Who Discovered America First
Generally, when the topic of discovery comes up or if we talk about who discovered America first, the first name that comes in everyone’s mind, undoubtedly is Christopher Columbus. While there is no doubt about Columbus paving the way for the discovery of America, it is quite a misnomer to label him as the “first discoverer.”
Equally important is the fact that there had already been plenty of people or explorers who, perhaps, arrived in America even before Columbus did. Hence, we are yet to acquaint ourselves with the real history of America’s discovery. In this connection, the name of Leif Erikson, the Viking is often associated when it comes to answering the question of who discovered America first.
Initially, according to the Norse mythology, the historians believe that Leif Ericson converted to Christianity before he began to set sail to discover America. The man who discovered America first, as said by most of the historians, started his journey of exploration with his crew.
The narration of this journey is through two different sagas- Saga of Erik, the Red and the Saga of the Greenlanders. The first saga recounts his journey of exploits in the strange lands that date around 1000 A.D. It narrates how the man who first discovered America crossed the Atlantic through a sheer coincidence on his way back to Norway. However, the second saga recounts the experience as a thoughtful and well-planned rather than being a fluke.
Erikson gathered a crew comprising of 35 men on a trader’s ship and sailed off through the Atlantic, reaching as far as the northern point of Newfoundland. There Erikson and his men set up a base camp and spent the entire winter there. But before arriving at the base, they traveled west up to 600 miles from Greenland at a place marked by high rocks and glaciers, naming it as “Helluland” or the Land of Slabs/Rocks.
After this, he moved ashore to the south which he named as the Markland or Woodland (present-day Canada, the eastern coast) after its white beaches and trees. Even while the Vikings stayed in Newfoundland for the winter, they preferred to remain in desolate Greenland.
This could partly be due to the violent encounters which they might have had with the indigenous people of North America. It is also true that Hence Leif Erickson surely deserves a place of honor as the man who discovered America or as one who initiated the European expeditions to North America.
Who is Leif Erikson?
Let’s try and understand who Leif Erikson was before we get into a debate or discussion as to who discovered first. It is imperative to know the life history and background of the man himself who discovered America first.
To begin with, Leif Erikson, the Viking was initially a known as a Norse explorer who was born in the 10th century and was brought up by Thyrker, a German who captured Erikson (though didn’t enslave him) and taught him the ways of life- reading, writing the Celtic and trade.
In a way, one could say that Thyrker was Leif’s foster parent who took it upon himself to turn Leif into a beautiful young gentleman. He also became adept at the use of weapons. His father was popularly called Erik, the person who was responsible for help in the discovery and settlement of Greenland. He made his first voyage at the age of 24 that involved bringing in gifts for King Olaf in Norway. It was an exciting voyage where even Thyrker accompanied him.
He was indeed the captain and had a vast knowledge of the sea. Leif Erikson is undoubtedly considered as one of the first Europeans to have led an expedition to North America even before Columbus.
The account of his exploration of these strange lands is quite a mysterious and controversial one since we have two different narratives. In any case, he returned to Greenland where King Olaf I Tryggvason entrusted him with the task of spreading Christianity.
He was a convert, and so was his mother who built the first Christian Church in Greenland. Leif Erikson, as per the common belief, spent his entire life in Greenland. He passed away sometime around 1020.
His name is celebrated today as the Leif Erikson Day, commemorated every year on 9th October in the United States in honor of him being the first man who discovered America. The credit for this goes to President Calvin Coolidge who first announced the name of Erikson as the leader of the first discovery of America to the Minnesota state.
Congress further approved it in the form of a public resolution that allowed President, Lyndon. B. Johnson to come up with the concept of “Leif Erikson Day.” Thus Erikson is regarded as one of the first European men to have led an expedition to the New World.
What exactlyErikson discovered?
After setting sail through the Atlantic, the man who discovered America first reached North America. However, the historians are still in doubt about the exact location of his first landing. Generally, it is perceived to be the present Labrador, Newfoundland, and Vinland. After sailing west from Greenland for some 600 miles, Erikson and his crew arrived at a land marked with high glaciers and rocks.
This saddened them because the landscape appeared to just a massive slab of rock. It led the Viking to call it “Helluland” which is, perhaps, today known as the Baffin Island. But then they journeyed south and arrived at the shore filled with flat land and white beaches. After observing the trees and white landscape, he gave it the name of Markland (Woodland).
Historians believe it to be the eastern coast of Canada today. In any case, Erikson and his crew set up a base at the northern tip of Newfoundland after having discovered North America. Once the settlement was complete, they decided to spend an entire winter there.
Erikson saw it as a land filled with bountiful resources. He saw it as something promising and with much to offer. He observed that the grass of this island was smooth and the dews thereupon were as sweet as honey. It impressed Leif, and he decided to build temporary shelters upon it.
Again, the richness of the land influenced him so much that he thought of erecting a large house for the sake of winter. He and the other Vikings saw that on this land, even the salmons were much more significant than what any of them had seen before.
Thick forests were covering this land which, in turn, provided a rich pasture area for feeding their cattle. In a way, the landscape was rich and abundant which is what Erikson discovered and saw in North America.
Columbus is not the first one who stepped on American land
The name of Christopher Columbus is promptly taken when it comes to the question of who discovered America First. However, that isn’t exactly true. Columbus came much later, between 1492-1503, when he finished his four-trip voyages between the Spains and the Americas. But one cannot negate the fact that there had been expeditions to North America even before Columbus stepped into the scenario.
From the entire above discussion, one cannot forget the name of Leif Erikson as one of the first Europeans to have stepped his foot on the North American soil.
The name of Columbus remains popular because it was his discovery that paved the way for the actual colonizing, immigration and settlement.
However, he alone cannot be tagged as the “real discoverer” of America. Even though Erikson and his crew reached North America, but he eventually returned to Greenland and didn’t attempt to colonize it. That is the reason why his name is not so famous for this discovery.
He surely deserves as much recognition as Christopher Columbus since he was the first European to have carried out an expedition to reach North America. Admittedly, he was the first man to have stepped onto the American soil, centuries before the name of Columbus even came into the scenario. Columbus seems to have followed the footsteps and models left behind by these European predecessors.
Of course, he has a significant role in having discovered the New World and introducing it to the Europeans. But he cannot be deemed as the first ever discovered or the man who first discovered America.
He undoubtedly paved the way for exploring a new world or land with new possibilities and a broader scope for the sake of European settlement and colonization. However, he didn’t initiate it. This is what one needs to keep in mind before considering the question of who discovered America first. It is true that history books totally support the concept of Columbus being the actual discoverer of the Americas and he indeed is, but not the first one.
He surely has played an essential role in introducing Americas to the Europeans, and that is why we have a “Columbus Day” in America to commemorate the Italian explorer for his fabulous way of bringing America to life and paving for immigration.
However, we can’t forget the name of Leif Erikson in this connection since it was him who showed the light, paving the way for further European explorations in the same field. Thus it is a matter of pride for the
Americans to have two great European explorers playing an essential role in propagating its history and discovery.
Now that you all know about the real explorer of America, here are a few exciting facts summarized for you to throw around and flaunt your knowledge.
1. A 17-year-old youngster originally designed the current American 50-star flag as a school project in 1958. For that design, the teacher gave him a -B.
2. Lake Superior has enough water to cover the entire landmass of North and South America with at least one foot of liquid.
3. The U.S. Air force happens to be the largest one in the world. The U.S. Navy follows the world’s second-largest air force, and the Marine Corps combined.
4. Three out of five of the worlds oldest rivers flow in America. The New, the Susquehanna, and the French Broad Rivers are each over hundreds of millions of years old.
5. As a 22-year-old, Lincoln is famous as one who was able to “Outrun, outlift, outwrestle and throw down any man in Sangamon County.”Allegedly, in one of the matches, the future president reportedly became angered by his opponent’s attempt to cheat him, so he used his long arms to pick the opponent up by the throat, and he shook him around like a rag doll. The Wrestling Hall of Fame has only been able to find one legitimate recorded wrestling defeat in over 300 matches fought by Honest Abe.
6. July 4th was the day when the Congress adopted the official Declaration of the Independence, although what most don’t know is that it wasn’t even signed by a majority until around early August. Philadelphia reportedly didn’t celebrate the declaration until July 8th, the Continental Army didn’t find out until the 9th, and England had no idea until August 30th. John Adams even said that the Second of July, 1776, will be the most memorable time in the history of America.
7. 11 out of 12 people who have walked on the surface of the moon were boy scouts. Apart from that, all three of the members of Apollo 13 were scouts back in the day.
It’s a good day to know who discovered America. The person whom we should celebrate for this discovery is Leif Erikson and now Christopher Columbus. America today is a superpower on the world map but what if you never knew this country ever existed? Thank the two light bearers who paved the way for a great nation to flourish ahead.