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Newsroom/World View

NEWSROOM for October 9, 2000

Aired October 9, 2000 - 4:30 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANNOUNCER: Seen in classrooms the world over, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

RUDI BAKHTIAR, CO-HOST: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rudi Bakhtiar.

SHELLEY WALCOTT, CO-HOST: And I'm Shelley Walcott. Here's what's coming up.

BAKHTIAR: First, a new chapter in Yugoslavian history begins as a new leader takes the helm.

WALCOTT: Then, more history's coming your way. Meet the Vikings, a people both feared and revered.

BAKHTIAR: Up next, get plugged in and take a drive in "Environment Desk."

WALCOTT: Moving on, "Worldview"'s on the Vikings' home turf. We'll take a tour of Iceland.

BAKHTIAR: We end by chronicling the journey of Leif Eriksson.

WALCOTT: A new chapter begins for the people of Yugoslavia as President Vojislav Kostunica takes office. Kostunica was inaugurated Saturday in Belgrade, capping two weeks of tumultuous protests which secured the downfall of former President Slobodan Milosevic.

It's a time of triumph for the country and for Mr. Kostunica, but also a time of challenge. The new Yugoslav president faces the daunting task of rebuilding a broken economy and setting up a new government after 13 years of iron-fisted control by Milosevic. President Kostunica must find a way to oust officeholders still loyal to Milosevic without causing further unrest. Both the United States and the European Union have said they would begin lifting economic sanctions once the new government is in place. That action could begin as soon as this week and could bring huge improvements to Yugoslavians, whose standard of living has plummeted under the Milosevic regime.

BAKHTIAR: Now, we turn the page to another chapter of European history: the Viking age. More than a thousand years ago, the Vikings sailed the North Atlantic Ocean, terrorizing much of Europe. Who were they? What prompted them to go to other countries to raid and loot? And what eventually became of them?

Earlier in the year, I went to Norway and Iceland to seek out the legacy of the Vikings. Here's what I found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): "From the fury of the Norsemen, deliver us, oh Lord," a desperate prayer uttered frequently at the turn of the new millennium. From the late 700s to about 1100, the Vikings invoked a reign of terror in Europe that would last for 300 years.

The sea almost surrounded the Vikings' Scandinavian homelands, hundred of fjords cutting into their coastline. The best shipbuilders of their time, they produced strong seaworthy vessels able to quell the curiosities of their restless hearts, making their excursions around the world boundless.

And so they sailed to England, France, Spain, Russia. The Viking warship was built so that it sailed well in either rough seas or calm waters.

ARNI CHRISTENSEN, VIKING SHIP MUSEUM: It's built flexible and light. Even a ship as large as this, 24 meters long, could be beached by the crew, could be pulled ashore. So in -- it's very contrary to modern belief where you build a ship strong enough to go through the sea. This vessel cooperated with the sea, bent, gave a little and worked with the waves instead of against them.

BAKHTIAR: On a river, rowers powered the boat. At sea, the Vikings depended mainly on the wind and the ship's large woolen sail for power.

(on camera): The adoption of the sail opened enormous new opportunities which the Vikings were quick to exploit. It's argued they didn't perfect the technique until the 8th century, which could explain their sudden burst into European history during that time.

(voice-over): Scholars believe that there were several reasons for the start of the Viking rampage. For one, a growing population was leading to a shortage of farmland. Then family feuds and local wars were making life increasingly difficult for the young Vikings. Poor and without land to call their own, they saw raiding and conquering as a means to obtain wealth and honor.

Known for their surprise attacks and quick retreats, they could row their light, swift ships into shallow rivers and then drag them ashore. Carrying rounded shields for protection, the Viking leaders wore helmets and metal armor.

MARGARET VEA, PROJECT MANAGER, AVALDNESS PROJECT: The favorite weapon of the Vikings, it was the axes. It was something no other people down in Europe had, and so it was scary, especially when the axes had this size, this size like this.

BAKHTIAR: Often, they struck so quickly, their victims sometimes had no time to defend themselves. The first recorded raid came in June of 793, when Norwegian raiders attacked and looted a monastery of Lindisfarne on an island off the east coast of England. A wave of Norwegian raids against England, Ireland and Scotland soon followed.

They attacked and looted fertile farms for food and livestock, and rich churches and monasteries were targeted for money, precious metals and stones. Turgeis, a Norwegian pirate chief, terrorized Ireland from 839 to 845. He founded the town of Dublin and used it as his headquarters. At around the same time, the Danish Vikings were beginning their raids on the coasts of what are now Belgium, France, the Netherlands and England.

In 886, King Charles the Fat of France paid the Vikings a huge treasure to end their year-long siege of Paris. He also granted the Vikings control of much of the area in France now know as Normandy.

In the late 800s, the Vikings turned their attention from Europe to the North Atlantic and began migrating to Iceland around 870. In 982, Eirik the Red, a Norwegian who had been living in Iceland, persuaded several hundred Icelanders to join his family in a move to Greenland. The absence of good crop land there prompted Lief Eriksson, the son of Eirik the Red, to lead an expedition westward from Greenland around the year 1000. The journey took him all the way to North America, where he and his men became the first known European settlers on Vinland, an area now called Newfoundland.

Though the Vikings themselves would not survive the test of time, Europe of today is a reflection of their influences. The Vikings were responsible for the establishment of Normandy in France, a region which would be the source of conflict between England and France for years.

The Viking invasions of England in the 800 and 900s helped unify and strengthen England. And their homelands of Iceland and Scandinavia still pay homage to the lasting legacy of the Norsemen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BAKHTIAR: Now, the Vikings descended from Germanic people who once inhabited northwestern Europe. Beginning about 2000 B.C., those ancestors migrated to what are now Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Each of those places gave rise to a separate group of Vikings, but all the groups shared a similar culture. And as archaeologists are finding out, there's a lot more to that society than they once believed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): The mention of the word "Viking" conjures up images of raiding and pillaging. This is most certainly not what comes to mind. Yet archaeological excavations have brought about a new appreciation of the Vikings as a people: colorful, talented, crafty, even peaceful.

Most Vikings lived a serene life as farmers and fisherman. Many of the tools they made are still being used today.

SIGRED CALLAND, CHIEF CURATOR, BERGEN HISTORICAL MUSEUM: I think it's very noticeable that these hooks are made more or less in the same way that modern fishing hooks are made today.

BAKHTIAR (on camera): That looks like something we see today.

CALLAND: Yes, that's an axe, right? An axe was one of the most common -- most commonly used for everything in daily life, and especially when you're going to make a ship or a small boat. Then it was the axe which was the most needed artifact.

BAKHTIAR (voice-over): The Norse were astute politicians, democrats who founded the world's oldest surviving parliament, Iceland's Althing, while other parts of world were mired in feudalism.

Here, against the backdrop of this magnificent rocky breach known as Thingvellir, Iceland's democracy began in 930. Viking chieftain- priests gathered here to proclaim laws and settle disputes.

Diligent craftsmen, the Vikings distinguished themselves as master metalworkers, fashioning exquisite jewelry from silver, gold, and bronze.

VEA: The most typical Viking object is these broaches, or tortuals (ph), as we call them. Inside these I could also put perfumed cloves so I would smell nice when I moved.

BAKHTIAR: For it's age, it seemed an enlightened society with it's women free to divorce and often holding great power in the homelands when the men were abroad.

VEA: We can see that through the graves. The graves of the women are as expensive as the grave burials or the burial mounds of the men.

BAKHTIAR: Shrewd traders, these artifacts lend proof that Vikings not only traded with countries in Europe, but even went as far as Asia.

CALLAND: And it's also interesting because these high status women, they also had very precious jewels. And this jewelry came from abroad. Very much of it is Irish or English or Scottish. So it shows that they themselves and their husbands have been abroad trading, pirating in these areas.

BAKHTIAR (on camera): There's no doubt that the Vikings had a dramatic impact on Europe, but in the long term Europe had a far greater impact on the Vikings. During their explorations, they would discover many new religions. The one that would lead to the eventual demise of their era was Christianity.

HAANS MICHELSEN, CURATOR, HISTORICAL MUSEUM OF OSLO: It's very typical that the kings were often the most eager to convert to Christianity. And that must be because say they saw the advantages of being Christian.

BAKHTIAR (voice-over): Until then, the Viking theology lacked absolute concepts of good or evil. They worshiped fallible deities like Thor, god of thunder, and Freya, goddess of love and lust. The appearance of these stave churches around the 11th century marked the introduction of Christianity into the Viking society.

HENRICK FERNAKEN, CURATOR, BERGEN HISTORICAL MUSEUM: This whole Viking tradition will find its last blossom, you might say, in the stave churches and in the wood carvings. So this is really the Viking tradition and its last step before the impulses from the European. Christian Europe simply became too strong.

BAKHTIAR: Searching through the diaphanous folds of the Viking history, their legacy is elusive, fleeting, captured in the billow of a sail, the dip of an oar, a whisper of a song.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BAKHTIAR: Want to know more about the Vikings? Stay tuned. We'll visit Iceland in "Worldview." And in "Chronicle," we'll recreate the journey of a famed Norseman.

WALCOTT: Imagine driving in a car that never needs gas. Sound too good to be true? Well, it's already reality for about 2,000 drivers in California who own electric cars. These motorists are way ahead of the curve. They say their modern-day vehicles help put the brakes on pollution.

But are electric cars all they're revved up to be?

Rusty Dornin takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On California roads, there are about 2,000 electric cars. By 2003, 10 percent of all new cars may be required to have zero emissions -- a mandate automakers say is way ahead of its time.

Batteries are expensive, and car makers say there's nothing in today's technology that can help that. Power runs out on most batteries after about 70 miles, although some can now go more than 100 miles on a charge.

GLORIA BERGQUIST, ALLIANCE OF AUTO MANUFACTURES: The technology isn't here yet. It still needs advancements to increase the driving range and to make it more appealing to a wider consumer audience.

DORNIN: So car makers were asking the state's Air Resources Board to relax the 10 percent mandate due to take force in three years. Since demanding tough restrictions on emissions in 1990, twice the state relaxed regulations when automakers complained they couldn't meet the requirements.

TOM CARMICHAEL, CLEAN AIR COALITION: The automakers have not built vehicle unless required to do so. And so it is critical that the state stay committed to this program, require the automakers to build small amounts in the beginning years, and then the market will take off.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Sacramento, California. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WALCOTT: You heard about electric cars in our "Environment Desk" earlier. They're weren't part of the environment, or even in the imagination back in the days of Eirik the Red. We set our sights on modern-day Iceland, a land of spectacular scenery and incredible icescapes. And we get there by plane, boat, and even snowboard. Check it out.

TOM HAYNES, CO-HOST: Lying just below the Arctic Circle is an island nation with a frigid name: Iceland. The country lies between the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans about 200 miles or 320 kilometers east of Greenland, it's nickname "the Land of Fire and Ice," because while it's home to numerous glaciers, there are also about 200 volcanoes, many still active.

In fact, Iceland is not as cold as most other places located so far north. Still, only about one fourth of the island is habitable. Most people live along its coast.

Jane Dutton takes us inside Iceland to marvel at its majesty and frolic in its frozen playgrounds.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANE DUTTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Vatnajokull Glacier dominates this corner of the country, covering more than 10 percent of Iceland's entire land surface.

Looking down on these wide and wild expanses of ice, which run from the mountains down to the sea, you simply run out of superlatives to describe just how raw and beautiful the landscape really is.

At any time of year, Iceland's unpolluted Arctic light is almost improbably clear. But at the Jokulsarlon Lagoon, where Vatnajokull meets the sea, the affect it has is almost supernatural.

(voice-over): In Iceland, you're likely to experience four seasons in one hour. Just five minutes ago it was sunny and warm. But what you probably can't pick up watching this is how the misty weather has changed the atmosphere. It's really rather eerie going past some of these icebergs, some of them 2,000 years old; some of them the size of apartment blocks, tinged with blue, and the only sounds you can hear are dripping water and the cracking ice. It feels like it's another planet.

(voice-over): The ever-changing climate in this volatile, almost inhospitable terrain is a poignant reminder that the glacier's haunting beauty can turn terrifyingly harsh and potentially deadly. But to go up onto the glacier itself intensifies your experience of Vatnajokull even further. And the dramatic icescape of plunging crevices and towering peaks provide a unique backdrop to a wealth of high-adrenaline activities.

(on camera): I thought this was supposed to be fun. OK, I don't want to play anymore! (voice-over): In a place as vast as Vatnajokull, however, it's easy to escape the crowds and find the path less traveled by for a moment of quiet contemplation.

(on camera): Being here makes me feel incredibly small and insignificant, knowing that I'm sitting on this tiny patch which is part of the biggest glacier in Europe; bigger than all the other glaciers in Europe put together; bigger, even, than the entire island of Corsica. And knowing that, at least a thousand feet beneath me, several volcanoes are bubbling away makes me feel at the mercy of nature.

A couple of years ago, in fact, a volcano erupted here, breaking ice and sending floods of water into the ocean -- more water than in the entire Amazon Basin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, seen in schools around the world, because learning never stops, and neither does the news.

BAKHTIAR: Well, 1,000 years ago, Leif Eriksson sailed west from Iceland on the North Atlantic, beating Christopher Columbus to the New World by 500 years.

While I was in Iceland, I got a chance to catch up with a descendant of Eriksson's, who was about to recreate the long journey from Iceland to North America on a hand-built Viking ship. Here, is his story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): One-thousand years ago, he took the road less traveled and beat Christopher Columbus to the New World by 500 years. He was the legendary Icelander Leif Eriksson, son of Eirik the Red, who set his course westward from his home, Greenland, and discovered Vinland, today better known as Newfoundland, Canada in North America.

the ancient Icelandic sagas tell the tale of the voyage by Eriksson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Leif, according to the land qualities, named it Vinland.

BAKHTIAR: And science has now proven it. Artifacts excavated in Newfoundland support the fact that, 1,000 years ago, the Vikings did make it all the way to North America.

Now, a thousand years later, a direct descendant of Leif Eriksson has reenacted his voyage to commemorate the anniversary.

GUNNAR EGGERTSSON, CAPTAIN, THE ICELANDER: I'm hoping to do this for Iceland and maybe to get people to know how they were sailing 1,000 years ago, and how easily they were sailing, how clever they were.

Gunnar Marel Eggertsson was born to a family of shipbuilders in the volcanic Westman Islands south of Iceland.

(on camera): Gunnar first became interested in Viking ships when he was just 10 years old. He started preparing for this trip in 1994, well before he knew of his ancestral ties to Leif Eriksson.

EGGERTSSON: I heard my father and grandfather talking about those Viking ships, how fast they were sailing and how seaworthy they were, and how clever those guys were to build those ships and sail them over those. Ever since then, I never forgot.

BAKHTIAR (voice-over): The Viking ship Icelander is an exact replica of a 9th century Viking ship called the "Gaukstad-Ship" (ph,) excavated from an ancient burial mound in Norway in 1882. With the help of a good friend, Gunnar built the entire ship by hand.

In the Viking era, a ship like the Icelander normally would carry about 70 crew members. Equipped with a small motor, the Icelander has only eight in its crew, almost all childhood friends of Gunnar's.

EGGERTSSON: They are my friends since I was about 5 years old. We started to be together on the ocean and on small boats in the Westman Islands when we were about 10 years old. And we know each other very well. And I can tell them whatever I want out on the ocean without any problems. I know them.

BAKHTIAR: After months of preparation, training and planning, the crew embarked on their voyage from Reykjavik, Iceland in May.

EGGERTSSON: I feel always very good out on the ocean between lands where I don't see lands. There, I feel free. And that's my place out on the ocean.

BAKHTIAR: I asked Gunnar if he draws inspiration from his ancestor, Leif Eriksson.

EGGERTSSON: Out on the ocean, I'm thinking a lot of him and those guys who were sailing across the Atlantic then. That's how they are coming into my life. When I'm standing back on the rudder and steering the ship over the ocean, that's when I'm thinking about them and how they were acting out on the ocean.

BAKHTIAR: The journey was long, quarters were tight, and the waters were treacherous. But after four months at sea, the Icelander sailed smoothly into the Canadian harbor a millennium after the first Viking ship touched these same shores. And what a welcome it received. L'Anse Aux Meadows, population 44, hosted 10,000 people who showed up at this million-dollar Viking village replica.

EGGERTSSON: We the crew of Islandingur are proud to bring our ship here to L'Anse Aux Meadows.

BAKHTIAR: From here, the Icelander sailed down the East Coast of North America to spread the Viking legacy and shed light on a people once feared.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BAKHTIAR: OK, now here's some good Viking trivia: You know, the Viking helmet never had horns. So every time you see a Viking with horns, that didn't exist. It never happened.

WALCOTT: That's very exciting stuff.

(LAUGHTER)

And that wraps up today's show. We'll see you right back here tomorrow.

BAKHTIAR: Bye. Take care.

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