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Scandinavian Explorers of the World: Herjulfsson & Bering

Ever wondered where the Bering Strait got its name? In this article, you will learn the man behind this body of water and what he accomplished in his day. Also, you will encounter an Icelandic explorer that inspired another adventurer – Bjarni Herjulfsson.

Bjarni Herjulfsson

This Icelandic explorer is often considered the first European to see the continent of North America. However, Herjulfsson never actually set foot ashore. Recorded in history, he caught sight of Vinland (what is probably present-day Nova Scotia) in either 985 or 986. He came to this land after wind blew his vessel off course while he attempted to travel from Iceland to Greenland. When he finally returned, he described the hills and forests of a land situated west of Greenland. Little did he know that 14 years later, his mentioning of Vinland would inspire the infamous Leif Ericsson to sail there.

3 Facts About Bjarni Herjulfsson

1) Herjulfsson’s home country was Norway, but was born to an Icelandic father, who he paid a visit to every summer.

2) When Herjulfsson reached North America, he did not take the time to explore the land because he was in a hurry to visit his parents in Iceland. This is why he decided not to land. Instead, he reported what he found and saw in Greenland and in Norway. At that time, no one was that interested in what he had to say.

3) Ten years after he had returned, Leif Ericsson paid attention and listened closely to what Herjulfsson had to say. He purchased the ship that once belonged to Herjulfsson when he took his voyage to Greenland. With that, he brought on a crew that consisted of 35 people. He then went off to finish what Herjulfsson had started. In the end, Ericsson was connected to establishing the Viking settlement located at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. In the record books, this would become the first documented attempt of Europeans establishing a settlement on the mainland of the Americas.

Vitus Jonassen Bering (1681-1741)

Vitus Jonassen Bering was known as a Danish explorer and navigator who traveled about the seas located off Alaska and the northeastern part of Siberia. Besides exploring the open sea, Bering was part of the fleet of Tsar Peter I the Great of Russia as a sublieutenant. So, what did Bering do? He was in charge of an expedition to find out whether or not Asia and North America were connected by a bridge made out of land. This exploration took place between 1725 and 1730.

In order to accomplish this task, Bering sailed through what is now called the Bering Strait. He searched for a sea route around Siberia to China. In the end, he concluded that Asia and North America were not linked by land although foggy conditions permitted him from seeing North America. With his second expedition in 1741 (known as the Great Nordic Expedition), Bering was able to map the majority of the Arctic coast of Siberia , a feat he completed while associated with the Russian Empress Anna.

In July of 1741, he found his way to North America. After he was blown off course, as well as suffered an attack of scurvy (lack of vitamin C) on his captain and crew , the ship that Bering sailed upon was wrecked on a small island located close to Kamchatka, Russia. It was a small plot of land, leaving Bering and his crew to brave the winter of 1741 with not very much. Half of his crew lost their lives, including Bering himself. Today, this island is referred to as Being Island.