The shores of Vinland

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According to official history books, Hudson Bay was “discovered” in the 1600s by someone looking for the easy way to the Orient for spices and tea, only to find instead treachery and the cold bitter waves of defeat as they succumbed to the North’s winter, desolate and alone. The North, however, might have harboured earlier explorers, who were looking for more than just spices and tea, but for more energy to fuel their highly metabolic lifestyle – the seafaring Scandinavians of Erik the Red’s time. Misnamed as Vikings but still structurally similar, apparently this hardy group of men had ventured deep into North America long before Christopher Columbus’ infamous journey to India in the late 1400s from the sunny climes of Spain.

Named for his fiery red hair and attitude, Erik the Red had long lusted for more riches from the North. He probably didn’t have much access to tea leaves as trade between Asia and Europe was at a bare minimum and besides, the goods had to be trekked over the rough lands and mountains of Eurasia or around the Cape Hope of southern Africa by sea. Tea, meanwhile, was kept in the good hands of the Chinese, who viewed everyone else in the known world as barbarians who had nothing to offer in return. So the Icelanders had other motives behind their quests for lands to trade with. For many centuries, trade between the Inuit and Icelanders happened in a place that many historians have called Vinland.

Vinland, a mystic land that supposedly harboured another garden of Eden, was discovered by Erik the Red and chronicled in his journals in 1198 when the large island of Greenland became part of Denmark. I know, you’re wondering what early Viking history has to do with Reznotes. Well, dear reader, read on…

About a decade ago, I received an email from a descendant of those early Icelandic explorers. Apparently, their government issued the mandate to geneticists to record everyone’s DNA and create a genomic library to aid in the prevention of inbreeding. These close relationships of the island’s peoples, far from access to other DNA on mainland Europe, caused by long-term isolation from the rest of the world makes it harder to find a genetic prospect for a mate. This genome mapping happens to do the trick in identifying who is a potential mate or who is a cousin. In this large-scale mapping mission, some ancient Cree DNA popped up. This is a significant indicator of the Vikings being here long before Cristoforo Columbo, a Genoese navigator who promised the King of Spain more riches if he sponsored his voyage. The rest is textbook history, ingrained in everyone through educational institutes.

Even though the Vikings left journals about their trip to Greenland or rather Vinland, some people claim otherwise. Apparently, Vinland was mistakenly identified as Greenland during summer months. However, the tale of Vinland doesn’t match the description of Greenland, then already well-known by the Nordic people of Europe.

In fact, Vinland was the east coast of Hudson Bay. The journal on Vinland claims that the passage is narrow and dangerous, with whirlpools and treacherous rivers, which open into an inland sea, abound with wildlife of all manners, an oasis of richness in a desert of Arctic wasteland. Wondrous and lush, the scenery left an impressionable mark on Erik’s mind, strong enough to record it in his journal which states that on the way out of the Vinland, they marked it with a typical cairn. Today, it is called Cairn Island, just outside the entrance of the mouth of the river to the Richmond Gulf. They then ventured further down the coast and to the long sandy tongue of the Great Whale River before heading back to Iceland. The rest is unknown history, except to me and some really believable guy from Iceland.

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