Erik returns to Greenland with 14 ships and over 3,000 Norse settlers. They establish three settlements near the southwestern tip of the massive North Atlantic island.
986 CE: Icelandic trader Bjarni Herjólfsson is blown off course while traveling to visit his father in Greenland. He discovers uncharted land further west, but is only interested in reaching his destination.
Erik soon discovers a small group of natives that live in north-western Greenland and establish trade with them. The Vikings call them Skrælingi, a Norse word that may mean foreigner.
A third group soon migrates into northern Greenland from the east. They hunt the slow swimming bowhead whales to acquire meat, blubber for oil, and bones to create shelters.
Bjarni Herjólfsson, unknown to himself, becomes the first European to spot mainland North America.
The Viking Greenlanders established contact and trade with the ancestors of the Eskimos and Inuits. The Norse call both groups Skrælingi.
Trader Herjólfsson tells Leif Eriksson, son of Erik the Red, about the land he spotted 15 years earlier. Eriksson sails westward from Greenland with thirty men to find the territory.
Leif’s expedition finds Herjólfsson land and explores its eastern coast. They also journey down a large gulf. They name it Vinland, possibly due to the wild grapevines in one region.
Leif establishes contact and trade with Skraelings in Vinland. They collect timber and establish a small settlement. However, some vikings also come into conflict with the natives.
The Vikings eventually abandon Vinland due to lack of food sources in the harsh winter environment. However, they may have continued to import timber from the region for a time.
The Viking voyages to North America are written in ancient sagas, but they remained relatively obscure until modern times. It is likely the first interaction between Europeans and Native Americans in history.
995 CE: King Sigurdsson of Norway becomes unpopular due to taking noble daughters as his concubine. A rebellion erupts and the ruler is forced to go into hiding, but he is soon killed by his own slave.
King Olaf I
Olaf Trygvason, great-grandson of Harald Fairhair, travels from Britannia to Norway during the rebellion. The rebels soon accept Olaf as King of Norway because of his noble ancestry.
King Olaf is a Christian and builds the first churches in Norway. He is also a fanatical believer and threathens Norwegians with torture and execution if they don’t convert.
Olaf’s Naval Fortress
King Olaf acquires eleven large warships, which together look like a floating fortress. His flagship is a tall and lengthy warship known as The Long Serpent.
Olaf Haraldsson is a descendant of Harald Fairhair; the first king of Norway. While Cnut is busy in England, Olaf convinces several minor rulers to accept him as king of Norway.
Battle of Nesjar
1016 CE: King Olaf II proceeds to conquer additional territory in Norway and brings the majority of Norwegians under his sole rule. He also conquers territory in Denmark and Sweden.
Christianization of Norway
1024 CE: King Olaf II, who converted to Christianity, establishes an official religious code for his kingdom. This establishes Norway’s earliest laws and the official Church of Norway.
Battle of the Helgea
1026 CE: King Cnut ambushes and defeats King Olaf’s fleet by breaking a dam and flooding his ships. King Cnut proceeds to reconquer territory in Scandinavia.
Olaf II was declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 1164 and became the patron saint of Norway. He likely died in a peasant rebellion while attempting to reclaim his rule, though later writers claim he died in a heroic battle.