National Geographic : 2012 Nov
• Viking colonists carved out farming settlements and lled storehouses with Arctic luxuries des- tined for European markets, from walrus ivory to spiraling narwhal tusks that were sold as uni- corn horns. Some chie ains, fearless in the face of the unknown, pressed farther west, navigating through iceberg-strewn waters to the Americas. Sometime between . . 989 and 1020, Vi- king seafarers---perhaps as many as 90 men and women in all---landed on a Newfoundland shore and raised three sturdy halls and an assort- ment of sod huts for weaving, ironworking, and ship repair. In the 1960s a Norwegian adven- turer, Helge Ingstad, and his archaeologist wife, Anne Stine Ingstad, discovered and excavated the overgrown ruins of this ancient base camp at a place called L'Anse aux Meadows. Later, Canadian archaeologists found iron ship rivets and other artifacts from what appeared to be a Viking shipwreck o the coast of Ellesmere Island. But in the years that followed, few other traces of the Vikings' legendary exploration of the New World came to light---that is, until Pa- tricia Sutherland came along. on Ba n Island, Sutherland and her eld crew wind single le down a rocky footpath into a green hollow known as Tanfield Valley. The high wind of the previous evening has died, and the heavy clouds have cleared, leaving blue sky along the rugged coast that Viking seafarers once called Helluland---"stone slab land." Long before the Vikings arrived, the area's ancient inhabitants built a settlement here, at a site known today as Nanook. As Sutherland clambers down the hill, she scans the shoreline warily for polar bears. e coast is clear this morning, and as she crosses between two freshwater ponds, she marvels aloud at the valley's thick, spongy moss. "It's full of greenery, full of turf for making buildings," she says. "It's the greenest valley in the area." Sutherland, now a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen, smiles at the perfec- tion of it all. Below us lies a protected cove, a natural harbor for an oceangoing Viking ship.