Nature versus Man Number 2: The fate of the Greenland Vikings
This is part of a series which is intended to show that we are not necessarily the architecs of our future. Sometimes, unexpected events shape our history in ways that we cannot imagine.
Around the end of the first millennium of the Common Era, the Vikings, an intrepid and courageous group of people founded colonies in what is now known as Greenland. Under the guidance of Erik the Red, two important settlements were created, the Eastern Settlement and 240 miles Northwest, the Western Settlement.
Initially, the settlements flourished. The economy was based on agriculture and trade with the European mainland, specially from Norway, where the Vikings came from. Furthermore, there was an active religious life and there was even a bishop appointed for the settlements.
What happened around the middle of the 14th century was described as a mystery, however, as our knowledge of the past has increased, this enigma started to clarify. From the 10th to the 14th century CE, the planet went through a period known as the Medieval Climate Optimum. It was a period of unusually high temperatures, of regression of the polar ice caps and of increased vegetation in areas usually barrened by endless winters. It was in this period in which the Vikings explored the North Atlantic arriving to Greenland and to North America. However, things started to change in the middle of the 14th century. The winters because harsher, the temperatures dropped and agriculture became impossible. Trade was limited by the icy sea and eventually, the Viking culture in Greenland collapsed and disappeared. The Little Ice Age had begun having the Greenland Vikings as one of its casualties.
Nature sometimes works in ways we cannot predict.