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Provincetown :: Sunday, April 23rd 2017

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The Very First Wash Ashores

Notes from Land's End: Nov. 15

November 14th, 2010

The annual lighting of the Monument, this year on November 24th, 5-7, commemorates the landing of the Pilgrims 390 years ago. But were they the very first European explorers to discover Provincetown?

Legend has it that in 1004, Norseman explorer Lief the Lucky, son of Eric the Red, lent his ship to his brother Thorvald to go exploring.

This curious reporter snooped in the archives and old books around town to see who landed here first.

Legend has it that in 1004, a Norseman, Lief the Lucky, son of Eric the Red, lent his ship to his brother Thorvald to go exploring. A storm damaged the boatís keel right around Race Point and the captain and crew were driven ashore.

Using ballast from the boat, they made a fireplace and encampment on the top of Chip Hill on the corner of Tremont and Cottage in the West End. This makes Thorvald and his crew the very first wash ashores! They left the old keel as a landmark and named the spot Kjalarness or Cape-of-the-Keel. A part of the oral history of the Norsemen, 19th century historians wondered whether this was fact or fiction.

The question was answered in 1835 when builders at Seven Cottage Street discovered evidence of a fireplace and stones that appeared to be of foreign origin. The 900 year old structure was made of ballast and clam-shell mortar. Buried underneath the Norse Wall House, one of the ballasts is archived within the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum. This discovery is considered proof that Thorvald was here in 1004 AD.

Itís also rumored that Thorvald is buried here at Cape of the Crosses, wounded by an Indian in Orleans. But that, my dear readers, is another story.

As we enter the Thanksgiving season, I am grateful to live on the Outer Cape, where our heritage is carefully preserved at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum and the Provincetown Library.

Artistic bon vivant Laura Shabott loves to write about Provincetown. An award winning graduate of the SMFA, Boston, she is passionate about words, theater and paint.


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