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Groups Announce Plans to Mark Discovery of America

March 3, 1986

PARIS (AP) _ Two groups announced plans Monday to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the discovery of North America by the Vikings starting Oct. 9, Leif Ericsson Day.

The groups are ″1,000 Years America,″ a French, Norwegian and Canadian organization that is producing a film series to mark the occasion, and the American-Scandinavian Foundation of New York.

Organizers said the celebrations also will include a gala at the Kennedy Center in Washington, concerts, symposiums, a sailing race with Viking boats and an automobile rally.

Film producer Jacques Fournier told a press luncheon that Viking sailor Bjarni Herjolfsson saw the coast of America when his ship was blown south while on his way to Greenland in the year 986.

Later Ericsson, a Norse explorer traveling from Norway to Greenland, is believed to have set foot on American soil and collected specimens of grapes, wheat and a species of wood not known in Europe.

″The idea is not to cast doubt on Columbus, whose voyage still retains all its importance and prestige,″ Fournier said. ″But he has had enough publicity. Now it’s time to pay attention to Leif Ericsson.″

The Italian explorer Christopher Columbus is generally acknowledged to have discovered America when he landed on an island in the Bahamas in 1492.

Fournier referred to a resolution passed by the U.S. Congress in 1964 that requires the president to proclaim Oct. 9 each year as Leif Ericsson Day and said the idea behind the festivities was to make the proclamation more than a piece of administrative paper.

Plans for the celebration took shape when Fournier and two colleagues, Serge Roux and Maurice Rollet, began working on a television series that tells the story of Ericsson and his father, Eric the Red, the Norse discoverer and colonizer of Greenland.

Robin Moore, author of ″The French Connection,″ has written the script for the $17 million series. Filming is expected to begin in April at locations in Norway, Iceland and Canada.

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