Bjarni Herjulfson could have become one of the most famous explorers in all of history, if only he would have gotten out of his own boat!
The year was 986 A.D. Bjarni Herjulfson was actually lost at sea. On his way to Greenland, fierce autumn storms had buffeted his ship for several days. Extremely high and powerful winds had blown him so far off course that he had no idea where he actually was. Once the weather broke and cleared, he was relieved to see land. But this land looked totally unfamiliar. It had no mountains or glaciers as had Greenland, only small hills and forests. Bjarni didn’t know it, but he had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and sailed to what is now known as Canada.
His crew begged him to land the ship. If only he had had the spirit of a Christopher Columbus, this might have been a defining moment in exploration history. But Bjarni was intent on going home,…not going down in history. So without even leaving his boat, he turned right around and headed back out to sea. He and his crew finally made it to Greenland a week later. Destination found…Opportunity missed!
Years afterward, he told his tale of adventure to a friend, who decided to retrace Bjarni’s course. And so it was that Leif Eriksson staked his claim as the first European to walk on the American continent.
Bjarni went down in history as the man whose curiosity did not get the better of him.
Not only did Leif Eriksson question Bjarni closely about his journey–he actually purchased Bjarni’s ship and used it for his own trip.
A book was written entitled “Flateyjarbok, The Norse Saga,” In this written record, the sea journeys of both Bjarni Herjulfson and Leif Eriksson are documented. This book was written in the 1300s. It is based on manuscripts and oral histories that date back centuries earlier.
An apt description of Bjarni Herjulfson’s journey made by the Vikings and recorded in the Flateyjarbok reads: “Many thought he lacked curiosity and for this reason he was somewhat slandered.”
The difference between the great and the not-so-great is often times only the slightest of margins.
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