N is for Nanwalek

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

My 2017 A to Z Challenge theme is “The History of Kanata”, the parallel world that is the setting for “Eagle Passage”, my alternative history novel that all began when I wondered, “What would have happened if Leif Eriksson had settled Vinland permanently in 1000 AD? For further details and links to my other A to Z posts – and hints at the ones to come visit “Kanata – A to Z Challenge 2017”.

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N is for Nanwalek:  20 August 1415 – A decrease in the summer Arctic ice, and news via the Kalmar Union that Rus traders have opened a north-eastern passage that might connect to Kanata, has encouraged Kanatian explorers to find a north-west passage.

Using ice-breaking ships that combine lateen rigs and the ‘kochi’ technology of the Rus, Danish-Venetian navigator Jannick Chabotto has guided a fleet of five ships with merchant-adventurer Sacagawea Migisi, through to open water. Approaching a strait [Bering Straits] that could lead into the Cathay Ocean, they espy a fleet of four Rus traders flying the flag of the Rurikid Dynasty. They follow them into the port of Nanwalek, where the Rus leader Semyon Dezhnyov is fascinated to meet a mixed blood Mjölnir commander. and a detachment of Mjölnir Militia comprising various nationalities. However, everyone agrees that the trading post of Nanwalek must remain under the control of the indigenous Sugpiat people. But the Kanatians and Rus vow to explore the Cathay Ocean.



John Cabot in traditional Venetian garb by Giustino Menescardi (1762). A mural painting in the ‘Sala dello Scudo’ in the Palazzo Ducale. (Public domain)

In our timeline: In 1786, Nanwalek, Alaska became a Russian trade post called Point Alexandrovski using the indigenous people to harvest sea-otter furs. On 30 March 1867, Alaska was sold by Russia to the United States. Locals changed the community name to Nanwalek, meaning “place by lagoon,” in the language of the Sugpiat.


Semyon Dezhnyov (c. 1605 – 1673) was a Russian polar explorer and the first Russian to find the Bering Straits. He was also a Pomor, whose people developed the ‘koch’ icebreaking ships.

The Venetian Zuan Chabotto – known in English as John Cabot – was the first recorded European, in 1497, to search for the North-West Passage.  The first crossing solely by ship was the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen in 1903–1905. He used a small ship and hugged the coast. In contrast, the Russian-Siberian route involves far fewer islands and narrow straits so it is not surprising that the Russians discovered the Bering Straits first. However, the north-west coast of North America was explored by both the Spaniards and the British in the late 18th century.

If Viking descendants from Russia and Kanata met, would they be amicable merchants or bitter rivals? Would they have a common language after 400 years? Modern Scandinavians are pretty smart about understanding each other given the Old Norse roots of their languages.


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