Erik the Red, originally known as Erik Thorvaldson (also spelled Eric or Eirik Torvaldsson; in Norwegian, Eirik Raude) founded the first European settlement on Greenland. As the son of Thorvald, he was known as Erik Thorvaldson until he was dubbed “the Red” for his red hair.
Born in Norway, Erik accompanied his father to western Iceland when Thorvald was exiled for manslaughter. When Erik was exiled from Iceland for killing a man in 980, he set off to explore the land that lay to the west, which was visible from the mountaintops of western Iceland. Although the Norwegian Gunnbjörn Ulfsson had sailed near the gigantic island, Erik’s party was the first European group known to make landfall.
Dubbing the place “Greenland,” Erik convinced many colonists to join him on a second expedition. 14 of the 25 ships landed safely and established a settlement. Erik’s colony would eventually die out, but other Norse settlements would survive until the 1400s, when communications ceased for more than a century.
Erik’s son Leif would lead an expedition to America around the turn of the millennium.