EIRIKR THORVALDSSON (Eric the Red), first European to explore and settle Greenland; fl. 985.
His father Thorvaldr Asvaldsson was exiled from Norway and settled in Iceland where Eric was born. In 982 Eric was sentenced to three years outlawry for manslaughter. He determined to go in search of a land in the west, sighted many years before by Gunnbjörn Ulfsson and known as the Skerries of Gunnbjörn (likely the mountains on the east coast of Greenland). He sailed to Greenland and spent his three years of outlawry exploring the west coast. In 985 he returned to Iceland, organized a colonization company and led that year or the next a flotilla of 25 ships (14 of which reached their goal) to Greenland. These people formed the nucleus of the two Icelandic colonies, the Western and Eastern Settlements on the west coast of Greenland. The Western Settlement was deserted by its inhabitants c. 1340 but the Eastern Settlement endured into the 16th century. From these settlements the Icelanders made voyages north to the Canadian islands of the Arctic and south to the east coasts of Canada and the United States of America. Our sources say that Eric himself intended to lead an expedition to the shores of America but was prevented by an accident as he was preparing to depart. His son was Leif the Lucky [see Leifr heppni Eiriksson].