The Vikings where a group of Nordic explorers, warriors, pirates, and merchants who thrived from the end of the 8th Century until the middle of 11th Century. They are believed to be the first people whose lifestyle were completely dependent on the ocean. The Vikings explored and settled areas in Europe, Asia, and the North Atlantic.
The etymology of the word Viking is unclear. One theory states that it is derived from the Old Norse feminine noun “Viking” which translates as expedition to the sea. Accordingly, the masculine version of the noun, “Vikingr”, refers to a seaman or warrior who takes part in expeditions overseas.
There are numerous theories as to why Vikings took turned to the sea for survival. One theory suggests that the Norse population had outgrown their local agriculture potential. Expanding to the sea was the next logical step for a people living on the coast whom possessed advanced naval technologies.
The most common water vessel used by these seamen was the longship, which had up to 30 rowing benches and was intended for warfare and exploration. The design of the ship was ideal for raids since they sailed quickly (up to 14 knots) making for a swift attack and hasty get away! Generally, these sea people would have the head of a dragon on the bow of their ships which they believed protected them from evil spirits of the sea.
One of the most famous vikings was the outlaw Leif Eriksson aka “Leif the Lucky”, the son of Erik the Red who was also infamous outlaw. Leif is believed to be the first European to explore the New World (NOT Christopher Columbus!) reaching what is present-day Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.