Gunnborn, a Norwegian settler of Iceland, first sighted the island early in the 10th century, but the coastline was not explored until Erik the Red (982), after an earlier settlement attempt by Snaebjorn Galti ended in mayhem and failure. Erik later returned with a full-scale expedition, using the name ‘Greenland’ to entice recruits. Sailing with a fleet of 25 ships, the three settlements he founded in southwest Greenland would reach a peak population of perhaps 2–5,000 inhabitants. Its economy was based on the export of walrus ivory and animal hides. In the 11th century Leif Eriksson apparently both explored and established settlements on the northeast coast of North America. Viking settlements on the coasts of Greenland died out around the end of the 15th century. Their extinction has usually, but contentiously, been attributed to the ‘mini Ice Age’ affecting Europe at the time.
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