History Repeats Itself

Another Icelander Sets Sail for America

A Thousand Years After His Famous Ancestor

May 03, 2000, 01:00 ET from Icelandair

    COLUMBIA, Md., May 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Icelandair issued the following:
     Dawn lingers in the skies above Reykjavik harbor as the clouds roll by
 swiftly in the steady breeze. The air is crisp; the seas are high. Standing
 midship, the solid mast towers high above the deck, its square single sail
 still furled, a wrinkled pile of canvas. Nearly eight tons of lava rocks below
 provide a sure ballast, even in the churning seas of the North Atlantic.
     The captain takes the helm, his blue eyes searching the horizon in
 anticipation of the adventure to come. It has been a millennium since his
 ancestor, the Icelandic Viking Americans call "Leif the Lucky," set sail on
 the same course. He wonders what this voyage has in store for him and his
 ship. He is about to live his dream. He personally built the Islendingur
 ("Icelander"), a 74-foot Viking ship, using 9th century plans and 21st century
 skills. Now he watches his crew, an able group of sailors. Icelanders all.
 Modern-day Vikings.
     Seven men and one woman climb aboard solemnly and set about on their
 designated tasks, finally casting lines ashore. They glance towards the
 captain, following his gaze to the seas beyond, as the ship slips silently
 from the shore. In moments they will raise sail.
     And the adventure of a lifetime will begin.
     The stage is set for such a scenario on June 17, 2000, when Gunnar Marel
 Eggertsson and his crew of eight will journey across the Atlantic to mark the
 1,000th Anniversary of the voyage that led the first European to the shores of
 North America.
     Eggertsson, a direct descendent of Icelandic adventurer Leif Eiriksson,
 will set sail from Reykjavik, Iceland, on June 17, 2000, Iceland's National
 Day, in a ship he built himself, to recreate the voyage of his famous
 ancestor. The 2,600-mile historic course will take him to Greenland
 (July 15-18) and Newfoundland (July 28-August 20). Scholars have determined
 that the northern tip of Newfoundland is the place known to the Vikings as
 "Vinland," which became the first European settlement in North America,
 forever linking the heritage of Iceland with North America. Islendingur will
 continue its sail southward to Halifax, Nova Scotia (August 25) and to the US
 ports of Boston (September 8-15) and New York City, where the voyage will end
 in October 2000.
     Leif Eiriksson's odyssey is vividly described in the Icelandic Sagas known
 as the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Eirik the Red. Written by
 ancient scribes, the Sagas were preserved so Icelanders through the ages could
 read about this and other dramas. The Old Norse language hasn't changed much
 since the days of the Viking explorers -- at least, not in Iceland, where even
 school children learn to read the original manuscripts describing their
     The voyage of the Islendingur is an important part of a comprehensive
 Icelandic Millennium Program in North America organized by the Leifur
 Eiriksson Millennium Commission of Iceland.
     *  Built in 1996
     *  Oak and pine construction
     *  18 tons of wood
     *  5,000 nails
     *  LOA: 22.5 meters
     *  Beam: 5.3 meters
     *  Draft: 1.7 meters
     *  Weight: 80 gross tons
     *  Speed: 7 knots average

SOURCE Icelandair