Erik the Red, perhaps the most legendary of the Vikings, founded a settlement in Greenland that would survive for nearly five centuries. His son Leif burned with the same desire to reach westward beyond their Scandinavian homeland. Their hungering took him to the apogee of Norse explorations: America, which Christopher Columbus was not to encounter for another millennium. Step by step - from Norway to the Faroes to Iceland to Greenland, and, finally, to America - the Vikings traversed the North Atlantic, a perilous journey of more than 3,000 miles, entrusting their lives to their seamanship and the sturdiness of their ships. Here, in this essay, is the story of where the Vikings went, how long they stayed, what they did, and the surprising reason they left.