By John Grasson
One of the most intriguing story lines of the Lost Ship saga, is whether there could have possibly been a Viking voyage in which one or two ships were lost. If you were lucky enough to have been able to talk to Julian librarian, Myrtle Botts, she would surely agree. After all, according to her story she actually saw what could have been a Viking Knarr (pronounced with a silent “k”).
Myrtle was an avid lover of desert botany, especially the spring flowers, she along with her husband Louis would head out each year, in search of new species. One evening in 1933 while camping at Agua Caliente, a dusty drifting prospector settled nearby, and as was customary back then, they offered him a hot meal which he gladly accepted. Shortly after dinner everyone began to share their desert stories, and the prospector had a whopper. He explained to Myrtle that he had seen a ship high in the mountains near the Mexican border. But Myrtle, being a veteran of the desert, told the prospector that she had heard the story, but thought it to be no more that imaginary folklore. But that’s when the prospector showed her a picture and let Myrtle know, that this myth just became very real…
The prospector said that he was not interested in the desert “curiosity,” he was on the hunt for gold. But before the campfire died out he gave the Botts directions to his ship. The next day was going to be a memorable one, but in a very unexpected way. The Botts decided they would take a look at the canyon the prospector told them about, but noted that they were in for a long day. When they finally made it to the specified spot, Myrtle was amazed, there up high on a sheer cliff was the bow of a Viking ship, complete with the ornate dragon masthead. You could even make out were the shields may have placed on the side of the ship.
This was an important day for the Botts, and Myrtle wanted to make sure that they would be able to get back to this particular canyon. They jotted down notes, landmarks, basic directions and were headed home totally excited about their new find… Then disaster hit and strong… Shortly before 6PM, the Long Beach earthquake hit, this was to be one of the most devastating earthquakes in California history. Although it was only a 6.4 quake, it caused absolute havoc through Southern California. There were an estimated $40 million in damage, nearly 120 people were killed, and it was felt from Owens Valley in the north, and as far south as Baja California. But the Botts didn’t know just how bad it was until they returned the following weekend and saw that canyon was blocked, and the sheer wall was now a massive pile of rubble… No sign of the ship was found…
But is there a way to prove that a Viking ship could have somehow become lost and stranded in the desert? Maybe, we know that there were Viking settlements in the Northern Atlantic Ocean at Iceland and Greenland. There is also proof that they settled in Newfoundland at L’Anse aux Meadows , and just recently space archaeologist Sarah Parcak speculates that there could be a new site at Point Rosee. This particular path will begin to lead towards the St. Lawrence Seaway, and may eventually end at the Kensington Rune Stone in Minnesota, as per forensic geologist Scott Wolter. But what does that have to do with the desert? For one thing, it shows that the Vikings may have exploring deeper than we think.
So how could they have possibly sailed along the west coast of Canada and the United States, all the way down to the southern end of Baja? My answer would be that someone, an unknown Viking and crew, sailed west from Greenland and became lost. But they actually picked the most opportune time to cross though. During nearly the same period as the Viking age (800-1066AD), the planet, and especially Northern Canada were experiencing what was called the Medieval Warming Period, and that means there would have been far more water and less ice.
Firstly, evidence suggests that the Medieval Warm Period may have been warmer than today in many parts of the globe such as in the North Atlantic. This warming thereby allowed Vikings to travel further north than had been previously possible because of reductions in sea ice and land ice in the Arctic (https://www.skepticalscience.com/medieval-warm-period.htm)
The path today is known as the Northwest Passage and there have been expeditions to cross, some failed like the fatal Franklin Expedition, but there was a ship and crew that made it though. Roald Amundsen was the first known person to successfully sail from the North Atlantic to Alaska and finished at San Francisco. The voyage known as the Gjoa Expedition, took three years to complete, but it does prove that one could sail from end to end. Why was the Gjoa successful and not the Franklin? Unfortunately it was 19th century arrogance, the Franklin crew did not endure themselves with the local Inuit tribes, and were left to the own demise. Amundsen on the other hand, treated the Inuits in a friendly manner and because of this, they helped him through the tough times. I would have to think that the vikings coming through would have done the same as Amundsen, quite possibly their survival may have depended on it.
After successfully navigating the Passage, the vikings would have rounded Alaska and come down along the Canadian coast. As they traveled down the coast, it probably become apparent that they could not go back. The prevailing winds in this area would have meant that this was a one way trip. With this in mind it could be that they were looking for another way home, remember this whole side of the planet was unknown to them at the time. But is there “proof” of their voyage? Some people believe that this proof may be found at Vancouver Island. Along the southeasterly and eastern end of the island are a group of mysterious cairns, and no one is sure who left these behind. Vikings? Maybe, maybe not, the verdict is still out….
For now, let’s say they did sail along the coast and made it all the way to the end of Baja. Wouldn’t it make sense for them to sail up the eastern end? Again, they would be unfamiliar with the terrain, and the Mexican mainland is nearly 200 miles away due east, and not visible with the naked eye. My guess is that they hugged the coast as much as they could, this could have possibly provided them with some sort of a food source, possible building materials if needed, and maybe contact with local peoples. The Viking weren’t that worried if the locals were friendly or not, they were known to be one of the most ferocious fighters of their times.
As they sailed up the eastern coast of Baja they quite possibly may have seen the island of San Lorenzo, or maybe they were directed easterly by local Baja Indians. In any case they soon found themselves at the west end of Tiburon Island, home of the Seri Indians. This is where the Lost Ship adventure truly begins, because according to the book Last of the Seris by Mary and Dane Coolidge, “Giants” had indeed landed on the west side of Tiburon Island. The Seri’s tried to attack the giants a couple of times, and lost on each occasion. The story was related to the Coolidge’s by the local Seri chief, and according to the story there were two boats that showed up, and on one of these boats was a fiery woman.
The giant woman was the wife of the captain. She was whiter than the men and had red hair. She had big braids down her back. She was dressed in thick clothes, and a big cloak or mantle went over he back. Last of the Seris by Mary and Dane Coolidge
The important information for me, is that there is a record of someone of a non Hispanic heritage landing and staying on the island for awhile, one to two years depending on who or what you believe. The legend also states that after their stay they headed north taking some Locals with them. But with a promise of bringing them back.
At the time the Vikings would have sailed these waters, it’s important to remember that the water levels a thousand years ago was higher than it is today, as much as forty feet above sea level. With that high of a water level, Lake Cahuilla would have been connected to the Gulf, Laguna Salada to the west was full, the Colorado River silt would have been far less than what we have today. The knarr, a boat that is known to navigate oceans as well as shallow rivers, would have easily sailed to the northern end, of either of these two bodies of water.
If we now go back to Myrtle’s story, she may have left us a couple of clues. First is that the knew the trip to the canyon was going to be a long one and that the prospector stated it was just north of the border. However both of these are pretty vague, the only one, to me, that has some merit is that is was going to be a long day. We know that the earthquake hit on a Friday, March 10, 1933 at 5:55PM, and they were not in the canyon at the time, which means the trip would have been less than twelve hours. Did they drive to the basic area, or did they hike the entire trip? My belief is that they did a bit of both.
Most people tend to believe that the mystery canyon is in the Sierra Blanco mountains. However, after months and months of searching, I have not been able to find a blocked canyon, or something that might fit the “sheer cliff” description, besides the ancient shoreline is nowhere close by. I think they possibly drove due east towards the eastern end of Fishcreek Mountain. There are canyons that do have sheer cliffs, there is evidence of earthquake damage in a few of these canyons, and the ancient shoreline was at the foot of these mountains. Now, this is not to say that I promise it’s there, but to me I doubt they would have portaged the boat too far from water, it just seems like the most logical place to start.
One could also bring the Jacobsen yarn as well, because when Carver was asked specifically about the possibility of the find being a Viking ship he said, “yeah, but how did that get there?” Could this be the second ship?
About the prospectors claim of being north of the border? Well everything is north of the border, and besides prospectors hardly ever told the whole truth on anything. Whatever miners had to say was “peppered” with some truth, but usually wasn’t the total truth. They enjoyed watching people trying to make sense of their “clues.”
If the Viking did land somewhere in Southern California, and they did leave their ship for whatever reason, where did they go? My guess is somewhere in a northeasterly direction. There are a variety of other stories about giants and fierce warrior from Arizona through Utah on to Minnesota.
Wouldn’t be interesting if the Kensington Rune Stone was carved by these long lost Viking souls…