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-Captain Gibbons-Robert Bolot-Bvlot and Baffin-
DISCOVERIES IN THE NORTH, FROM THE EARLY
PERIODS OF SCANDINAVIAN NAVIGATION, TO THE END OF THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY.
Iceland, Greenland, Labrador, and Newfoundland disco
vered by the ancient Scandinaviane.—Discoveries of Nicolo and Antonio Zeno—Columbus John and Sebastian Cabota--the Cortereals.
The piratical expeditions of the ancient Scandinavians spread terror and dismay, by their destructive ravages, among all the maritime nations of Europe. “We cannot read the history," says M. Mallet, “ of the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries, without observing, with surprize, the sea covered with their vessels, and, from one end of Europe to the other, the coasts of those countries, now the most powerful, a prey to their depredations. During the space of two hundred years, they almost incessantly ravaged England, and frequently subdued it. They often invaded Scotland and Ireland, and made incursions on the coasts of Livonia, Courland, and Pomerania.They spread like a devouring flame over Lower Saxony, Friezeland, Holland, Flanders, and the
banks of the Rhine, as far as Mentz. They penetrated into the heart of France, having long before ravaged the coasts: 'they everywhere found their way up the Somme, the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, and the Rhone. Within the space of thirty years, they frequently pillaged and burnt Paris, Amiens, Orleans, Poitiers, Bourdeaux, Toulouse, Saintes, Angoulême, Nantes, and Tours. They settled themselves in Camargue, at the mouth of the Rhone, from whence they wasted Provence and Dauphiny, as far as Valence. In short, they ruined France, levied immense tribute on its monarchs, burnt the palace of Charlemagne at Aix-la-Chapelle, and, in conclusion, caused one of the finest provinces of the kingdom to be ceded to them.” And he adds, what one would wish to be true, that these daring robbers, “ sometimes animated by a more pacific spirit, transported colonies to unknown or uninhabited countries, as if they were willing to repair in one place the horrid destruction of human kind occasioned by their furious ravages in others.”*
One of these pirates, in proceeding to the Faroe islands, in the year 861, was driven, by an easterly gale of many days continuance, so far to the westward, that he fell in with an island utterly unknown to him, and to which, from the great quantity of snow on the mountains, he gave the name of $now-land. Three years after his return, a Swede, of the name of Gardar Suaffarson, was induced to undertake a voyage in search of this newly discovered island, which he was fortunate enough to find; and, having spent the winter upon it, and reached home in safety the following year, he gave so lively a description of its fair woods and fertile soil, that one Flocke, or Flokko, was induced to try his fortune on Snowland. The mariner's compass being at that time unknown, and the foggy and clouded atmosphere of the north frequently hiding the face of the sun for days together, Flokko took the precaution of providing himself with a raven, or, as some say, four ravens, which, like Noah, being let loose in the midst of the ocean, might serve as a guide for him to follow. The first is supposed to have flown back to the land it had left; but on the second directing his flight to the westward, he followed the course taken by the bird, and found the land he was in quest of. He also passed the winter on the island, and, on his return, gave a less inviting picture of its appearance than that which had been painted by Gardar. From the severity of the weather, and the vast quantities of drift ice which filled all the bays on the northern side of the island, he changed the name to that of Iceland, which it ever after retained. Some of his companions, however, described it as a pleasant and fertile country; but no attempts appear to have been made towards a regular establishment upon it, till the year 874, when one Ingolf, and his friend Leif, or Hiorleif, dissatisfied with the arbitrary authority of Harold Harfagre, king of the Norwegians, determined to abandon their country, and, as voluntary exiles, to seek an asylum in Iceland. On approaching the island, Ingolf, conformably with an ancient superstition of his country, threw overboard a wooden door, determining to make his first landing on that part of the coast to which the gods should direct this floating guide; but the current having carried it away from his sight, he landed in a fiord or gulf on the southern part of the island, which still bears his name.*
* Mallet's Northern Antiquities, vol. i. p. 245.
The report of their arrival having reached Norway, a number of families, with their followers and connexions, taking with them their cattle and furniture and implements of husbandry, embarked for this new colony, with a view of establishing their future residence there. It is mentioned as a fact in the Iceland annals, whose authenticity has rarely been called in question, that these early Norwegian colonists were fully persuaded that the island had been inhabited before their coming there; as wooden crosses, bells, and even books, were found near the shore, such as were then in uise in Britain and Ireland. The distance is so short from Ireland, that it is not improbable that some
* Arngrim Jonas. Chrymogæa.