If anyone should seriously suggest that Norsemen once set up camp in North Dakota’s Turtle Mountains, the anticipated response would be, “You’ve got to be joking.” But before you draw your final conclusions, you should hear what John Molberg wrote in his book entitled Vikings!
I’d heard about his discoveries and wanted to learn more about them. Molberg sent me a copy of his book and I found it interesting. I’m not an authority on geology and archaeology, but I’ve read too much about the Norsemen to hastily doubt their abilities.
What is it that Molberg claimed might have been? Simply this, that the 14th century Norsemen may have brought their boats to the Turtle Mountains on the North Dakota-Manitoba border. What evidence did he offer? He discovered some granite boulders. Not just ordinary rocks, but rocks with holes cut in them. He concluded that the holes were not made by nature, but by man.
He also believed that the boulders that weighed several tons were not hauled in from some other place, nor did an early settler drill holes with the idea of blasting them with dynamite. Since the slopes were too steep for farming, he didn’t think that the rocks were dug up to clear land.
What were the rocks used for then? Molberg suggested that they might have been mooring stones into which the Norsemen put a pin to anchor their boats.
Altogether, five such stones were found in the area. That would have required the water level from the Glacial Lake Souris to have covered the present site of Bottineau and lapped right up into the foothills of the Turtle Mountains. The boulders were approximately the same elevation, about 2,000 feet. The book has photographs of the boulders.
Equally fascinating are photos of a stone arched cave in the western foothills of the Turtle Mountains. No mortar had been used to hold the stones in place. Near the cave was the stone foundation of a building that had once stood there.
The cave is eight feet wide, 13 feet long and 56 inches high. Since the rear of the cave had fallen in, it must have been much larger at one time. Could this have been a Viking shelter?
Besides the unusual rocks, a Roman sword had been found at the eastern edge of the Turtle Mountains near St. John, N.D., in the late 1960s. An ax head was found a couple of miles across the border into Canada.
It bears the shape of a Viking battle-ax. A chisel was also found. As if that were not enough, he also noted that a grave site was found in the area originally thought to have been Indian graves.
Professor Edward Milligan, a recognized authority on Native American culture, found them to be different from anything that he had seen.
Mooring stones have been found in many places like those believed to have been used by Norsemen for anchoring their boats. Molberg made some serious attempts to check out his theory on these boulders. He consulted the faculty at the North Dakota State University in Bottineau to offer their critique. He did his homework on the Norse history too.
Molberg’s findings and theories are by no means open and shut case. One of the problems is the 500 foot differential in elevation between the Glacial Lake Souris level and the level of the spillway into the Sheyenne River.
He had an explanation for this too. Based on Charles Hapgood’s theory of a shift in the earth’s crust, is it possible, that this had caused a change in the elevation of the Turtle Mountains in the last 600 years? We know that earth is not a solid mass, as was supposed a few hundred years ago. It’s a turbulent planet, full of life. The ocean floors are constantly shifting and earthquakes occurring.
How might the Norsemen have traveled to the Turtle Mountains? Molberg suggested that they came across the Atlantic (perhaps from Iceland) into the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes, the Chicago River, the Mississippi River, Lake Traverse, Lake Agassiz, and the Sheyenne River and then into Lake Souris. Or might they have traveled from Hudson Bay via the Souris River to these mooring points?
Molberg asked what happened to the Viking who may have come to the Turtle Mountains before Columbus’s time? Obviously, they moved on. To where?
He wondered if they were the reason why some Mandan Indians had blue eyes and a fair complexion. While perhaps an overworked theory, it sounds as good as some of the ideas I’ve heard.
What can we say about these discoveries? Tempting as it might be to declare these theories as facts, we cannot and Molberg didn’t. But together with the vast amount of data popping up all over the New World, it certainly suggests that many feet have stepped across this land before we arrived. Perhaps someday we’ll have more archaeological and geological finds.
How should we interpret them? There is no printed manuscript accompanying them. And if there were, it surely would evoke disagreement, like the Kensington Stone. Unfortunately, Molberg died at the time I was in communication with him about his theory.
Lloyd Heuesers, a former science teacher at Central High School in Minot, discussed Molberg’s theories with me and gave me some maps of the Glacial Lake Souris that I had not previously seen. They make Molberg’s hypothesis seem even more interesting.
In a time when we have such excellent possibilities for sharing knowledge, I have hopes that we will get reasonable answers to many of our questions. Molberg wrote: “Naturally, one would like to definite proof; we will keep looking for a 14th century sign say, “Ole was here.”
Next week: “The Enigma of Vidkun Quisling”