The Hanseatic League and Hanse Towns in the Early Penetration of the North
By Klaus Friedland
Arctic, Vol.37:4 (1984)
Introduction: The North American continent has been “discovered” two times. The first time, the son of an exile followed the route of his banished father, and continued further west. This happened in 1000 A.D., when the Icelander Leif Eiriksson failed to reach Greenland, was driven ashore at the Labrador coast, and reached Newfoundland. The second discovery was that of Christophorus Columbus. Some scholars think that 20 years earlier, about 1473, two privateers of the Danish king, Didrik Pining and Hans Pothorst, landed in Labrador, which seems to be hypothetic. Reliable documents tell that Pining and Pothorst followed the same path as Eirik Raudi and his son Leif Eiriksson when asked by King Christian I to look for new islands in the North.
None of these explorers set out to look for a continent, and all of them were sent by kings – or driven out by administration of justice in the name of a king – to the utmost periphery of royal power. The extension of the known world was thus promoted by royal grace – or royal disgrace. To put it less poetically: the discovery of unknown lands elevated the glory of monarchs and won admiration for outstanding individuals.