The expedition is supported by the Explorers Club
Johann and David fill out flag expedition forms at the Explorers Club
On Saturday and Sunday during Gimli’s Íslendingadagurinn, David Collette and Johann Sigurdson will present an introduction to the Fara Heim expedition, holding a reception sponsored by Hendrick’s Gin, participating in the parade, and be visible in the harbour with the Lake Winnipeg sailboat.
The objective of the Fara Heim expedition has always been to search for evidence of Norse presence from central to northern Canada, to connect a Norse/Icelandic heritage stretching back a millennium to our lives as modern Canadians. In the process, we have crossed paths not only with our Norse heritage but also the heritage of Canada and the legacy of explorers past.
Late last year Johann was accepted into the Explorers Club, a membership that has catapulted the activities of Fara Heim from that of a truly amateur team (and we’re not shy to say that) to a group that has the ability to add new pages to the history of Canada. Johann’s involvement with the Explorers Club has connected us to the world’s premiere exploration community. Our passion for Fara Heim is now supported by the knowledge and experience of the world’s best explorers.
In June, David, Johann and David’s wife, Nicole, travelled to New York City to meet with one of their advisors, Captain Norm Baker and a contact from our primary sponsor, Hendrick’s Gin. Our expedition advisor was Captain Norm Baker, the First Mate and Navigator on the Ra expedition for Thor Heyerdahl when Heyerdahl was testing his reed boat theory on African continent mariners travelling to South America. Norm has been active on field expeditions for over 50 years and the week after our meeting was to fly his aircraft solo to Alberta to search for dinosaur bones while canoeing down a river.
Norm has a philosophy regarding exploration. He was very clear that exploration was not just adventure and echoed the sentiment of explorers like Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Roald Amundsen that “adventure is poor planning” (Amundsen) and that “having an adventure means something went wrong” (Stefansson). In other words, exploration isn’t about making the evening news but is a serious business with a purpose. We got his point and agreed to prepare and plan for Fara Heim as if we were going to the moon.
David happened to spot James Enterline’s books, Viking America and Erikson, Eskimos & Columbus. Viking America evaluates the Vinland Map. As we had always assumed Enterline was dead, imagine our surprise when Norm said, “He’s not dead. In fact, he runs the radio room right there and was just here an hour ago.” After scraping our jaws off the floor we asked how we could get hold of him. Norm gave us Enterline’s cell and home phone number. It was a lot like finding out Elvis was alive and living next door. We called his number and left messages.
In the collections room we saw our first narwhal tusk. We knew Norse traders had brought the horns to Europe to trade. There is a theory that the narwhal, a mammal found in Hudson Bay, is the source of the unicorn myth.
We filled in the paperwork to become a “flag expedition”. A tradition of the Explorers Club is that numbered flags are sent out on approved expeditions, brought back and then sent out again. Flags have been to the moon, the poles, the top of Everest and everywhere in between. It is an honour to carry a flag as it symbolizes that you are doing something with purpose and not just on an adventure. For the Fara Heim team, being a flag expedition validates the years of research and ongoing planning to advance the knowledge of Arctic exploration and Canadian history.
As we worked, an older gentleman walked up to the Club manager and started discussing, of all things, the phone bill of the radio room. David’s ears perked up and, in a scene reminiscent of Henry Stanley’s famous quote, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume”, asked this man if he was Mr. Enterline. “Indeed I am,” James Enterline said. Over dinner, James told us about his research on the Vinland map and his cartographic approach to uncovering how Europeans “discovered” North America. His second book outlines his theory that it is the knowledge of the Eskimo (not the current Inuit but their forefathers) that was shared to the Norse and, later, with Europe that shows up in the maps drawn before Columbus sailed west. While looking at medieval maps he showed us how “errors” in cartography were really the information of the North American continent incorporated into a map by somebody who didn’t understand the context of the information.
We again learned that, just like with Norm, the passion to investigate and explore history has been a family event and that without the support of his spouse, James couldn’t have done it. The evening wound down and we dropped off Jim at his house with a promise to meet again when we were back in New York.
The next day we visited the Scandinavian House in New York City and, later, returned to the Explorers Club to meet Dave Welty, the Commander of Special Operations for Hendrick’s Gin. Hendrick’s Gin is a brand owned by William Grant & Sons, the only family-run distillery in Scotland. We had discovered that the Grant clan is descended from Vikings (Haakon Sigurdsson the Great) and that Grant came from the word “Grandt” (meaning “Great”). This connection to a Norse past as well as Fara Heim’s expedition created a marketing opportunity for Hendrick’s to create content for their newly launched “adventures into the unusual”. The Fara Heim team gives Hendrick’s access to places and events that most of their market will never ordinarily reach. Hendrick’s will be a part of many of the Fara Heim events to aid in public relations though the core activities and main objective of Fara Heim is to search for Norse presence.
Realizing that the expedition must educate and share the experience with a wider audience, we have make Johann Sigurdson IV and Mackenzie Collette part of the core team as “Junior Explorers”. Their role is to participate in significant portions of the expedition including planning, fieldwork, writing and speaking. The educational opportunity is broad as the expedition includes the Arctic, the history of Canada, global warming and visits to places the average teenager never goes. By recording their thoughts on paper and video, their experiences can then be shared with other students around the world. We also have designated two berths on the sailing expedition to be scheduled in week-long sections to provide for temporary team members. This creates an experience to be part of the crew while helping to defray costs of the non-profit Fara Heim. The expedition route is structured so temporary explorers can be flown in and out of small airports.
This summer the Fara Heim team will travel to Hudson Bay via the Nelson River and then visit York Factory. The goal is to compare maps made in 1730 to present day conditions, evaluate the effect of isostatic rebound (land rebounding up after being pressed down by the last ice age) and look at possible locations a Norse explorer may have wintered while exploring the Bay. This journey will be the first time many of the team have been on the shores of Hudson Bay as well as near the every present polar bears that roam the shores.
To learn about the expedition or to become part of the Fara Heim team as a financial or equipment sponsor, a temporary crew member or a technical resource check our website at www.faraheim.com or www.facebook.com/faraheim.