The exact location of Lief Ericsson's Vinland has never been found—never, that is, to the satisfaction of those who require tangible proof of its existence. In the last 100 years nearly 50 individual theories have been advanced, each of which has claimed to have finally interpreted the old Norse sagas correctly, and to have located the area in which Lief the Lucky built his winter house in the year 1003 A.D..


It was, therefore, with great interest that the American public read in the Saturday Evening Post for June 12, 1951, an article entitled, "The Secret of the Vanished Explorer" by Morton M. Hunt, which expounded in great detail the latest theory on the subject, worked out, after profound study, by Mr. Frederick J. Pohl, a retired teacher of Brooklyn, New York.[…]

He next visited the area, and with his wife he combed the entire area looking for tangible proof of his theories. After some early discouragement, Mr. Pohl found, in a group of boulders along the shore of Mill Pond, Follins Pond, and the Bass River, a series of drilled holes which were of such a character and location that to his mind they could have served to moor Viking ships in the well-known Viking manner. Pohl rested on his laurels. He had proved his theory to his own satisfaction, and it was now up to the science of archaeology to prove the theory beyond all question of doubt.



From the foregoing, it was determined that there were five highly suspect areas extending the full length of Follins Pond—a distance of just under a mile. Certain parts of this area were eliminated due to house construction, lawns, roads, etc. Other areas were rather obviously not suited to a winter habitation site, but the extent of the remaining suspect areas was staggering.


Approximately 50 people took part in the dig over the two days: some working Saturday, some Sunday, but the majority worked both days. […] three separate groups were formed. One—the largest—was assigned to work the "Gully" under the direction of Maurice Robbins and J. Burleigh Moulton.


The Gulley at Follins Pond is a rather long, narrow indentation in an otherwise quite precipitate bluff-like shore line along the south side of the Pond. The beach at this point is approximately fifty feet wide but the sand with which it is covered seems to have been brought in and deposited over a layer of dark earth and peat which may be found at any point beneath about six inches of sand. The gulley itself is about seventy feet in length by twenty-five feet in width at its midpoint. The land about it rises abruptly on the south and east to a height of about thirty-five feet, but on the west the rise is somewhat less abrupt. The floor of the gulley at about midpoint is about three feet above mean high water.


Stake 1 was found in Trench D after a few moments of excavation. This stake was about five inches in diameter and two feet in length. It appears to be the remains of a red cedar post, the lower end of which had been sharpened for driving. Its lower point rested on the sand or clay beneath the peat and the entire length of the post was embedded in the peat. Subsequently, ten additional posts were found. Five large posts were found to make a sort of center line. Three of these center posts rested upon large flat stones and two of them were further reinforced by stones set upright about them. All of these center posts seem to have been set in excavated holes with the exception of 11, which is pointed as if intended to be driven. It is worthy of note that the tops were to all practical purposes, level (this fact was checked by transit-level readings taken from Stake A). The line of center supports was continued from Stake 2 by two large stones which maintained the level of the tops of the stakes. The group of stones shown in the plan at the northern end of the excavated area were three and nine-tenths feet above this level.

Six smaller posts, all of which were pointed and probably driven into position, seemed to indicate the approximate outline of a boat or ship. The distances between these outer posts were as follows: 1 to 3—16'4"; 4 to 5—13'1"; 8 to 9—6'2". Beyond the center section no outer posts were


found. The total length from center post 10 to the final level stone at the northern end of the gulley was 58', and from Post 10 to the group of stones shown just south of Stake B was 70'. If we suppose that this is indeed the remains of a cradle or support for a beached boat of some sort, the length of the craft is suggested to have been about seventy feet, the rise of the bow nearly four feet, and the width something over sixteen feet.


The machine-made nail was at a depth of twenty-seven inches and […]in no way associated with any of the stakes found[…] The adz blade found just north of Stake 11 was at a depth of seven inches from the surface in loam. It appears to be quite similar to Colonial tools of this sort.


A group under the direction of Ross Moffett investigated the so-called "graves" on the knoll southwest of the "skerry". Mr. Pohl pointed out the areas that he had previously investigated with Frederick Johnson, and a "grave" adjacent to the others was selected for complete excavation. The "graves" were identified by groups of small stones in patches some three feet in diameter lying on the gravelly surface. Complete excavation disclosed a small discolored basket-shaped area around 16 inches below the surface, and about 18 inches in diameter. It contained no bones or artifacts whatever, and was definitely not a grave. It resembled a small Indian refuse pit of the kind familiar to all New England Archaeologists. A series of test pits over the whole top of the knoll failed to disclose any sign of graves or artifacts of any sort.



One of the principal props of Mr. Pohl's theory after his painstaking interpretations of the sagas was the finding of drilled rocks along the shorelines of Mill Pond, Follins Pond, and the Bass River. The original article in the Saturday Evening Post listed the locations of three mooring holes strategically located, and his finding of them is dramatically described. However, in this case there is an embarrassment of riches, for the survey of Mr. Haglund and Dr. Howe located and examined carefully one hole in the Mill Pond skerry, one in the Follins Pond skerry, plus seven others on the shore near the outlet, and one on Bass River. There are many others in rocks back from the shore—how many we did not count. There is even one in a boulder in Mr. Lyon's front yard well back from the shore.

What is the explanation for these holes? A native resident told the Director that when the Bass River Breakwater was built (it is close to one-half a mile long), every movable boulder and large rock in the area was carried by team, sledge, drag, and scow down to the site. Rocks on both sides of the Bass River were floated down and built into the structure. When they ran out of small rocks, they drilled and blasted big ones. They were still drilling the less accessible ones at the time the work came to a halt. Several holes in the closely packed group of six in Area V slope toward the water, and a rope over a pin in them would have slid off under its own weight. One of these rocks has two holes in it 30 inches apart. For the most part the holes seem to have been located at the exact spot one would choose were one to split the rocks by blasting or with wedges.

Mooring holes were used by the Vikings to moor their craft in the deep rocky fiords of Scandinavia, but what possible need for them would there be in a shallow pond where our expedition could not find over five feet of water at any point, although we readily grant there may have been more or less in the year 1003. Also, what need would there be for mooring holes when trees grew to the waters edge and ships could have been anchored at the stern, and tied by the bow line to a tree? Mr. Pohl's theory reads well, but these mooring holes do not add weight to it in the writer's opinion.

The ship way itself gave us all a very decided thrill. Its size was about right; its location was perfect, but there were difficulties.

A Cape historian (who, incidentally, is not sympathetic to Mr. Pohl's theories) wrote as follows:

"Had Mr. Pohl checked with the old natives of Yarmouth and Dennis, and had he searched old written records as I have done, he would have found out that the Gully in which the excavations took place a few weeks ago was used as a place to pull out fishing boats for repairs many years ago


when Follins Pond was full of oysters, scallops, and at a time when there were fish weirs in the Pond."

The finding of an iron shipmaker's adz of a well known Colonial type seems to settle the matter of this "ship way" rather completely.

Much weight was originally given to the fact that the "mooring holes" were triangular in shape, which was supposed to be characteristically Viking. One elderly resident described to the Director a type of drill widely used in the area in the 19th century which consisted of a straight edged chisel with a gap in the center of the blade. The hole was started in the form of a triangle and as it deepened, the shank of the drill rested in each of the apexes in turn. The drill left a center cove which continually broke away as the hole deepened. The result was a triangular hole of the type we found.



This investigation was made by the Massachusetts Archaeological Society in an effort to prove the accuracy of Mr. Pohl's theory, and to try to locate positive underground evidence of Viking occupation. In this we failed. The area is large, and in the time at our disposal we found it impossible to do more than investigate the most suspicious areas. This we did rather thoroughly. We found unmistakable evidence of Indian occupation. We found a buried ship's cradle of certain age, but our best reading of the evidence assigns it to Colonial times. We examined the so-called "graves" and found one of them not to be a grave. We examined the three "mooring holes", and added seven more to the list. In our opinion, they were holes drilled for blasting rocks for the Bass River Breakwater. There are many more back in the hills which can by no stretch of the imagination be Viking. We found "mooring holes" to be entirely unnecessary for the water is shallow and quiet, and ships could have been easily anchored and tied to trees on the shore to give complete safety. We have neither proved nor disproved Mr. Pohl's theories. He may be entirely correct, but nothing in our two days of intensive investigation of the area indicates that the Viking settlement of Vinland was located on Follins Pond.[…]

Source: Benjamin L. Smith, "A Report on the Follins Pond Investigation," Massachusetts Archaeological Bulletin 14 (January 31, 1953): 82-88.

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