When the Vikings discovered America 2020
Next DepartureSep. 11, 2020
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, Lectures, Photography, Tundra, Wildlife observations, Zodiac
Expedition cruising from Iceland to Greenland and onwards to Canada - following the ancient Norse route
Albatros Expeditions proudly presents - for the first time in more than 1,000 years - a voyage that follows in the wake of Viking Leif Eriksson's journey to Vinland. A voyage which back then earned him his nickname, "The Lucky".
Just as Leif and his farther Eric the Red, we will ‘set sail’ out of Reykjavík after our embarkation on Ocean Atlantic. First part of our cruise follows the route taken by Eric on his discovery of South Greenland. We visit Eric’s farm and church in Bratthalið before venturing further toward Newfoundland, until we reach L’Anse aux Meadows on Newfoundland. This is Vinland, as the Norse Sagas so dramatically write about!
During the crossing, we will remain vigilant in hopes of witnessing the magnificent polar fauna including the great whales that are often seen in these waters. From the northern tip of Newfoundland, we will continue south along the east coast, visiting the beautiful city of St. John’s and the French Protectorate Saint Pierre. The voyage concludes in Halifax on the Canadian island and province of Nova Scotia.
Embark Ocean Atlantic in Reykjavík.
In the afternoon, we board Ocean Atlantic in Reykjavík and set our course westbound for Greenland.
Days 2 - 3
At sea towards South Greenland
Our lecturers onboard will make inspiring and enriching presentations about both Iceland and Greenland’s past history and about nature, wildlife and climatology.
Prince Christian Sound
Kap Farvel, or Cape Farewell, is renowned not only as Greenland's southernmost point, but also for its infamous, although mostly seasonal, gale-force winds.
We deliberately opt for a far more comfortable but at the same time more spectacular route, cruising via the inside passage through the Prince Christian Sound, a 60 km long waterway, from the Atlantic in the east to Davis Strait and the fjord-lands of South West Greenland.
South Greenland – Hvalsey Church and Qaqortoq
As a small sheltered enclave, South Greenland's blue fjords and green mountains are enclosed by the ubiquitous ice cap. Wherever you look, the chalk-white glare is felt from the ice, which rises up to two thousand meters to the north and east. South Greenland has it all: Icebergs, high mountains reflecting in deep blue fjords, and Greenlandic culture with beautiful towns, settlements and colorful wooden houses adhering to the hill sides. And then the 1000-year-old Norse history, created by Erik the Red's visions of a new found country with a beautiful name.
A wedding in Hvalsey Church in AD 1408 marks the last historic documentation from the Norse settlement in Greenland. The wedding guests stayed two years before returning to Iceland, and nothing was ever heard again from their relatives back in Greenland. In their heyday, the area housed several thousands of Christian souls from Cape Farewell to Nuuk, 600 km further north. The reason for their downfall is probably a significant climate deterioration that made hunting and farming difficult.
Qaqortoq / Julianehåb, the “capital” of South Greenland, is like a model of a Greenlandic town: The colorful houses embrace the busy harbor and creep up the mountainsides. In center of the town are old colonial houses, solidly built in stone and timber. And between the old houses is the only fountain in Greenland, erected back in 1928 - a little pride of Qaqortoq.
South Greenland – Erik the Reds Brattahlíð
During the early hours Ocean Atlantic has sailed far into South Greenland through Erik Fjord.
Erik the Red came with his men and his wife Tjodhilde in 982, and it was here in what is now Qassiarsuk he built his farm Brattahlíð, “The steep grass slopes”.
We make landing with our Zodiacs, and start our walk through the village. Qassiarsuk and much of South Greenland practice farming and animal house holding at the margin of what is possible. Large stables are built for the sheep during the hard winters, and we see small cultivated fields growing potatoes and turnips. In the northern end of the village are the partly excavated ruins of stable buildings and residential areas, as well as the reconstructed church and farmhouse of Erik, Tjodhilde and their son, Leif the Lucky.
After our visit back in history we steam back out of the fjord towards open sea.
Days 7 - 8
At sea towards Newfoundland
We now have a few days at sea, where the ship is heading for a more southerly course towards Vinland than the one used by Leif Eriksson. During our crossing, there are good opportunities to relax in the ship's library, participate in the series of lectures held by Albatros Expeditions’ leaders, or look for seabirds and whales on our course to the southwest.
The west coast of Greenland is favored by mild waters of the Gulf Stream, whereas a cold sea current runs south along Baffin Island and Labrador's shores. The officers on the bridge will keep an eye out for the icebergs, flowing down "Iceberg Alley" from the big glaciers in Greenland and Arctic Canada all the way south to Newfoundland.
Newfoundland - St. Anthony and L’Anse aux Meadows
We have reached Strait of Belle Isle between Labrador and the northernmost point of Newfoundland. It was here that Erik the Red's son, Leif Eriksson, arrived around the year 1000 after sailing down "Helluland" (Baffin Island) and "Markland" (Labrador), before reaching an area with lush meadows and trout-rich rivers, which he called Vinland. Here he wintered before he sailed back to Greenland. He was followed by his brothers Thorvald and Thorfinn, who brought women and livestock, and who stayed in the area for a number of years, possibly to explore the coast down to St. Lawrence Bay and Nova Scotia.
Vinland is marked on a map from the Middle Ages, and numerous researchers have sought the archaeological evidence of the settlement. It became the tenacious Norwegian archaeologist Helge Ingestad and his wife, Anne Stine Ingestad, who in 1962 found the final proof of Leif the Lucky’s discovery of America. A number of houses and finds of hearth sites, spinners and more has made L’Anse aux Meadows one of the most important archaeological sites in the world.
As Ocean Atlantic cannot anchor near L’Anse aux Meadows, we sail some miles south to the small town of St. Anthony. We drive by bus the approximate 40 km north to L’Anse aux Meadows, where we will among other things see reconstructions of Viking houses in the style of those built on Erik the Red's residence at Qassiarsuk in South Greenland.
We return to the ship and continue our journey down the east coast of Newfoundland.
Days 10 - 11
Newfoundland - St. John’s
In the evening we approach and dock in St. John's, North America's easternmost point. For centuries, the strategically good location attracted adventurers, traders, pirates and, not least, seafarers, who created the foundation for the city's prosperity. In 1497, Italian seafarers and explorers Giovanni Caboto (also known as John Cabot) came and proclaimed the enclave to the first permanent settlement in North America. We are at the quay overnight and all the next day in town.
St. John's oozes charm. In addition to the long, picturesque history, the city offers unique architecture and cultural and nature experiences. In the narrow streets of the town center there are a wealth of museums, galleries, historic buildings, parks, restaurants, pubs and cozy shops. St. John’s downtown is one of the oldest trading places in North America. One of the city's main sights is Signal Hill with beautiful views of the old historic harbor town. Already in 1704, flags were hoisted on Signal Hill when ships approached - be it kind or hostile. And for centuries, the vantage point was a sore point in military disputes.
Another attraction in St. John's is Cape Spear. In Newfoundland folklore, Cape Spear is also called "the western world of the far east", and right here you are at North America's farthest point. In addition to a stunning landscape, Newfoundland's oldest lighthouse is also located here.
Saint Pierre and Miquelon, French Protectorate in Canada
Off the south coast of Newfoundland are the two small islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, which together form an autonomous French territorial area. Miquelon is the largest of the two islands, but is almost uninhabited. The 6,000 inhabitants of the territory live on the small island of Saint Pierre, which is only 8 kilometers on the longest side. The inhabitants speak French, have French passports and use the euro - despite the fact that their closest French neighbors in Brest live 3,800 km away. However, the affiliation has been challenged in past, and for centuries England and France have alternately thrown out each other and taken over the islands until they finally became French in 1816.
We sail into the port of Saint Pierre and walk around the streets of the small town.
Nova Scotia – Louisbourg
We have about 150 nautical miles before we are heading under Nova Scotia's coast. The island was originally populated by Mi'kmaq Indians before the British established a port in 1605. Later, in particular, Scots arrived - not least for the homely-looking coastlines along Cape Breton Island.
However, it is again the French commitment to the area that we focus on during today's landing. We have reached the beautiful natural harbor of the city of Louisbourg and will visit the French fortress Fort Louisbourg on the opposite bank of the bay. Here, too, England and France were battled for power in eastern Canada, and the fort changed "hands" several times during the 18th century.
In 1920, the decayed remains of the French fort were preserved and in the following years rebuilt to its original form from the 1740s. The site is set as a Canadian National Park and is now a favorite destination. There are often historical plays, war scenes or just eighteenth century events.
After our visit we continue along the south coast, the least inhabited part of the island and reach our destination, Halifax.
Halifax - disembarkation
Ocean Atlantic docks in one of Canada's busiest ports, and after breakfast we say goodbye to the crew.
Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia, one of Canada's maritime provinces. Founded in 1749 and all the way up to 1905, Halifax was one of the largest British naval bases outside England. To defend Halifax, the British authorities built a number of fortifications in and around this strategically important port. Despite the fact that the citadel has never been attacked, the British army and the Canadian forces crewed the present citadel right up to 1906 and again during both world wars.
Halifax is one of Canada's most important immigration ports, and for more than 1.5 million immigrants, the city was their first impression before being spread across the vast country. The Titanic's shipwreck in 1912 is also an essential part of Halifax's history. Three ships from the city helped to save survivors from the disaster, and a large part of the victims are buried in the city's cemeteries.
Inclusions / Exclusions
14-day cruise in a shared outside double cabin with bathroom/toilet
English-speaking expedition staff
Guided walks in Brattahlíð (Qassiarsuk)
Bus excursion from St. Anthony to L’Anse aux Meadows
Entrance Fort Louisbourg
Zodiacs cruises in fjords
Inspiring and enriching lectures onboard by qualified lecturers
Full board on the ship
Coffee, tea and afternoon snacks on the ship
Taxes, tariffs, and AECO fees
International flights to Iceland.