Viking History

Published: August 30th 2019
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August 29, 2019 – St. Anthony, Newfoundland & Labrador – Weather: 46°F/8°C @ 6:00 am, 55°F/13°C @ noon, partly cloudy, sun tried to peek out in pm, wind 16.1 mph, humidity 76°

Early this morning we set anchor in the sheltered harbour of St. Anthony, which is located on the northeastern side of the Great Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland & Labrador. The community was established by the French back in the 16thcentury as a seasonal fishing station, though there is evidence that the Vikings were here around 1000 AD at L’Anse aux Meadows.

Our excursion for the day, out to L’Anse aux Meadows, started early as our stay in port is only 9 hours long. St Anthony does not have a pier that can readily accept a cruise ship so once again we had to take the ship’s tenders as our transport means to go ashore.

L’Anse aux Meadows is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Site operated by Parks Canada. Travelling out to the site on school busses we first visited the interpretive center to learn how the site was discovered. The Viking tales and legends inspired Norwegian explorer and writer Helge Ingstad to go searching for the site in the 1960’s.

After talking to George Decker, a local fisherman, Ingstad was led out to what the locals referred to as the “old Indian camp”, which in fact turned out to be the overgrown ruins of 11th-century Norse buildings. Throughout the 1960’s archaeologists uncovered the site and proved that it was an authentic Viking village in North America that had been inhabited for ten years. In 1975 the site was designated a National Historic site for Canada and in 1978 a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From the interpretive center we were taken on a 35 minute walk out onto the site where a Park Guide, who actually played on the mounds as a child, provided a local flavour on what we were viewing. A large sod hit dominates the site and it illustrates how the Vikings lived while they were ashore. Anyone familiar with the NL tourism television advertisements will recognize the structure. The only thing missing were the red-headed children running through the scene. In a nearby building was a small smithy where the Vikings made nails and rivets from the local bog ore. At the conclusion of our tour we travelled across the road to Norstead, a living historic site where costumed interpreters explain life in a Viking port of trade. The site houses the Viking ship Snorri which was built in Greenland and sailed to Newfoundland as a celebration of their adventures.

Back in town we searched out the Jordi Bonet ceramic murals housed in the rotunda of the Curtis Memorial Hospital. These ceramic murals depict the culture and history of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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