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Saturday, 15 July, 2000, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Greenland marks Viking voyage
Arrival of a replica Viking ship
Centre of festivities: Arrival of a replica Viking ship
Hundreds of people in Greenland are taking part in celebrations to mark a voyage the Viking captain, Leif Eriksson, is said to have made to North America 1,000 years ago.

At the centre of festivities was the arrival of a replica Viking ship which had sailed to Greenland from Iceland.

The ship, the Iseldingur (the Icelander), will retrace Leif Eriksson's journey to Newfoundland, starting from the tiny Greenland settlement of Brattahlid.

The Islendingur
The Islendingur on her way to Greenland.
Several Nordic heads of state joined hundreds of foreign guests and up to a thousand Greenlanders for three days of festivities including Viking battles, archery shows as well as traditional music and storytelling.

Eriksson's landing in North America - 500 years before Christopher Colombus - is well recorded in two medieval Icelandic manuscripts, the Saga of Erik the Red and the Saga of Greenlanders. He named America Vinland the Good.

International celebrations

The organisers describe this as the largest international event ever held in southern Greenland.

Queen Margrethe
Denmark's Queen Margrethe is among the dignatories attending
The long list of foreign dignataries includes Queen Margrethe of Denmark and her husband, Prince Henrik. Greenland is an autonomous Danish territory.

Leif Eriksson, also known as "Leif the Lucky", sailed from his native Iceland touching at the tiny hamlet of Brattahlid in southern Greenland before continuing his voyage to Newfoundland.

The four-month journey of the Islendingur will start next week and cover nearly 5,000 kms making several stops before ending up in New York.

Replica boat

The 23-metre vessel is based on a Ninth Century Viking war ship discovered in Norway about 100 years ago.

Icelandic captain Gunnar Marel Eggertson used Norwegian and Swedish oak and pine to build the ship.

There is one big difference from the original - it carried a crew of about 70 people, most of them rowers who took over when the wind dropped.

The Islendingur has a much smaller crew, and if the wind fails it can rely on a motor.

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