Fragm. Vet. Islandic. ap. Langebeck,
II. 31.—Forster, Hist. of Voy.
and Disc. in the North, p. 50.
Voyages of Ohthere to the White Sea and the Baltic, in the Ninth Century.
Some of the Norwegian chieftains, who were dissatisfied with the usurpation of supreme authority by Harold, took refuge in England, where Alfred had recently settled many of the vanquished Danes and Nordmen in the northern part of his dominions, which had been almost entirely depopulated and laid waste, by their long-continued and destructive ravages. Among these was one Ohthere, who had made himself famous by his voyages to unknown parts of the north, and who was invited to court by Alfred, to give an account of the discoveries and observations he had made during his unusual expeditions. This person had been a chief of some note in his own country, and dwelt at a place which he called Halgoland, supposed by some to have been in Numadalen, while others say in Nordland, the most northerly p province of Norway proper. In the succeeding paragraph, he is said to have dwelt opposite to the West Sea, and as Alfred only uses the word sea to denote a confined expanse or narrow channel, while he calls the ocean Garsecg, it seems highly probable, that, by the West Sea, the west ford was intended,—a channel or strait which divides the Luffoden islands from the coast of Nordland, which would clearly place the residence of Ohthere in this northern province. The account which he gave of his voyages to his royal patron, is as follows.
Ohthere told his lord King Alfred, that lie lived to the north of all the Nordmen or Norwegians; and that he dwelt in that land to the northward, opposite to the west sea; and that all the land to the north of that sea is waste and uninhabited except in a few places, to which the Finans or Fins repair in winter for hunting and fowling, and for fishing in the summer. Being desirous to ascertain how far this country extended towards the north, and whether there were any inhabitants beyond these wastes, he proceeded by sea due north from his own habitation, leaving the desert land all the way on the starboard or right-hand, and the wide sea on the larboard or left-hand of his course. After three days sail, he was as far north as the whale-hunters ever go; and then proceeded in his course due north for other three days, when he found the land, instead of stretching due north, as hitherto, to trend from thence towards the east. Whether the sea there lies within the land, he knew not, as he only waited for a west wind, and then sailed near that land eastwards, as far as he could, in four days; as he found the direction of the coast then to change to due south, he waited for a north wind, and then sailed due south as far as be could in five days.