30th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies
Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York City: March 27-28, 2010

Kirsten A. Seaver, "Slow Fade, No Credits: How Norse Greenland Slipped from Late Medieval Knowledge"

In the late-fourteenth and early-fifteenth centuries there were reports that Icelandic travelers, homeward bound from Norway, had run into conditions that forced their ships to drift off to Greenland, made those aboard stay in the Eastern Settlement for one or more years, and caused them to carry a cargo of Greenlandic goods when they left.  Those incidents have often been used as examples of worsening weather conditions in the North Atlantic and of the Norse Greenlanders' increasing isolation from the rest of the world, but neither description corresponds to reality.

My paper will focus on the relationship among those voyages, which owed nothing to  changed sailing conditions on the Greenland route and everything to changed economic and political conditions in the North Atlantic region.  Written evidence about those voyages also reveals that outsiders' geographical information about Greenland and its approaches had already begun to vanish, soon reaching such a degree that efforts to reconnect with Norse Greenland  in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were doomed to failure, as the illustrations to this part of my talk should demonstrate.


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