Bjarni Herjólfsson

Bjarni Herjólfsson (fl. 10th century) was a Norse explorer who is the first known European discoverer of the mainland of the Americas, which he sighted in 985 or 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. 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 Eric the Red to Greenland. So he took his crew and set off to find him. But in that summer of 985 or 986, Bjarni was blown off course by a storm with no map or compass. 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. Although he managed to regain his course, he reported seeing low-lying hills covered with forests some distance farther to the west.

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