Monday, October 11, 2010

Discovering America

Today we celebrate Columbus Day, and it is true that the explorations of Columbus were the most instrumental in opening this country up to settlement by Europeans. But it is also widely accepted that he wasn't the first.

Some of those that are said to have landed in America much sooner were an Irishman, St. Brendan, a Viking, Leif Erikson, a Welshman, Prince Madoc, and a Scots/Viking, Sir Henry Sinclair. Sinclair is said to have sailed from Caithness, Scotland, There are proponents of and opponents to each theory, but one thing all of these possible discoverers have in common is their Celtic/Viking origins.

And no wonder. A look at the globe from above shows that there is not that much distance between the northern lands – from the Norwegian countries to the British Isles, from Greenland and Iceland to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and even on to the northwest corner of Canada and the United States, places like Alaska and the Yukon Territories, as long as the ice was clear.

Almost no one in the world was more experienced in sailing in rough and cold waters than the races of Norseman and Celts. Even as the Great Lakes area began to be settled, it was Scots and Irishmen chosen to man the ships that would sail these equally treacherous waters.

The truth may be that many other northerners from these groups landed on what would be considered North America and were just never recorded; or that others set out on this adventure and were never heard from again. There is a fair amount of unexplained evidence in the northeast corner of this continent that points to Viking/Celt settlements and/or exploration, that pre-dates Columbus.

Even as ships began setting out for America from Northern Ireland, filled with Scotch-Irish families in the early 1700s, many went down along the rugged Antrim coastline, the same coastline that claimed a great number of Spanish Armada ships. Many had to turn back to begin again. Still, they, perhaps like those who made this attempt before Columbus, kept trying until, as a group, they made it to this land of promise.

And so all those who braved the great Atlantic Ocean in wooden ships deserve our admiration.  

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