Erik the Red (lived about 950-1001), Norwegian explorer, the first European to explore Greenland and to found a colony there. He is also known as Eric the Red, Eirik the Red, and Eirik Thorvaldson. His second son, Leif Eriksson, is believed to have been one of the first Europeans to reach North America.
Erik was called Erik the Red because of his red hair. When his father was exiled for manslaughter, Erik left Norway with him, and the family settled in Iceland. In 980-981, faced with manslaughter charges himself, Erik decided to explore land sighted by his friend Gunnbjörn Úlfsson to the west of Iceland. The course Erik followed took him to the island he named Greenland. Returning to Iceland, he persuaded several shiploads of relatives and friends to join him in colonizing the new land in about 985. Because the eastern coast was sheathed in ice, he rounded Cape Farewell in the south and founded a settlement called Brattahlid. Others of his party established another settlement near present-day Nuuk (Godthåb). Both communities were on the western coast.
An injury prevented Erik from accompanying his son Leif on the voyage that eventually took him to Vinland (North America) in about 1001. He died the winter after Leif returned home. Another son, Thorvald, also visited Vinland.