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There is at least one proposal that Vikings sailed around the northern coast of Canada and made it as far south along the west to reach Vancouver Island.

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(Image taken from the link in the previous paragraph.)

There are also considerably more proposals that Vikings made is as far south along the eastern coast of the Americas to interact with the Mayan civilization: The Viking-Maya Connection, Was Quetzalcoatl a Viking, The Thulerian Way, etc.

Records indicate that temperatures were considerably warmer during the first 100-200 years after 1000 AD than now; realistically, to what extent could the Vikings have sailed through the Northwest Passage and down the western coast of Canada, or south from Newfoundland along the eastern coast of America?

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Why is this tagged [alternate-history] instead of [history]? I don't think [alternate-history] should even be allowed on this site. –  mmyers Mar 28 '11 at 22:04
    
Thanks for the input--I changed the tag. –  oosterwal Mar 29 '11 at 2:23
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How can "unexplained" stone cairns be evidence of anything? That sounds like anomaly hunting to me. –  Scott Hamilton Apr 1 '11 at 14:13
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+1 @Scott Hamilton: Any time someone adds unexplained [anything] as evidence for their theory I immediately think "Diversionary tactic." It's a classic method used to create doubts in a fence-riding audience or add 'supporting evidence' to an unsupportable claim. Erich von Däniken uses this technique a lot in "Chariots of the Gods?". He provides several verifiable facts then presents an untenable theory in the form of a question--just like the title of his famous book. –  oosterwal Apr 1 '11 at 15:14
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"Oh, look cairns! And somebody have made marks in a rock! They do that in Scandinavia too, it must be vikings!" –  Lennart Regebro Apr 14 '11 at 6:52
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1 Answer

up vote 13 down vote accepted
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I think the main difficulty in getting a good answer to this question is the tenuous nature of the evidence and the confirmation bias that people experience when they are looking to support their pet cause. A Google Search provided me with numerous citations, and cover the well known facts to this point (Greenland to the Maritime Provinces and New England). What causes additional confusion could be things like

  • Convergent cultural evolution in the Pacific Northwest tribes and a superficial similarity with Viking technology. If you are looking for a similarity, it's easy to see one.
  • Because something is mysterious or unexplained doesn't mean that any answer you provide is the correct answer. This happens a lot, and even has a logical fallacy named for it, Ad ignorantiam
  • Another favorite unsupported artifact is the Kensington runestone, as well as a few others. Why not make the case with these as well if using unsupported and weak evidence such as "unexplained stone cairns"? Not to mention stone cairns are common in many, many cultures, including Native American ones.
  • The temperature indeed was warmer in that particular time, however, we really don't know what enough yet about how things looked in regards to a passage.

So in answer to your question: Yes, they COULD have sailed and traveled to many locations. However, the evidence suggest they did not. All the archaeological evidence that is verifiable indicates they only sailed as far south as New England. Of course, that doesn't mean we won't find evidence that may indicate they went other places, however, it needs to be evidence, not wishful thinking.

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