Education Facts

The story of Leif Erikson


Throughout history, there have been many figures of importance who have done a lot to change the face of history, and affect the world as we know it. These people are usually celebrated and immortalized through history, and we often study their life and world nowadays. But, there are also people who have played a big role in history, who we often don’t always know about.

Leif Erikson may not be a name you’re familiar with. It certainly wasn’t a name we were familiar with, but this is an important guy. We need to know more about him and his story and understand the lasting legacy he left behind. In fact, it turns out the Leif Erikson may have actually made one of the most important discoveries in the history of the world. Let’s read on to find out as much as we can about this mysterious and elusive guy.


Who is he?

Leif Erikson was a Norse explorer who hailed from Iceland, he is believed to have been born around 970, and died around 1020. Erikson was the son of Erik the Red, the famous Norse Viking, who is believed to have traveled to Iceland with his exiled brother, and set up a settlement in 986. Erikson then became an explorer, and set out with a crew from Greenland to Norway, but was blown off course, and spent a lot of time in the Hebrides.

Leif is best-known as being the man who discovered what the Vikings referred to as Vinland. This was a coastal area of North America, first explored and discovered by Vikings. Erikson is believed to have discovered the New World before Christopher Columbus made his historic voyage. Apparently, a merchant named Bjarni Herjólfsson claimed to have sighted land to the West of Greenland, which would have been North America, but he never anchored there.


When traveling from Norway back to Greenland, Leif was blown off course and discovered a strange land he had never seen before. It is alleged that he found wheat fields and grape vines, and a land that was plentiful. Leif is then said to have returned to Greenland, found Bjarni, purchased his ship and sailed a crew to this new, undiscovered land. After a few days at sea, the crew landed at a place with a mild climate and good supply of food.

Discovering the land was full of grapevines, Erikson reportedly named it Vinland. This is believed to have been one of the easternmost points of North America, generally accepted as being Newfoundland. This makes Leif Erikson the first European to discover North America, and, in many ways, makes him more important in the development of America than Christopher Columbus.

As you can see, Leif Erikson is a hugely important figure in history and is highly influential in the history and discovery of America. While we give Christopher Columbus all the credit for the discovery of America, it was actually Leif Erikson who got there first. When we study the history of America, we should look at the contribution Erikson made as well.


About the author

Rebecca Walton

Rebecca has always been fascinated with the business and tech world, having grown up with parents in the industry. She has a real passion for science - particularly space and the unknown realms that surround the planet! Rebecca has been writing for different publications for nearly 6 years and is now an editor at Pangaea Express.