After days at sea, Leif spotted a barren island, which he called Helluland, or “Flatstone Land.” Flatstone Land is called Baffin Island today and sits off the coast of northern Canada. Leif and the Vikings continued south, sighting a wooded land with flat beaches. Leif called it Markland, or “Wooded Land.”
The Vikings sailed on and found a suitable place on an island to pass the winter. They erected a small village, which Leif named after himself, Leifsbudir. They were delighted to find streams choked with salmon and vines heavy with berries growing nearby. When the Vikings left the next spring, Leif called the land “Vinland,” meaning Wineland.
Today, it is called Newfoundland. The next spring, Leif’s brother, Thorvald, followed Leifs route. The voyage was less fortunate. The Vikings fought a battle with American Indians, and Thorvald died from arrow wounds.
In 1009, about 250 Vikings settled in Vinland, the first European settlement in North America. But hostile Indians doomed the colony and it was abandoned just four years later.
The Viking population on Greenland also eventually dissipated in the late 1400s, when winters became colder and a combination of disease and Eskimo attacks killed off the population.
News of the Viking discovery of North America did not spread to the rest of Europe. When other Europeans again sailed into the Atlantic Ocean in the 1400s and 1500s, they were surprised by what they found.