About A.D. 860, Viking sailors reported that a large but uninhabited island lay due west of Norway. An expedition soon confirmed that an island of icy fjords, mountains, and grassy plains lay open to settlement.
By A.D 930, 20,000 Viking settlers had crowded onto the island, called Iceland. One of them was an exile from Norway called Erik the Red. Erik was passionate, and his explosive temper matched the intensity of the fiery color of his hair and beard.
He killed a man during an argument and was expelled from the town. He moved, settled, and then killed two of his neighbor’s sons in another quarrel. The Vikings ordered Erik to leave Iceland for three years. Erik faced a difficult decision. He couldn’t return to Norway, but he was unable to remain in Iceland. Boldly, Erik decided to sail west with his family and 30 settlers. He had heard stories of yet another island in the Atlantic.
After four days at sea, Erik sighted a coast of mountains locked in ice and snow. Erik ordered the ship to sail south, hoping to find amble land. He soon rounded the island’s southern tip and spotted fields covered with grass. Erik ordered the ships to stop there, and the families began building homes and planting crops.
After three years, Erik returned to Iceland to find more settlers. He shrewdly called the new land “Greenland,” realizing that the attractive name would entice colonists. In A.D. 986, 14 ships with 450 Vikings returned with Erik and settled on farms that soon stretched along 120 miles of Greenland coastline.