Some of the very first people to explore North America would have to be the Vikings. The Vikings were an adventurous lot, sailing the oceans in there ornately crafted longships. They frequently invaded many neighboring countries and islands. The actions of the Vikings shaped and changed many countries of the Europe. They invaded almost every western country of their time. England, Ireland, France, Spain, Russia, Greece, Arabia, And Africa all felt the impact of these marauders.
The Vikings had a very important part of awakening Europe from the despair of the Middle Ages, because the challenged its people to rise and fight for what they believed in.
The Vikings held honor for themselves and for their nation. A fallen warrior that fell bravely in defeat would look forward to the promised immortality of their pagan heaven called Valhalla.
The Vikings inhabited the Scandinavian countries of Europe, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are very close the Arctic Circle. Norway and Sweden extend into the Arctic Circle, far from the advancements of civilization and Christianity. The Scandinavian countries are surrounded by long coastlines, bays, sounds, and vast rivers that extend far inland. The Norsemen used the richness of the sea to their advantage. They either fished the oceans or used it as trade routes for transporting valuables or agriculture products.
The Vikings would had very few large cities and would occasionally spar over a disputed territory but most chose to live in southern Norway on the Jutland Peninsula of Denmark or in southeastern Sweden.
The time period in which these men lives was between A.D. 800 to 1100, a long time they ruled the seas. The word Vikings means seaborne marauder, it possibly comes from the Scandinavian word vic meaning bay or inlet. The word now applies to sailors that would lurk along the coast attacking passing victims. It could also come from the Norse word vig meaning battle. The Norse lived as they did for almost a ten thousands years before they were known as the Vikings.
The Vikings led strict rough lives, the climate was harsh the winters long and cold. The were skilled in many crafts. They built ornate ships decorated with intricate designs. Gold and silver was made into beautiful jewelry, inlaid with stones and gems obtained from trade with other countries. They were the most skilled weaponsmiths of their time, shields, axes, spears, and swords were all forged by master smiths. The weapons were then inlaid with gold, silver, and precious stones. Their weapons were often etched in runic inscriptions, of the bearers name or some message to ward of evil. They Vikings were fierce fighters, the best of their time. A tactic used by the Vikings seems simple but effective, many kings and chieftains had standards that were carried at the head of their army or patrol. One standard that was almost always carried was one that depicted a raven in flight. When the Vikings fought toward their goal, the raven would “fly” only if they moved fast enough to keep a steady wind, if the troops stopped and hesitated then the raven would fall, signaling defeat to the Vikings. There was one sect of the Viking army that was separated from the rest, these were called Berserkers. They were rightly feared and held in awe by their enemies. The Berserkers, would fight with such ferocity that they would rip of their shirts and chain mail and fight with their bare hands ignoring all pain.
Even with these insane fighters the Vikings were the best trained soldiers of their time, surpassing by far the English and French.
The Vikings were the first to establish colonies in the New World, Eric the Red founded Greenland long before any English or Spanish explorer did. Leif Ericson discovered America as a new land before anyone else. His father was the local magistrate of Greenland when one of his subjects related to him this new land Lief at once went in search of this land. Lief made his voyage across the sea and saw many different lands. They found a land rich in the wood they treasure and soon began foresting it and building even bigger ships, soon searchers for gold and silver turned great wealth to Greenland and its people.
The Vikings deserve the respect and honor of having been the first people to see North America, before Columbus, even before Amerigo Vespuchi. The Vikings returned to their cold homeland to sail familiar seas.
“Vikings Bold Their Voyages & Adventures”, Samuel Carter III. 1972