eliminated because of
its precipitous shoreline. Ingonish Island would be an attractive choice as a landing, but it has
dangerous shores as well. The Bird islands are also far too treacherous to bother landing on, as is
Flint Island. Scatarie Island has decent shingle beaches by the lighthouse, which happens to be
on a windswept grassy point. Indeed, if Leif sailed into the Cabot Straight and a north-east wind
pushed them back towards land, the east side of Scatarie Island would have been the first point of
land to be spotted. Does the neighborhood around this island have any similarities to the saga?
The locale matches in every way. Follow the story if you will on an available map, starting from
Scatarie Islands so-called Eastern Harbor:
Afterwards they returned to their ship and sailed into the sound8 which lay between the island
and the headland that stretched out northwards from the land. They rounded the headland and
steered westward. Here there were extensive shallows at low tide and their ship was soon
stranded.9
It is interesting to note, that after rounding the point by Main--Dieu (once called Little Cape
Breton) the first place encountered upon entering Mira Bay is Catalone Lake. This lagoon is
very inviting even today, but suffers from unreliable entrance depth caused by a tide dominated
sand bar. Despite a succession of dredging projects, the channel continues to cause problems for
drainage and navigation.10 Perhaps Leif learned this as well and, as soon as the ship was free,
continued to seek a more reliable and obstruction-free harbor. Continuing west along Mira Bay
one comes to Mira Gut:
When the incoming tide floated the ship again, they took the boat and rowed to the ship and
moved it up into the river and from there into the lake, where they cast anchor. They carried
their sleeping-sacks ashore and built booths. Later they decided to spend the winter there and
built large houses.

All references are from The Saga of the Icelanders, Penguin Books, 2001
Main--Dieu passage
9
The text of the Greenlanders saga repeats the grounding incident, which is curious. It indicates that the line: the
sea looked far away etc. is a conflation of anecdotal oral material from another journey, perhaps to the Bay of
Fundy, cf. of Wonderstrands. The ship running aground is the only original detail.
10
P.W. Finck, High Water Levels and Associated Flooding on the Margins of Catalone Lake, Cape Breton County,
Nova Scotia: Coastal Hazard Assessment and Options for Remedial Action N.R Dept. Mineral Resources Branch,
Halifax, Nova Scotia 2014
8

The Mira River is well known today for its pleasant waters; slow moving and of adequate depth,
it offers miles of cruising to recreational boaters. It offers something else as well, a celebrated
habitat for salmon: There was no lack of salmon both in the lake and in the river11
Not only do the Mira River and its associated upstream lake offer a calm anchorage, but it
provides easy access into the interior for anyone wishing to explore. Curiously, Cape Breton
County and the Mira basin are noted for wild blueberries; their extent is estimated to range in the
hundreds of hectares. It is no coincidence that this fruit looks remarkably like small ripe (and
unripe) grapes on a low bush. Imagine stumbling across such abundance, never having seen
Vaccinium augustifolium before. On a whim, I thought it wise to check topographic data for this
area to see if any sites would attract a Scandinavian settler. Just upstream from Marion Bridge,
the map indicated a rather gently sloping terrace with southern exposure complete with
freshwater springs. When this map was switched to a satellite view of the shoreline, I was
absolutely stunned to see these images in a nearby hayfield:

11

The supplementary line and this salmon was larger than they had ever seen before is yet another example of
literary embellishment.

It is an amazing world we live in. Thanks to Google Earth, these features can be examined in
considerable detail.

It cannot be said with any certainty what the origin of these features might be. They are not
crops; the site is a meadow used only for periodic haying. I have been unable to find evidence in
old records that would suggest that three barns of this size ever occupied this place. The lighter
colored soil visible in the neighborhood of these features consists of a sandy loam/stony sandy
loam with a low moisture holding capacity.12 The features themselves seem indicative of a
richer, organic soil with improved moisture retention. Such a soil formation comprising the
central feature would be consistent with a decayed wooden structure, with dimensions estimated
at 35-40 feet wide and 180-200 feet long. It is interesting to note that the wood-lot immediately
to the southeast of the unknown central feature shares this overall shape and size as well as the
same parallel orientation with the Mira River. What other features might hide beneath forest
cover at this site?
12

D.B. Cann, J.I. MacDougall, Soil Survey of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada Dept. of Agriculture, Truro
N.S. 1963, p.16

It is hoped that these observations are taken seriously. The site, which may or may not be the
most important Norse archaeological site found in our times, is entirely surrounded by the
encroaching sprawl of seasonal/recreational homes, and faces almost certain destruction in the
near future. That is, if it has not happened already since these satellite images were taken. I urge
readers of this paper, those with the means to investigate this matter, to act swiftly.
Let us consider, for the sake of our theoretical experiment, that this promising site could
be Leifsbudir. There are two more settlements yet to find. After returning to Greenland, the
account of Leifs expedition was met with great interest. What scholars agree upon is that
another venture was soon organized by Thorvald, Leifs brother. This expedition was more
ambitious as more than one vessel appears to have been involved.13 No mention of the numbers
of people that were included but logically, most stayed at Leifs settlement while Thorvald and
his crew sailed north. The shipwreck and stay at LAnse aux Meadows has already been
discussed. His subsequent exploration of the east coast of Newfoundland, his choice of a
settlement site and his death and burial need not be examined here. Without evidence, locations
will remain hypothetical. The crew returned to the main group at Leifsbudir to spend another
winter before returning to Greenland. If we conservatively estimate that the outgoing trip took a
summer season, and Thorvalds explorations occurred the summer next, the shipwreck and
winter at Kjalarnes, death and return to Leifs camp the year after, the return to Greenland the
following summer, almost four years could be attributed to this expedition. The next
colonization attempt is even more interesting for it includes the first references to cattle and may
have resulted in additional settlement sites.
The ambitious multi-ship venture of Thorfinn Karlsefni suffers from contradictory
accounts that must be rectified before any potential sites can be proposed. In the Greenlanders
Saga Karlsefni sails directly to Leifs colony, but in Erik the Reds Saga, Karlsefni does not
make it to Vinland in the first year. The second version is quite plausible and probably records
aspects of the expedition that likely have been omitted from Erik the Reds Saga for obvious
literary reasons.14 Vinland would not have been within reach if they had a late start from
Greenland or encountered adverse winds. The vessels may not have been of equal capability,
with some heavily laden and slow moving and others swift and lightly manned. As Karlsefni led
this group past Kjalarnes and down the west coast of Newfoundland, time was running out;
would he have really pressed on to Leifs Vinland? Without accurately knowing the correct
distance to Cape Breton, Karlsefni appears to have decided that discretion is the better part of
valor. He sought a safe place to overwinter, at a place remembered as Straumsfjord.

13

Some manner of transportation was available to the expedition members who stayed at Leifs base camp, as
exploratory journeys were made to the west. Would a mere rowboat suffice for such trips? A vessel of useful size
and of open water capability, even if oared, is implied.
14
The entire emphasis in the Greenlanders saga is on Vinland with its unique and exciting qualities such as wild
blueberry barrens, not some other region that might resemble more mundane and familiar lands back home.

Before we proceed with our hypothesis, the name Straumsfjord must be discussed. Common
opinion perceives that this name was given because of some natural feature such as extreme
tides, or the current of a major river such as the Hudson. These misconceptions have been put in
place by a false etymology provided by the literary evidence. When this tale was put to writing,
no one was left alive who could remember why the name had been given. To explain the name,
some monk added his own explanation, thereby leading scholarly opinion to extreme locations.
Let us see what the section says, and what useful information remains:
They sailed onwards, until they reached a fjord cutting into the coast. They steered their ships
into the fjord with an island near its mouth, where there were strong currents, and called the
island Straumsey. There were so many birds there that they could hardly walk without stepping
on eggs. They sailed up into the fjord, which they called Straumsfjord, unloaded the cargo from
the ships and began settling in.
What confusion the highlighted section has caused! The name may not have had anything to do
with currents or tidal estuaries; it is merely the name given the entire anchorage by Karlsefni,
who, if we remember, had lately arrived from Norway. What does the Straumsfjord in Norway
look like? For that matter what does Skagafjorur, where Karlsefnis father lived, look like?
There was a Straumsfjord in western Iceland as well. The part of the name describing a fjord is
what provides a clue. We can start our search on the west coast of Newfoundland where the land
resembles the Norse homeland with remarkable similarity. But what place? Bonne Bay is very
much a fjord, and so is Bay of Islands. St Georges Bay is not so much, but the valley and inland
lake could be considered fjord-like. The Grand Codroy Estuary is certainly so, with its wide
valley and looming mountains. We must also fit into our deliberations an island abundant with
nesting birds at the entrance of the fjord. This detail, unlikely to have been made up by later
writers, eliminates Bonne Bay (no islands) and St Georges Bay, whose lone island is a low ridge
of stones and shingle that not used by nesting birds to any notable extent. Our choices of a
possible site for Karlsefnis landing is reduced to two fjord-like places, Bay of Islands and grand
Codroy, both with mountains and islands with important avian nesting grounds.15 Are there any
additional details that would help us narrow down our choices? There are a few clues in the
narrative that seem original:
They had brought all sorts of livestock with them and explored the land and its resources.
There were mountains there, and a pleasant landscape. They paid little attention to things other
than exploring the land. The grass there grew tall. They spent the winter there, and it was a
harsh winter, for they had made little preparation, they went out to the island, expecting to find
some prey to hunt or food on the beaches. They found little food, but their livestock improved
there.

15

Western Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area Strategic Environmental Assessment Amendment, CanadaNewfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, St. Johns NL 2007, pp.23-30

Other than the highlighted sentence, this passage is quite informative. The island lay near to
their anchorage and camp, but the birds that had nested there in such great numbers had departed.
This site could be Bay of Islands or the Codroy Estuary. Why did the livestock improve out by
the sea? The Codroy valley region experiences the most favorable climate in all Newfoundland
and the valley is long and wide; there should have been no reason to move them out to the
beaches and shore. Unless, the initial landing had grass in abundance at first but then was
overgrazed. These geographic and climatic indicators point to a somewhat confined location that
best fits the entrance to The Bay of Islands. This fjord is quite colder than Codroy Valley as
well, with abundant local snowfall. Lark Harbor and York Harbor, on the southern entrance of
The Bay of Islands, both lay at the head of shallow valleys. York Harbor also contains at its
entrance, Governors and Seal islands. They are home to hundreds sometimes thousands of
nesting Herring gulls during the summer months. York Harbor can be seen below, to the bottom
left. It is a nice site, but the lone drawback is the exposure to northern winds:

My apologies for the poor image, but it makes sense to move the cattle down by the shore. The
intense snowfall in this area would have made foraging harder inland and easier by the sea. By
the next winter, adequate hay would have been cut and cured as at farms in Greenland.

After the tough winter, it was decided to move inland and settle:
The weather improved so that they could go fishing, and from then on they had supplies in
plenty. In the spring they moved further into Straumsfjord and lived off the produce of both
shores of the fjord: hunting game inland, gathering eggs on the island and fishing at sea.
Suitable land for settlement is scarce in The Bay of Islands. The northern and middle fjords have
precipitous shorelines. Only the Humber arm has a suitable place for a Norseman looking to
start a farm, and that place lies at the head of the fjord:

The place is called Wild Cove, and it has an excellent sheltered anchorage even for small modern
vessels. The bowl shaped valley at the head of this cove is quite beautiful, and despite its small
size it offers easy access to upland pastures and the broad Humber valley beyond. Satellite data
is not clear enough to allow observation of any peculiar features that might be present, but the
site has all the benefits of an inherent plausibility. The growing town of Corner Brook is located
a short distance away so the relatively flat site, like so many others, is in immediate danger of
industrial or residential development. The most cost effective method of investigation in this
case would be aircraft based Lidar16, which could be put to good use finding the initial camp at
York Harbor as well.

16

This technology, of various etymologies, would be the most cost effective and non-invasive method to find
structures no longer visible on the ground. Buildings here would have been made of abundant wood, not sod.

The following summer after their arrival and settlement in Straumsfjord, there was a
debate over which direction exploratory parties should be sent. Thorhall, a partner in this
venture, wanted to sail north back past the Long Range mountains and around Kjalarnes to seek
Vinland. It is clear from this excerpt that certain members of the expedition did not deem
Straumsfjord as hospitable as Vinland was supposed to be. Karlsefni wanted to sail south and
then east along the shore to seek Vinland, a detail that puts additional weight in favor of our
identification of Straumsfjord. In any event, Karlsefni seems to have had a better grasp of the
layout of the Gulf of St. Lawrence than Thorhall17 for he would have made landfall on Cape
Breton Island as per sailing directions set out by Leif. The sagas diverge at this point. The
Greenlanders Saga has the entire expedition land at Leifsbudir, but a page or so later it tells of
Karlsefni having a palisade built around his farm. Did Karlsefni claim Leifs buildings and the
entire settlement as his own? The Saga repeats the realistic detail that Leif would not sell his
large houses in Vinland, only lease them. It is very improbable that Karlsefni would have
simply taken over the place, for some of Leifs people may still have been there. In Erik the
Reds Saga, Karlsefni sails south from Straumsfjord to Vinland and claims his own land. This is
far more likely, but where? The place is described thus:
They sailed a long time, until they came to a river which flowed into a lake and from there into
the sea. There were wide sandbars beyond the mouth of the river, and they could only sail into
the river at high tide. Karlsefni and his company sailed into the lagoon and called the land
Hop.
If we bear in mind that this place-name might reflect the Hop back in Iceland, a similar site may
be sought for on Cape Breton Island. We may at first wish to consider Catalone Lake, near
Leifsbudir, but there are details that suggest elsewhere:
There they found fields of self sown wheat in the low-lying areas and vines growing on the hills.
Every stream was teaming with fish. They dug trenches along the high-water mark and when the
tide ebbed there were halibut in them. There were a great number of deer of all kinds in the
forest.
There are no hills worth mention by Catalone Lake, which indicates this place is one of two tidal
lagoons located further north. South Ingonish Harbor and Aspy Bay both have tidal lagoons with
a backdrop of the Cape Breton Highlands. We can eliminate Ingonish, simply because native
peoples were already there.18 Only Aspy bay remains on our list, and it is sufficiently close to
the long-lived Mikmaq settlement at Ingonish to thoroughly explain the troubles that would later
develop.

17

Thorhall was blown out to sea after going around Kjalarnes and wound up in Ireland, meaning he sailed east
instead of west as the saga records it. This is a very minor discrepancy.
18
Ken Donovan, Precontact and Settlement: Ingonish and Northern Cape Breton From the Paleo Indians to the 18 th
Century, The Nashwaak Review, St. Thomas University New Brunswick, 2009

Aspy bay is a most attractive site for a Scandinavian settler. The soils are richer than the sandy
soils of Leifsbudir.19 There are plentiful hardwoods in the Aspy river valley and Atlantic salmon
populate the river itself. On the northwest shore, near where the river empties into the lagoon,
under the shadow of the hills, is where Karlsefnis settlement will be found.20

Unfortunately, there is insufficient satellite data available to allow any possible features to be
observed, making this another great opportunity for airborne Lidar to be put to work. There were
several active farms here a generation or so ago, but the forest has since regenerated; perhaps an
old aerial photo exists that would show the original fields and possible crop marks indicating
Karlsefnis palisade. In any event, Hop was not occupied for long. After one or more
altercations with the Mikmaq at Ingonish (Aspy bay might have been one of their traditional
seasonal homes) Karlsefni abandoned the project and returned to Straumsfjord.

19

The soils of this region support the growth of red oak, yellow birch and sugar maple. The highland hills above
Aspy bay also have blueberries.
20
This image was the only one available on short notice. It does allow one to get a feel for the lagoon and any
potential settlement sites.

What are we to make of this data? If the sites discussed in this paper are plotted out, a
remarkable pattern can be discerned.

We can see that the sites run in a line from the tip of Newfoundland down its west coast to Cape
Breton Island. This pattern shows the Norse sea-road; it is no coincidence that it is the shortest
route when sailing from Greenland to Vinland with the additional benefit of avoiding
Newfoundlands treacherous east shore.21 I have included on this map the initial landings at
Straumsfjord and Leifsbudir as they probably served as seasonal camps for harvesting natural
resources, i.e. fish and eggs. Although the expedition of Freydis was numerically significant, the
buildings of Leifs settlement were reused, and thus the story need not be treated here. The longhouses of the slain brothers were said to be nearby, so they are represented as Leifsbudir site 3.
21

It would have appeared to them a cold dreary coast of wind and fog, islets of rocks and hidden shoals. Covered
with thin poor soils, it is hardly the benign landscape which would beckon a Norse settler looking to start a farm.

Paths of Further Inquiry


Current consensus believes that the Norse colonization attempt in North America was a
failure. But how did the Norse estimate success and failure? It is rather hasty to pronounce
judgment before the sites mentioned in this paper are professionally investigated. After all, a
considerable amount of time was spent at these places, over a decade at the very least, and for the
most important places, we do not know the sequence of abandonment. Were the sites even
abandoned? An issue that has not been discussed is the role that Insular peoples, i.e. Scots, Irish,
Britons, played in the expeditions. In the sagas we meet two Scottish thralls named Haki and
Hekja, said to have been given by Leif to Karlsefni to accompany him on his expedition. This
strongly implies that they were involved in the first expedition and knew the land around Leifs
settlement. It is perfectly logical that other bondsmen sailed on these voyages, acting as laborers,
herders and fishermen. Their numbers may not have been great, but their importance has been
underestimated. Consider this; when Leif returned to Greenland, could it be that someone was
left behind to maintain the buildings of his farm? Several years passed between Leifs voyage
and that of Freydis, yet no mention is made of rebuilding smoldering ruins. It would have been
far cheaper to assign a thrall or freeman to this task of maintenance than return to rebuild each
time. The choice for the individual would have been obvious; return with the expedition to
previous menial social status, or remain in freedom in a far-off land with the task of taking care
of some empty buildings. Leifs confidence is obvious; he considered his settlement to be safe
and intact since he would only lease it and not sell. Besides, was it not a normal practice in
Iceland and Greenland to start a farm, and once established and prospering, turn it over for others
to run? Until the archaeological site of Leifsbudir is excavated we will not know how long the
place was occupied, or what happened to the individuals left behind.22
Straumsfjord is a far more interesting case of potential continuity. The settlers were
numerous and unattached, if the argument over women is a believable anecdote. The livestock
had at least three years to multiply, possibly more. Were excess cattle left behind? Should we
conclude that everyone packed up with Karlsefni and headed back to the harsh climate of
Greenland? Would they have wanted to? Most of the best land there and in Iceland was
claimed, settled and already being fought over. Here along the western coast of Newfoundland
was free land which looked a lot like home, and unlike more populated regions of the Gulf of St.
Lawrence, a relatively smaller migratory native population to defend it.23

22

Without making any further conjectures, note that the name Cap de Bretton, Cap aux Bretons, Cavo de Bretonni
as it appears on the earliest of maps, is of debated origin. The names Terra de los Bretones, Terre aux Bretons and
Terra de Breto were once exclusively applied to the inland region around the Mira basin before it was extended to
the whole island. It is interesting fact, nothing more.
23
Small bands of Beothuk pursued caribou in the tablelands and periodically harvested shore resources, but visits to
the sparse fjord-lands of the west coast might have been few and far between. Considering their way of life, the
wildlife-rich eastern maritime areas had more to offer.

Markland, as this region became known, might properly be seen as something of a Norse
success, unlike the settlements in Vinland which promptly faded into legend:
Bishop Eric set out from Greenland to Vinland24
We know not why Bishop Eric Gnupsson set out for Vinland or if he ever returned. It is
conceivable that Vinland was the place of exile for Greenlanders who broke the law. Were a few
troubled souls still there that needed the Bishops spiritual attention? Another oft studied entry
reinforces the notion that Markland, including Karlsefnis foundation at Straumsfjord, remained
in contact:
There came a Greenland ship to Straumsfjord; the sail was Markland set, but later it was
driven here over the sea. There were eighteen men in the crew.25
Markland logically continued to be the primary source of fresh timber for the Greenlanders;
driftwood sometimes provides trunks of adequate length for roof-beams or keels, but the supply
must not be thought of as something consistent. For all we know, seasonal voyages to small
lingering outposts may have continued uninterrupted until the collapse of the Greenland colony
itself.
Epilogue
Until the archaeological sites outlined in this paper are properly investigated, and a
sequence of habitation firmly established, the early history of the Canadian Maritimes will
remain incomplete. Certain questions can be asked of a longer settlement narrative, especially
on Newfoundlands west coast; where there additional settlements not recorded by sagas?26 Was
there intermarriage with the native population?27 It is hoped that by clearing up the confusions,28
establishing an accurate chronology through archaeological excavation, a new appreciation of the
Norse settlements can be woven into the existing framework of indigenous cultures and their
history.

Sabin H. Rosenbaum, Forkhorn Hall Publications 2015

24

Icelandic Annals for the year 1121.


See the Icelandic Annals under the year 1347. It is curious to note the haste with which scholars have assigned
an Icelandic location to Straumsfjord. It would rest my mind to know exactly where in Iceland this place is.
26
There are about a dozen suitable sites for further investigation. After all, only the primary settlers in Greenland
and Iceland were accorded sagas of their own, not those who settled later.
27
Case in point is the natives of Newfoundland and Labrador called by the Basques Montaneses, meaning
mountaineers or highlanders. These nautical Mtis-like people appear in early accounts, prior to settlements of
French and English. They differ from other hostile tribes called the Canaleses or channel folk by their friendliness
and willingness to seek out European contact, employment, etc., all for bread, iron tools and a little cider. See
Ingborg Marshall, A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk, M.Q.U.P., 1998 pp.56-7.
28
Not one scholar has asked about the edibility or usefulness of Vitis Riparia, only the ecological range.
25

I will end this paper with another view of the unexplored site of Leifsbudir 2. All efforts must be
made to investigate this site promptly, as it is threatened by development and the features are
probably not recognizable from the ground. I will be in Iceland in May of 2015 to urge the
merits of exploring this spectacular site.

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