His actual name was Erik Thorvaldsson, but people simply called him Erik the Red. A legendary 10th-century Norseman who was renowned both during his lifetime and centuries later for his violent temper, exploratory feats, uncanny salesmanship and the famous children that he fathered.
Exiled from Iceland around 982 A.D. for murdering one of his neighbors, Erik packed his family into a longboat and sailed west — to a huge island along the western edge of North America where Erik and his family started a new home. To make the place sound more appealing and lure settlers from Iceland, Erik called the giant island “Greenland.” And his slight-of-hand worked. Soon boatloads of Norseman were sailing across 700 miles of open ocean to Erik’s promised land.
Fast forward more than a thousand years and Iceland ProCruises makes that same journey during the summer season on a modern cruise ship called the MV Ocean Diamond. The voyage from Reykjavik to Kangerlussuaq and back follows the same route as the Vikings took across the Denmark Strait.
The outbound cruise is called “Iceland & Natural Wonders of Greenland” (July 22 to Aug 2, 2018) while the return leg is “Natural Wonders of Greenland an Iceland” (Aug 23 to Sept 3, 2018). Both are 12 days and 11 nights total, with same ports of call and shore excursions offered.
One of those ports of call is Narsarsuaq, a colorful town nestled among the fjords of southern Greenland. On the opposite side of the Tunulliarfik Fjord from the town is an even smaller settlement called Qassiarsuk, the place where Erik the Red settled in the 980s and thought up the name Greenland to fuel one of the greatest real estate tricks of all time.
To give Erik his due, the area around Brattahlid Farm — which Ocean Diamond passengers visit during their shore excursion — really is green. Lush grassland where the Norseman pastured their sheep, cattle and other livestock. Guided dressed in period costumes lead visitors around the old farmstead, which includes the faithful reproduction of a Viking longhouse and a reconstruction of a 10th-century turf chapel that was probably the first Christian church in the western hemisphere.
There’s much more to these cruises, of course, like the “natural wonders” that feature in both names. Incredible places in both Iceland and Greenland — like the volcanic Westman Islands, the giant heart-shaped mountain that hovers above Uummannaq, the iceberg filled Ilulissat Fjord (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the strange “underwater forest” of Ikka Fjord.