My compliments to John for a well framed and thought through explanation on the Henry Sinclair voyage. My added compliments and respect for Peter Cummings who has done so much for all human kind on the educational front, in publicizing the occurrence of a small yet significant event by one of the worlds heros. By this point we do see history repeating itself, and acknowledge that the tensions between facts and proofs and conclusions will always be a point of further study, debate and controversy. The same discussion occurred in the 1800,s and fortunately we now know a lot more than we did then.
But I also wanted to add a Canadian perspective (from a Canuk, who is also a proud American) and with the perspective of a legally trained individual as someone who has some understanding of evidence meeting a standard of proof that gives rise to conclusions of fact.
I have read all that I could get my hands on pertaining to the voyage, and for those subscribers interested in learning more about the voyage, I am adding a bibliography. My bias is against the American school of Historians that only look for evidence of a US connection in all history and capsules centuries into hollywood bite sized compartments. Neither actual knowledge not acquired wisdom works in that way.
There are many parts of history that we lack archeological proofs of and still seeking further evidence and knowledge. This does not lead reasonable individuals to make a conclusion that there are 'no reasonable conclusions' or 'facts that can be discerned', but rather that knowledge acquired reasonably, remains knowledge until replaced with newer and perhaps better understandings and more accurate and updated evidential proofs. I am of the view that there always has been good and sufficient evidence leading a conscientious student of history to appreciate that Henry Sinclair was one of those that did make a voyage in 1398. But allow me to expand on the overwhelming direct and circumstantial evidence that makes the voyage both plausible and above all comprehensible.
For a 1000 years mankind had to rely on the bards or songs of ancient Norwegians (from Trondelag), to document the viking voyages that stretched from Egypt to North America. The Vikings were not documentary individuals but celebrated their culture and feats through songs, passed through generations. We knew of the proofs of the vikings for many hundreds of years in this fashion. It is only since 1900 that mankind has uncovered more physical proofs that the Vikings came to North America, and made settlements well before 1398 in North America ( L'Anse aux Meadows, and in Greenland (Godthab, Julianehab). In point of fact these settlements were permanent with women and children and farms. Now we have actual archaeological historical sites to visit and we can speculate on the existence of others. All this exploration was well prior to 1300 and some voyages from Iceland (Under Viking influence) were before 1000 AD. and from Ireland again before 1400.
For an interesting discussion of navigation methods known before 1398 and an over view of the bards check out Canada's Farley Mowat's West Viking which is a good introduction as to navigation methods that allowed the Vikings to travel around the world and to allowed sailors before Columbus to know latitude, and speed and direction.
When I was initially studying the voyage, I was impressed by the circumstances we learned of which were all documented. Henry had a large fleet, and owed allegiance (If anyone really did) to both Scotland and the King of Norway. His principality was a buffer state between Scotland and Norway. His acquisition of the Shetland Islands, Orkney and the Faroes were attributable to a treaty (documented) with King Hakon for which he became the Jarl (Earl). He also married into the Scandanavian royal families. The archaeological evidence of his presence in the Orkneys is well established. Logic tells me that the Norwegians had not obliterated their memories of the location where they had created settlements. The Evidence is strong that Henry made it to Greenland which is the natural geographic route for a small boat. This trip would be no surprise to those fishermen of Iceland, Ireland and the Shetlands or Faros in the 1300's. To this date the descendants of those northern Scottish Islands speak Norwegian even though they are now part of Scotland. The evidence of pre-existing knowledge, and ability for Henry to make the voyage is substantial and weighs heavily in support of the subsequent facts. To this extent Canadian History has been helpful, and I am sharing little that most educated Canadians are not already aware of. The circumstantial and well documented context is the Henry would have some knowledge of the Viking history, settlements and routes and was the largest admiral in the region with the ability and expertise to make this voyage.
Then was there a voyage? Well the evidence we have is supportive of such a voyage which while long and arduous, was neither the first in this direction to North America, nor was it particularly long using the northern route, down and to the west of present day Newfoundland. Now do we know where he landed? With apologies to my American Cousins who know that Plymouth Rock is in a mythical landing place and the actual landing place is totally unsupported & undocumented, ((Despite this the Americans even built a shrine and imported a rock for the Pilgrims to have land on!)), I have read nothing that supports exactly where Henry landed or camped. Obviously he landed omewhere. Both Cape Ross NS, and Guysborough Harbor is a suspected anchoring place and logical on any sea route around Nova Scotia. Pictou is a excellent tie to the ZEno diaries. A celebration will occur in many of these maritime spots this summer. Then did Henry get to Massachusetts? Well someone knew a lot of details about a 13th century family and dress customs and the carving evidence can not be simply ignored. Rock can not be carbon dated and hence like the controversies that will always surround such events. Not unlike the controversy as to'who shot Kennedy?', this evidence will need further appreciation. But I believe that this evidence currently stands ( as do the pyramids), as a documented spot for time to unravel the mysteries further and for all of us to appreciate more. A similar piece of evidence lies in the rock carvings at Rosslyn Chapel. If there was ever a building that screams out for the scientists of the day to study it is Rosslyn. Every archetype and every document that could be created in the space was placed with a purpose to reveal a hidden story or more correctly many stories of the period. Maize and Aloe were not placed by 14th century stone masons out of the blue. The entire edifice screams out to be studied, and appreciated further. There is much wisdom to be learned from the construction of this building that will teach us more, having read a lot about the chaple.
It is not my inttention to re-argue the symposium in Orkney by those individuals far more learned and studied than I in their topics. Nor is it of any value to argue what we do not know yet or still needing to learn. I wanted to advance only that the voyage by Henry was in the context of published history that we know up to this point of time, totally logical and consistent with a rational belief, and that the strong evidence that exist to this date, all of which points in an entirely consistent direction that would lead a reasonable student of history to celebrate the anniversary as a significant accomplishment by one individual and those travelling with him.
I would add one other point, Henry was not the first man to set foot
in Nova Scotia or present day Massachusetts. The Micmac Indians were there
first, and had a very developed civilization by 1398 which was far more
democratic that anything in Scotland for a few hundred more years! And
here in Canada there is an appreciation that the legends of the Mickmac
Indians and their growth in technology (ocean travel and the use of fishing
nets) provide further evidence to support the occurrence of the voyage.
No the initial contact was not documented, (much aboriginal knowledge never was) , but such oral ledgends and myths passed through the generations has been now accepted as proof in court as to the validity of the facts of their stories. This states something about the strength of oral legends and stories as historical evidence. It furnishs perhaps the best direct evidence yet as to the contact with Henry Sinclair.
To my cousins, I urge you to celebrate the accomplishments of one individual
that in his time and period did something not unheard of before his time,
but still very adventurous, and daring. He came to North America, making
no claims by a foreign power to lands that they had no moral claim to.
He was on a remarkable voyage of discovery, and became a peaceful ambassador
to the indigenous peoples. He exchanged cultures and may have left monuments
behind possibly including a setlement which is significant for any period
May we, the Sinclair extended world clan, hope that the 600th Anniversary stirs up further seekers of knowledge (not the sit back show me types, but actual seekers!) and perhaps archaeological evidence will unfold shortly, perhaps at the Castle, Guysborough, Oak Island, the Orkneys, Rosslyn Chapel or through our points of interest in the United States. The Bibliography follows. If others can add to this list please do so, especially from Europe which has far more documentation and studies that exist in North America.
More appreciation must be extended to individuals like Peter Cummings and John Quaterman who took the time to share their considerable love of history and turned on a small light to a small yet significant piece of our common culture and heritage.
Bradley Michael Holy Grail Across the Atlantic 1988, Hounslow Press Toronto
Bradley Michael The Columbus Conspiracy 1991, Hounslow Press Toronto
Choyce Lesley; Nova Scotia Shaped by the Sea Penguin Books, Toronto
Haywood John Historical Atlas of the Vikings 1995, Penguin Books Ltd., London
Mowatl Farley West Viking The Ancient Norse in Greenland and North America, 1965, McCelland & Stewart, Toronto.
Pohl Frederick J. The Sinclair Expedition to Nova Scotia
1950 Pictou Advocate Press Nova Scotia
Pohl Frederick J. Prince Henry Sinclair repub. Rep, 1965, 1995 Crown Press Halifax Nova Scotia
Pohl Frederick J. Atlantic Crossings Before Columbus 1961 Norton Press New York.
Pohl Frederick J. The Vikings in Cape Cod (unknown)
Sinclair Andrew The Sword and the Grail 1992 Crown Publishing New York and London.
Spence Lewis Myths of the North American Indians 1994 Random House Value Publishing New York