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Bjarni Okwesson (The Kalmar Union)

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Bjarni Okwesson
Timeline: The Kalmar Union

Bjarni Okwesson (The Kalmar Union)
Portrait of Bjarni Okwesson

Born: 23rd October, 1424
Nahigavik, Álengiamark
Died: 29th January, 1487
Kristjanaborg, Álengiamark
Profession: Explorer

Bjarni Okwesson was an Álengsk explorer principally famous for leading the first attested sea voyage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Roasjoinn in 1461.

Born in 1424 to Okwe Dnacasson, a Pequot-Álengsk, and Katerin Apetsdottír, a Cornish-Álengsk woman from St. Hafdiss. His father was a prosperous merchant in Nahigavik and influence with the court of the Earl of Sudervik soon gained young Bjarni gainful employment in the earldom's treasury. At the age of 22 he appears to have fallen out with the court officials for an obscure reason, but left court service with a reasonable pension which he used to fund a trading ship. With good profits but a growing field of competition Okwesson looked further afield to the islands of the Taino and Carib seas. Here the ships and crews of Leifia and Europe mingled and stories of further lands to the south proliferated. Of course Tawantinland and its peoples were long known but the extent of the continent was unknown. The Tawantin, whose Empire was only beginning to gain coherence, had only a marginal navy and had not properly mapped their own coastline.

Since the discovery of a overland route to the Roasjoinn trade links had multiplied and made the Vinlandic settlements of the Hafsvaedaland prosperous. Álengsk traders often used a more southerly overland route to reach the western coast though this was a much longer journey fraught with dangers. It was hoped therefore to find a sea route. It is probable that the local tribes in the far south of Tawantinland had indeed crossed between the two oceans but their efforts unfortunately did not change trading patterns like Okwesson's discoveries did.

His first voyage (1457-58) set out from Quisqueyanos much later than planned due to a dispute between the crew and some Quisqueyanans. By the time they reached the far south the ship was running low on supplies and, missing the main strait in a fog bank the crew lost confidence as it edged along the main island (now known as Okwessonland). Okwesson was eventually forced to turn around by his mutinous crew.

The second voyage was more successful. With a larger store of supplies Okwesson returned with two ships and explored the various passages, eventually locating the main straits soon to bear his name. On 2nd February 1461 his ship, the Jórmungandr, entered the Roasjoinn whilst the other anchored and took measurements. Together the two ships sailed northwards to a coastal Tawantin town (the exact town visited is still in dispute) where they were received with 'surprise but friendliness'. Loading up on textiles and ceramics the ships returned to Álengiamark. The cargoes were not as well received as Okwesson had anticipated and interest soon reverted to the existing lines of trade. However Okwesson had definitively proved the two oceans were linked and that sea-bourne trade as possible.

A third voyage (1463-64) set out to prove whether Okwessonland was part of the fabled southern continent that many believed must exist to balance out the northern continents. He rounded the island of Okwessonland, mapped some of the smaller islands on the Roasjoinn side of the archipelago, naming them after his children whilst his crew almost ran out of names for the myriad of fjords they noticed. Returning to the store they had founded (now the Tawantin town of Kutiniskix) Okwesson took his 'bravest crew' and set off due south to attempt to find the southern continent. Fierce storms forced him to turn back without sighting land or the Antarctic ice-cap. Okwesson sought permission to claim Okwessonland (which he more modestly called Sudórfjordinneyja) for the Earl of Sudervik but a political crisis between Sudervik and Langaeyjar over the troubled succession of Queen Elin V convinced him it would be better to drop the idea.

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