The Voyages of the Norsemen to America

“William Hovgaard (born 1857, Aarhus, Denmark d. 1950, Summit, New Jersey) was a Danish, later American professor of naval design and construction at Massachusetts Institute of Technology until his retirement in 1933. Hovgaard was one of the foremost authorities on ship design in his generation, especially on the general and structural design of warships. He wrote several books on naval design and construction and the history thereof, but also on a diversity of other subjects, and he received a significant number of orders, awards and merits during his life”. (Wiki)

The earliest reference to Vinland is found in Adam of Bremen’s ‘Descriptio Insularum Aquilonis‘ often referred to as Liber de Situ Daniae. This reference is brief, but coming from a source which is entirely independent of the Icelandic sagas, and dating from less than one hundred years after the occurrence of the events which it mentions, it possesses great historic interest. Adam occupied a position under the Archbishop of Bremen and Hamburg, who at that time, about 1070, was the spiritual head of the Scandinavian countries. Adam received his information about Vinland during a visit to the court of the Danish King, Svend Estridson.

The passage of his work which is of interest in this connection is here given in full.

“Besides Iceland, there are many other islands in the great ocean, of which Greenland is not the smallest; it lies farther away in the ocean. To this island it is said that one can sail from the coast of the Normans [f. Norway] in from five to seven days. It is said that Christianity has recently spread to them. Moreover he [the King of Denmark] said that an island had been found by many in this ocean, which has been called Finland, because there vines grow wild and bear good grapes. Moreover, that there is selfsown grain in abundance, we learned, not from mythical tales, but from reliable accounts of the Danes. Beyond this island, said he [the King] , no habitable land is found. But all beyond is full of dreadful masses of ice and boundless fog. About this Marcianus has said: ‘One day’s sail beyond Thule the sea is frozen solid.’ This was verified recently by the very experienced King of the Norwegians, Harald [Haardraade] . When with his ships he explored the borders of the northern ocean, he turned back when the boundaries were lost in fogs before the entrance to the end of the world, and he escaped with the utmost difficulty the immense gulf of the abyss.”

The ‘Islendinga Book’ written by Ari Erode about 1 130, contains the earliest mention of Vinland in Icelandic literature.
The passage* is of great interest and importance, since the source of information was Ari’s uncle, Thorkel Gellisson, who lived in the second half of the eleventh century, and who “remembered far back.”

(This book is in the public domain by now (copyright free). We do not take payment for writing it or for have any rights to it, only for a finders fee, and making it available in a new edition on our platform.)

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William Hovgaard

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William Hovgaard


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1914, 2024


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