Time on My Hands Chapter 56 - 397-398 CE: Exploring the New World


Time on My Hands
Chapter 56: 397-398 CE: Exploring the New World

Raben was delighted to learn of the success of the two western exploratory voyages. Raven Mail dispatched to Bazram told Ollie to line up 2 battalions of Pathfinders with at least 50 Sami in each to head out in the spring of 398 to prepare the Faroe Islands and Iceland for colonization. Two 4 ship exploratory fleets were ordered to continue west since the southern western explorers had found a new continent. Each exploratory min-fleet would consist a 360 ton caravel, a 180 ton caravel, a 100 ton caravel and a 24 ton clinker. An additional 1492 colonists would be included in the 398 colonist transfer to Bazram to make up for the 1492 Pathfinders being dispatched. Raben also ordered 4 battalions of Pathfinders west to establish bases and prepare for colonists on the islands of Bermuda, Hatteras, Great Abaco and Grand Bahama. The 6 battalions of Pathfinders sent to the 6 to establish the new island bases meant 4476 people had to be diverted from settling in Senegal. Each Pathfinder battalion included 2 - 100 ton caravels and 5 - 24 ton clinkers to transport between islands and around the coasts as well as to fish to supply the unit with food. Finding nearby fishing areas was part of their tasks.

From the Madeira shipyards a 28 ship exploratory fleet consisting of 7 large 360 ton caravels, 7 medium 180 ton caravels, 7 smaller 100 ton caravels and 7 small 24 ton clinkers was to sail with the Pathfinders to the island groups. From Bermuda, the exploratory fleet would split into sub-fleets of 4 ships, 1 of each class. Raben would sail with the fleet.

In the Eastern Roman Empire Eutropius, a eunuch who was head of the Imperial palace in Constantinople, gathered together a military force composed of Romans and Goths to face the threat posed by the invading Huns. By the end of 398 he succeeded in restoring peace in the eastern empire even though they never engaged in full battle. Since the Hunnish forces were already leaving the area by the time the Roman forces were gathered, the crises was averted. The Huns left the Eastern Roman Empire by 398, invading the long time Roman opponent, the Persian Empire. Initially successful, upon coming close to the capital at Ctesiphon, they were defeated badly during the Persian counterattack and retreated through the Caucasus Mountains.

In the Western Roman Empire, General Stilicho was regent and Magister Militum for Honorius. To secure his position and influence, Stilicho married his daughter to Honorius in 398. Both were 14.

The Norse fleet left Levanger on the April 1, 398 for the 2 day voyage to the Shetland Islands, then after a 1 day replenishment, sailed northeast to the Faroe Islands, a one day voyage. One battalion of Pathfinders with their ships off loaded onto Streymoy Island in Kaldbaks Fjord at Sund. Since there were no trees, all lumber had to be brought in. With plenty of stone available, all building was done with stone with an adobe like mixture of mud and dried grasses filling the spaces. Three feet tall spruce, pine and mountain Birch tree seedlings were amongst the cargo with the intent to start limited forests. Sheep and sturdy ponies were also imported. Imported lumber was used to frame doors, windows and the turf roof. A raven roost was established. The ravens on the fleet and those of the second Pathfinder battalion spent a week getting familiar with the locale so they could find it on return flights. The fleet sailed on after 3 days of unloading the base supplies.

The 2 day voyage to Iceland’s southern shore went smoothly. Then another day sailing west around the Reykjanes Peninsula into Lambhúsatjörn Cove where the Pathfinder battalion established the base at Reykjavík. While there were forests on the island, the trees were mostly slow growing birch and Rowen trees. Three feet tall spruce and pine seedlings were amongst the cargo with the intent to start faster growing forests. Sheep and sturdy ponies were also imported and a raven roost established.

After 3 days unloading the exploratory fleet set sail west. They knew from the initial exploration the western most peninsula of Iceland, Point Bjargtangar {GM 65.502419, -24.530250} was just below the arctic circle. Since they didn’t want to head into the arctic circle they decided to sail west from that point Midday on the second day the raven overwatch returned signaling they’d spotted land. As evening approached they spotted Kulusuk, a rocky island, 360 miles from Iceland. The ravens had been trained to find sites that might be suitable for settlement and they indicated a site not too far away. Ammassalik was another island with a fjord they named Nordfjord. A small bay in the west of the fjord was a perfect anchorage and just below the arctic circle. Tasiilak {GM 65.613930, -37.629415} would be the perfect site for a way station for ships and raven mail. They spent a day exploring the area. It was 469 miles from Reykjavík. From there they headed south along the jagged fjord filled coast with glaciers coming down into the fjords. They could see some bare rock with virtually no vegetation. They skirted the coast mapping the numerous fjords but not fully exploring them. The clinkers went in with the 100 ton caravels staying near and the 180 ton caravels staying within sight of the entrance while the 360 ton caravels held station out at sea. In this way the fleets hopscotched one another making decent charts while traveling faster than a single fleet. After 5 days and 472 miles the land curved west and the coast revealed the mountains and fjords were ice and snow free. They decided to continue skirting the coast. After 70 miles the fjords changed from an east/west alignment to a north/south alignment. The land on the sides was of the fjords were green with grasses and bushes as well as small forests of mostly white birch along with gray-leaf willow, rowans, junipers and willows. After exploring several fjords they found one that seemed suitable for a small settlement. The entry to the fjord was 460 miles from where they reached the land mass. The Vatnahverfi peninsula lies between the Igaliku fjord and the Tunulliarfik Fjord. There are dozens of nearby settlement spots in the area and much grassland. Igaliku {GM 60.988852, -45.416796} was the location chosen for a future base/settlement spot. Igaliku, was accessible from either fjord being at a neck in the peninsula just 1.3 miles wide forming a saddle less than 50 meters in height. The distance for raven mail flight was 400 miles from Tasiilak, sailing was 3 days, 610 miles. Sailing direct from Reykjavík was 5 days, 923 miles. After two weeks of exploration the explorers set off west.

After 600 miles, at the end of the third day the ravens reported land slightly southwest of their course. There were islands and a peninsula but the land was uninhabited, rocky and nearly barren. The ravens flew out to see what was near. The ravens reported barren islands 120 miles to the west and 60 miles to the north. To the south the tundra peninsula widened with many fjords. Again the two min-fleets hopscotched as the headed south. After 3 days and 300 miles they finally began to see small trees and grasses mixed amongst the rocks but still no sign of habitation. The next day 40 miles further south they found a tiny seasonal settlement at Nain. The 20 native people fled inland. After a week of exploration and 610 miles south of first landfall they found a larger village on a peninsula in Sandwich Bay by Favorite Tickle. {A tickle is the Newfoundland word for a passage of water between land.} Cartwright had a population of 80 natives who, while wary watched the huge ships approach. Cartwright {GM 53.708532, -57.019407} was 661 miles from Igaliku across the Labrador Sea.

The clinker headed to shore to meet the locals. As would prove crucial in meeting the natives peacefully, it was the presence of women in the fleet that eased tensions. The natives seldom made raids against their neighbors and when they did they never brought females. Females only accompanied them when on peaceful trading missions. The northern Innu, or Naskapi, lived on the vast Labrador plateau of grasslands and tundra, hunted caribou for both food and hides to cover their long, domed houses. Using canoes they fished for eels and fish and hunted seals, supplementing their diet gathered roots, berries and maple sap. Innu also hunted beaver and bear. The Innu traveled by canoe in summer, and snowshoes and toboggans in winter. They called themselves Nanénot, 'true, real men’. Once assured the strangers came in peace, they began trading with the fleets restocking.

After 3 days they resumed traveling south. They covered 200 miles over the next 2 days reaching the northern point of Newfoundland. The mainland shore curved southwest and the raven overwatch reported islands. It was decided the fleets would split up to sail around the large island. Each fleet sailed 10 days covering 950 miles meeting in Placentia Bay. Together they returned to Cape Anguille, the westernmost point on the large island, a 2 day voyage. Late morning on June 2 their Ravens returned crocking excitedly indicating they should turn southwest. They had never seen the ravens behaving in this manner so they turned southwest. The entire raven overwatch flew off ahead of them. An hour later the lookout called out seeing sails on ships approaching. As they came closer they could see their ravens swirling overhead with other ravens. In another hour they saw four ships much like their own flying the Clan Corvo banner. They had found the Clan Corvo fleet that was exploring north up the east coast of the new land!

The 12 ships exchanged excited greetings. Both fleets needed to refurbish their supplies. After comparing notes they realized they were both nearly equidistant from their previous proposed base location and had been looking for a suitable spot. The ravens of the southern fleet reported a suitable spot nearby so the 12 vessels moved south to Cape Breton Island sailing down the west coast. By late afternoon they saw 3.6 mile long by 0.8 miles wide Cheticamp Island which was separated from the large island by a 1/4 mile wide channel. One sub-fleet sailed around the outside of the island while the other 2 fleets sailed down the channel.

Just before the southern end of the channel a 3 fingered bay opened into the main island. They sailed into the triple bay exploring each. The center one, Redman Basin, seemed to provide the best protection and had a small stream flowing into it. There was a small native village nestled by the encroaching forest with many canoes on the shore. The ships sailing around the island joined them. A small group was dispatched to the shore where the natives cautiously greeted them. The fact the Clan Corvo explorers had women with them went quite far in relieving their anxiety. It didn’t take long to begin trading.

The Mi'kmaq were a semi-nomadic people living in dispersed interior winter camps and larger coastal communities of up to 200 during the summer. They used the bountiful timber to construct canoes, snowshoes and shelters with animal skins and sinews. The spawning runs of March began their movement to converge on smelt spawning streams. They next harvested spawning herring, gathered waterfowl eggs, and hunted geese. By May, the seashore offered abundant cod and shellfish, and coastal breezes brought relief from the biting black flies, stouts, midges and mosquitoes of the interior. Autumn frost killed the biting insects during the September harvest of spawning American eels. They dispersed into smaller groups into the interior where they hunted moose and caribou. The most important animal hunted was the moose, using nearly every part: for example, the meat was processed for food, the skin for clothing, tendons and sinew for cordage, and bones for carving and tools. Other animals hunted/trapped included deer, caribou, bear, rabbit, beaver, porcupine and small animals. Bear teeth and claws were used as decoration in regalia. The women used porcupine quills to create decorative beadwork on clothing, moccasins, and accessories. The weapon used most for hunting was the bow and arrow. They hunted marine mammals: porpoises, whales, walrus, and seals.

They decided the place, which they named Cheticamp {GM 46.598046, -61.011341}, would make an ideal base. Cheticamp was 659 miles {582 miles by ravenmail} from Nantucket, and 623 miles from Cartwright {520 miles by ravenmail}. Four ships, 1 from each of the Norse fleets and 2 from the southern fleet sailed south to complete the circumnavigation of Cape Breton Island. The composite fleet sailed 90 miles to the point the southern fleet began the trip around Cape Breton Island. Then they turned back returning to Cheticamp after 2 days.

The next day the southern fleet headed south to return to Bermuda. The northern fleets split, 1 fleet sailed north to where they’d stopped exploring the coast to sail around Newfoundland, the other to head south to follow the shore west, splitting to explore the sides of Prince Edward Island. The 2 fleets explored the rest of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and several miles up the St. Lawrence River before they reunited and headed back retracing their path.

The large southern fleet left Madeira on April 1. They sailed to the Azores replenishing at Flores. They sailed west for 17 days to the Bermuda Islands, a group of low-forming volcanoes consisting of 181 islands with an area of 20.6 square miles and 64 miles of coastline. The 746 Pathfinders landed with plenty of supplies. Their 7 ships would see to their local needs for transport and fishing. The Pathfinders landed on the main island, secured sources of fresh water, planted crops, built barracks and improved the natural harbor at the western end of Little Sound. They would be ready for colonists in 399. The large fleet spent 3 days in Bermuda unloading supplies and checking their vessels after the long voyage.

As they left Bermuda, 1 sub-fleet and with one Pathfinder battalion split off heading northwest as the rest headed southwest to the Bahama Islands. The northern sub-fleet accompanied the Pathfinder battalion fleet to Hatteras Island {GM 35.248975, -75.582497}, 665 miles northwest of Bermuda, to set up a base for colonization. The curved island is the largest barrier island on the east coast. Like nearly all barrier islands, they are made of sand created by tidal and wave action over millennia. The super sized sandbars rise above the water and once vegetation takes root, storms either build the accumulation higher or strip it away. Hatteras is the tip of the eastern seaboard thus it’s shape is formed by the coastal currents. In a straight line the distance from tip to tip is 42 miles but roughly 50 miles along the curve of the land for an area of 33 square miles. Much of the island is narrow between 1000 to 3000 feet wide with the north wing 34 miles long and the southwest wing is 6.5 miles long. The main portion of the island is a curved triangle 7 miles long and 3 miles wide. The first 1000 feet from the ocean is beach and grass covered dunes. Behind that is marsh with areas of open water, small channels, grassy and shrub covered hummocks that merge into dry tree covered ground. The highest point is only 26 feet high. The landscape revealed that during storms much of the island was swamped. Crews were sent to the mainland to cut tall pine trees with a minimum of 10 inches in diameter that were brought out to the island. They saw no signs of native life. Just in from the Pamlico Bay they built the base facing the mainland. They built scaffolding and pile drivers to hammer the long de-branched, debarked and sharpened trunks at least 25 feet into the sand with a minimum of 12 feet remaining above ground. The buildings were then built atop the pilings.

Once the work was well underway, after a week the 4 vessel sub-fleet sailed north along the coast checking the charts the made by the previous exploration until they reached the Upper Bay east of Manhattan which is as far north as had been explored. They discovered Manhattan was an island and noticed the waves and tide were coming from the Atlantic but also from the East River. As they charted the coast they erected cairns at prominent locations with inscriptions tucked inside. The ships split to explore the north and south coasts of Long Island Sound while two vessels went along the Atlantic coast of Long Island. They spent 2 weeks charting those coasts before continuing east and north. They found 2 islands, Martha’s Vinyard and Nantucket {GM 41.253429, -70.065406}. Nantucket was 510 miles northeast of Hatteras and 685 miles northwest of Bermuda making it suitable for a future base. They continued north exploring the eastern seaboard sailing into the Bay of Fundy. There they found themselves trapped in mud as the tide went out. They spent a week exploring the weird tide phenomena since they had difficulty believing the difference between low and high tide was 55 feet! There were 2 low and 2 high tides each day, with about 6.25 hours difference between the 2 extremes. They checked the tides at numerous locations within the bay which runs from the Gulf of Maine in the southwest ending in the northeast. The bay is 135 miles long and 45 miles wide narrowing to 29 miles wide 107 miles in at which point it splits into the Chignecto Bay in the northeast and the Minas Basin in the east both of which narrow drastically to their end.

After leaving the Bay of Fundy they sailed around Nova Scotia. The ravens reported a narrow channel, the Strait of Canso, separating a large island, Cape Breton. They decided to sail up the ocean side of the island. On June 2, as they approached the northern tip of the island, Money Point, their raven overwatch returned crocking excitedly indicating they should head northeast. They had never seen the ravens behaving in this manner so they turned northeast. The entire raven overwatch flew off ahead of them. An hour later the lookout called out seeing sails on ships approaching. As they came closer they could see their ravens swirling overhead with other ravens. In another hour they saw eight ships much like their own flying the banner of the Clan Corvo. They had found the exploration fleets that had set sail from Bazram! After completing the circumnavigation of Cape Breton the fleets split with both continuing their missions.

While the first sub-fleet moved north the rest of the fleet headed southwest to the Bahamas. Great Abeco and Grand Bahama islands each received a battalion of Pathfinders to establish bases. One sub-fleet began to explore south through the rest of the Lucayan Archipelago of more than 700 unpopulated islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean. Besides the 2 islands with Pathfinders, 17 other islands could be colonized. The most distant island was Inagua. The raven overwatch reported a large island to the south so they set out finding Hispaniola which was sparsely populated by natives. They found the natives cautious but eager to trade. After erecting a cairn on the northwestern tip they headed east along the north coast. At Punta Cana they left a cairn and sailed east to Puerto Rico. They then continued east through the Virgin Islands then headed back to do complete charting of the coast of Puerto Rico. They headed back to finish Hispaniola.

One sub-fleet sailed west to Florida to continue along the coast in that direction picking up where the previous fleet had stopped. The remaining 4 sub-fleets sailed southwest across the Gulf of Mexico. They spotted Cuba so 1 sub-fleet peeled off to explore that island. They found sparse native populations on the island, and while suspicious, they were able to trade and replenish their supplies. After charting the island they turned sailed east along the northern coast to reach the southeastern tip of Cuba, crossing the 57 mile distance to Hispaniola where they found a cairn left by the fleet heading south through the islands from the Bahama. They saw the island was populated like Cuba. The note said they were proceeding east along the north coast so the fleet decided to head down the west coast to the Cap des Irois where they left a cairn. They then turned west to check out a large island the ravens had reported when they explored the southern Cuban coast and again from where they were at the moment. They found Jamaica, also sparsely populated, and charted it, and headed back to Hispaniola to resume the southern coast charting. As they reached Punta Cuevitas they met the other fleet. Together they headed back to Grand Bahama.

The 3 remaining sub-fleets continued sailing southwest through the Strait of Florida the to the Yucatan Peninsula landing to replenish at the barrier island of Cancun. There was a native settlement on the barrier island living in houses built on platforms and they had rugged well built ocean going log canoes. They made their living by sea fishing and shell fishing with small gardens. Utilizing his language abilities, Raben was able to learn much. After a day rest and replenishment, 1 sub-fleet headed north, another south to explore and chart those coasts. The Florida sub-fleet met the north Yucatan sub-fleet at South Padre Island in PD Texas. Together they sailed back to Grand Bahama. The south Yucatan fleet explored the coast to the Bay of Venezuela then turned north to Grand Bahama.

The third fleet stayed at Cancun with Raben. The city of Coba controlled the region and was 76 miles inland from Cancun. Down the coast were two ports, Xel Ha was 71 miles around the coast from Cancun and Tulum was 9 miles beyond that, both were 28 miles from Coba. Raben sailed his sub-fleet south to Xel Ha because it had a well protected cove, the Caleta Xel-Ha. The ships could anchor with easy access to supplies. The crew and Raben marveled at the sea trade coming and going into the harbor since it was all conducted by the ocean going canoes. Once they discovered Raben could fluently speak their language, the Mayans were quite interested in learning all they could from the small foreigner. Raben began a lexicon of the Mayan language. Runners from the port had communicated the arrival of the strange huge ships with sails. The locals had seen the many ravens coming and going with the ships which only added to the awe these strangers evoked. The local ruler sent an armed party to investigate.

The raven overwatch spotted them approaching so Raben sent his crews back to the ships to get ready to fend off possible attacks. When the locals saw the ravens land next to Raben they realized he could talk to them! Perhaps he was a god come to earth! Word of that was quickly sent to Coba and the armed party. The king of Coba decided he'd better meet this strange god and sent a runner to tell the armed party to politely delay the stranger.

The armed party was wary when they approached the harbor. The size of the ships was indeed daunting! Despite their fear they arrayed themselves as befitting the greeting of a god. Raben had himself rowed ashore sending the rowboat back to the ship. As they exchanged greetings Raben sensed the military commander was clearly itching to test his warriors against the strangers. The general was able to control the urge to fight since the king was on his way. Raben sensed the uncertainty of the situation.

“Since the king is on his way I’ll go meet him,” Raben declared as he began to head down the causeway.

“Wait,” the general called out. “The king wants to see your ships. We must wait for him to arrive.”

“Nonsense,” Raben exclaimed. “If he wants to see my ships we can return together and talk as we travel!” With that he turned and began to run down the wide causeway.

The guards didn’t know what to do so stepped aside as Raben ran past them. The exasperated general ordered his men to follow Raben as an escort. Of course, Raben could run for hours at near the speed of a galloping horse, far longer than a horse could run. Within a mile he had outdistanced his increasingly desperate pursuers. Even the runners the general sent to go ahead to warn the king couldn’t keep up with Raben. Ravens kept swooping down to speak to Raben as he ran keeping him posted on his pursuers as well as the king who was just leaving Coba with his retinue. Raben spotted the king 3 miles outside of Coba a bit less than 2 hours later. Raben krocked to the ravens who returned and flew circles over his head as he slowed to a walk approaching the king. The king and his retinue stopped, filled with apprehension as they saw the small white skinned youth approach with over 20 raucous ravens circling his head like a feathery black tornado. The guards nervously readied their spears.

When they were 20 feet apart Raben KROCKED and the ravens fell silent. One landed on each shoulder and ten at his feet as the others circled higher. He spoke to the king. “Greetings Red Jaguar, I am Raben Corvo, leader of the Clan Corvo, speaker to animals and Demon Slayer.”



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