It is estimated that the possible Norse colonization of North America began as early as the 10th century. Growing evidence provided by numerous archeologists shows that the Vikings did manage to explore a big portion of the northern part of North America long before any other Europeans.
The Vikings have long been well known for their advanced seafaring skills, and these were only further demonstrated by the finding of the first Viking houses at L’Anse aux Meadows near the northern tip of Newfoundland in 1961. This discovery triggered new archaeological explorations that provided more evidence of the Vikings presence in the North Atlantic.
Newly discovered ruins of a Viking village near the Hudson River add to the story and even question where the borders of the mysterious Vinland.
To better understand the voyages of the Vikings outside the European continent, we must first examine Norse Greenland, and the Viking colonies there, which are believed to have lasted for almost five centuries.
According to the Sagas of Icelanders, Icelandic literary sagas based on real historical events, it was Erik the Red to first arrive in Greenland. After being banished from Iceland for manslaughter, he set out on a voyage to explore the uninhabited southwestern coast of Greenland. To attract potential colonists to join him on the voyage, he picked the name Greenland, saying “that people would be eager to go there because the land had a good name.”
In reality, the conditions to live in Greenland would have been fairly harsh even for Erik the Red and his followers. Other theories also suggest that most probably groups of Vikings have traveled to North America to collect timber and other resources. Such voyages are likely to have been going on for quite some period of time, but the evidence of major Norse settlements on the mainland of North America is still very poor.
On a further note, there is nothing to indicate that the Sagas of Icelanders are not true, but most certainly they fail to provide complete accuracy of the events, and they are regarded more as works of literature than as historical ones.
Further readings of the Icelandic sagas suggest that the Norse kept on exploring the lands further west only a few years after their arrival and their first settlements in Greenland. Bjarni Herjólfsson is to be the name of the first Norse-Icelandic explorer who had managed to reach the mainlands of the Americas. On a 985 AD journey from Iceland to Greenland, his ship was taken off course, and he sighted land west of the fleet. He told about his discovery to his compatriot, Leif Erikson, who went on to explore the area and eventually made the first settlement a decade and a half afterward.