The great germanic trading centre of Haitabu/Hedeby in Schleswig-Holstein Germany was harrased by constant military conflicts and a destructive attack by the Slavs in 1066 led to it's abandonment. It's trading role was taken over by Schleswig, on the northern shore of the Schlei. Schleswig in turn came to be superceded by Luebeck and from here grew the powerful German Hanseatic League, from the 12th to the 16th century, heirs of the Viking legacy.
Here in northern Germany, the ship evolution continued from it's Viking predecessor. It was the Hanse Kogge, with new innovations such as steering by rudder, a stern castle, bow castle and a windlass for hoisting heavy weights.
The cities of Bremen and Hamburg became powerful citystates. With Luebeck at it's head the Hanse established trading centres throughout northern Europe and Russia. One of the Hanse's most important victories occured with the defeat of Denmark and Norway, whose King Christian the 4th wanted to establish himself as Lord over Schleswig-Holstein.
The baltic and the north sea was known for many centuries as MARE GERMANICUM the German sea. Due to their superior seamanship the Hanse became masters of all trade in Europe.
Small wonder then, that two German Admirals led an expedition in 1473 to search out the old Viking colonies beyond Greenland, the empetus coming from King Christian of Denmark. It was in his direct interest to see how things stood there.
The two Admirals were Diedrick Pining and Hans Pothorst, from the city of Hildesheim, Germany. A fresco picture of Hans Pothorst survives in the church of Elsinore, Denmark. We know from documents that Diedrick Pining was Governour of Iceland at that time and being it's highest official knew the sources of the Sagas, among them the Vinland Journeys.
The expedition was mounted in the west fiord of Iceland. At this time a observer was taken aboard. It was none other than Joao Vaz Corte Real the Portoguese explorer. From there they sailed the old Viking course to Greenland and then sailed across to Labrador and Newfoundland following the old sailing directions of the "Landnama Buch".
So it was that two Germans re-discovered the "New World" roughly 400 years after the Vikings and 19 years before Colombus.
Diedrick Pining planted his symbol, an iron Ship's Hook, for a short time in nothing less than the new continent that was to become Canada and showed the way for the following discovery voyages of the Portuguese and Spanish.
It just so happed that Columbus was in Iceland in 1477, the very time that the Pining - Pothorst expedition had returned and he certainly would have heard much said about the new world.
The city of Bremen Germany has an interesting Clocktower which displays an animated tribute to the early dicoverers of the new world, from the Vikings to Pining/Pothorst to Columbus.
A question must be raised as to why there is such scant knowledge, if any, here in Canada about this expedition? It is not taught in any school, yet it is an important part in the history of exploration. This brings us to another little known subject. The oldest terrestial Globe in the world, designed by Martin Behaim of Nurnberg. It was constructed in 1492 even as Columbus was sailing across the Atlantic. The globe contains insertions of islands west of Greenland. These insertions would not have been possible without the knowledge of Pining's discoveries. It proves that Behaim knew of a landmass in the north between Europe and Asia. The globe is housed today in the German National Museum in Nurnberg.
It is covered in detail in the Video showing sections of Behaim's globe compared with modern day maps of the same area.
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