World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Bjarni Herjólfsson

Article Id: WHEBN0000140755
Reproduction Date:

Title: Bjarni Herjólfsson  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Vinland, Leif Erikson, Norse colonization of the Americas, History of Iceland, Scandinavian Folklore
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Bjarni Herjólfsson

Bjarni Herjólfsson (fl. 10th century) was a Norse-Norwegian explorer who is the first known European discoverer of the mainland of the Americas, which he sighted in 986.


Bjarni was born to Herjólfr son of Bárdi Herjólfsson (Old Norse: Bárði), and Thorgerdr (Old Norse: Þorgerðr) in Iceland. In adulthood, Bjarni became a merchant captain, based in Norway, but visiting his father every summer in Iceland.[1][2]

Discovery of America

Bjarni is believed to have been the first European to see North America. The Grœnlendinga saga (Greenlanders Saga) tells that one year he sailed to Iceland to visit his parents as usual, only to find that his father had gone with Erik the Red to Greenland. So he took his crew and set off to find him. But in that summer of 986, Bjarni, who had no map or compass, was blown off course by a storm. He saw a piece of land that was not Greenland. It was covered with trees and mountains and although his crew begged him to, he refused to stop and look around. Since no one in his crew had been to Greenland before, they had to search for it.[2] Although he managed to regain his course, he reported seeing low-lying hills covered with forests some distance farther to the west. The land looked hospitable, but Bjarni was eager to reach Greenland to see his parents and did not land and explore the new lands. Eventually arriving in Greenland, he decided to settle with his father in Herjolfsnes. He reported his findings in Greenland but no one seems to have shown interest in them until, after his father's death, he returned to Norway.[3]


After his voyage, word spread of the lands to the west he had seen, creating great intrigue throughout the Nordic Empire. Bjarni was both celebrated for his discoveries and chided - famously by King Eric - for his lack of investigation. T.J. Oleson says, "There are strong arguments for the view that the three lands seen by Bjarni were Newfoundland, Labrador, and Baffin Island."[4]

Greenlanders took special interest in his discoveries, and, as they lacked timber, became allured by the wooded coastline Bjarni reported sighting.[5] Soon afterwards, Leif Erikson (Old Norse: Leifr Eiríksson, the son of Greenland leader Eric the Red) bought the ship that Bjarni had used for the voyage, hired a crew of 35 people, and set out to retrace Bjarni's journey. The result is thought to be the Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. This is the first known attempt at settlement by Europeans on the mainland of the Americas.


  1. ^ Sturlason, Snorre. (2004) Heimskringla Or The Lives Of The Norse Kings, Kessinger Publishing. p. 188. ISBN 0-7661-8693-8.
  2. ^ a b Sullivan, Steve & Stephen Krensky. (1991) Who Really Discovered America?, Hastingshouse/Daytrips Publ. p. 36. ISBN 0-8038-9306-X.
  3. ^ (1997) The Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates 10th Edition, Collins. ISBN 0-06-270192-4.
  4. ^ Dictionary of Canadian BiographyOleson, T.J., "Bjarni, Hejólfsson”, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 1979, accessed May 16, 2015
  5. ^ Kudeba, N. (2014, April 19). Chapter 5 – Norse Explorers from Erik the Red to Leif Erikson – Canadian Explorers. Retrieved from The History of Canada:
  • The Canadian Encyclopedia (accessed August 13, 2006)
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.