The Mystery that befell the town of Hull England
Do you see this strange mermaid? That is what some of the female Skralings looked like when they were near death from the disease which was epidemic in the New World. Much of their skin was eaten away revealing the shredded sinew's of their muscles as well as their teeth. This gave many of those who caught this horrible disease the appearance of a tail and fangs. Their hair would be streaked with blood. The infected Skralings were the models for many of the monsters on the edge of the maps of the late Middle Ages. There had been a passage of quite a few years from when the maps were first drawn so they were redrawn several times and they changed a lot but some of the aspects remain the same. Why do you think many of the monsters have human faces or bodies? Some like the one on the right seem to have a strange look of desperation that the victims often had but also the disease often ate off all the skin on their faces including the eyelids and their lips, leaving only the raw and bloody tissues.
Then the disease ate down to the skull while ignoring the cartilage of the nose. So often the victims looked like they were half parrot and half human.
The reason the worst looking monsters were used on the Iceland map (which you can see and save here) was because Iceland was on the way to Vinland, where the disease was.
It's not that you would be killed by monsters if you went to the New World but you would become one of them if you went there. Since almost all of the ships that went west never returned it was as if they 'fell off the edge of the earth'. Hence that is what the Catholic Church taught.
Here is what I think happened to the disease. About 1450 the disease mutated into both Yaws and Syphilis. They are said to be identical genetically. Though syphilis is deadly it takes ten or so years to kill a person. When a person caught syphilis it conferred immunity to the Skraling's disease which killed in four months or less. The same with Yaws. That is probably why the Skraling's disease disappeared. Since Syphilis is a venereal disease the Skralings did not catch it until they reached maturity. Then they had a few years to raise children before the Syphilis then killed them. As bad as Syphilis is the Skraling's disease was much worse.
While looking for information about Yaws in pre Colombian America for the page 'how Freydis saved the world' I kept running into a report of an outbreak of a disease in the town of Hull England. Like here and in this interview during an episode of 'Secrets of the Dead' on BBC.
It seemed almost identical in several respects to the Skraling's disease, which I have named Treponema Newfoundlandia.*
I wondered first what if any connection there was to the Vikings and I finally found it:
The Humber district, known in Scandinavian Sagas as Humra, and equally well known in the literature of the Cymry, was, from a very early period, an important seat of trade with the districts of northern Europe. Mr. Frost has shown clearly that Hull was a town of great commercial importance long before it received its charter from Edward I (in 1296) and the present is not the only century in which it has been placed third in the list of the seaports of the kingdom. The town of Hull is mentioned by name in connection with commerce so early as 1198, when Gervasius de Aldermannesterie accounted for 225 marks for 45 sacks of wool seized and sold there.., here.
So Hull was even in the Viking Sagas and the town traded with Vikings. So the Hull sailors knew the Vikings and their secrets like this map below which clearly shows 'Vinlandia' and 'Skralingelanda' on the left.
Gee, do you think the sailors of Hull ever heard a place called Vinland? I don't think this is going to be that hard to pull together, do you?
The disease outbreak was talked about in this PBS Secrets of the dead.
But in recent years, pre-Columbian skeletons -- such as those unearthed at the Hull friary in England -- have been found with distinctive signs of syphilis.
It was the New World deadly form of Yaws I suspect (which is usually a nonfatal childhood disease) or perhaps it was the predecessor of another unknown member of the Treponema family of diseases such as Syphilis or one called Pinta.
Bruce Rothschild, a New World-origin advocate at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown, questions the diagnosis of the monastery skeletons. Only a small fraction of victims typically develop the characteristic bone lesions and deformities of syphilis. Yet 30% of the bones at the monastery reportedly show evidence of syphilis, implying that the entire population of both monks and villagers had the disease. Rothschild suggests that the people buried at Hull contracted yaws, a closely related skin disease that typically leaves its mark on a higher fraction of its hosts. Here
First notice how the same confusion exists now as with the Vikings over what disease the Skralings had on this page about Freydis's expedition to Vinland?
Just because it caused bone lesions doesn't necessarily mean it was syphilis.**. Also, the monks did not get it from meetings in the bathroom. Marriage was banned by the Pope (Gregory in 1074) but many Monks had girlfriends or were celibate. Not many were homosexuals. This next statement shows how they probably contracted it.
The church also ran 'hospitals' for poor people. In the Middle Ages there was a Carthusian priory (a small abbey) in Hull and a 'hospital' run by the monks. A brief history of Hull
The monks ran several hospitals and they had close contact with the diseased and that is how they caught it. I recalled that exactly the same thing happened during the last Viking trip to Vinland. Everyone who took care of those who were ill also contracted the disease and they all died.
Then I recalled from my past life that we had to keep people from sailing to the New World. Concerning the Hull outbreak I wondered if someone from Hull made it to the New World, picked up the infection and then made it back to the Old World. Remember that many people knew about Vinland's existence, especially those who fished around Iceland. Anyone with a ship could sail off the edge of the world (according to Church doctrine) and come back but you could not tell anyone. If you told anyone then it was a heresy that resulted in death. Remember the only way that Columbus ever got away with sailing to the New World was getting the King and Queen of Spain to sponsor him.
I expected to find the town of Hull to be on the north west part of England thinking that if they were ill then they would have stopped at the first landfall past Iceland. However the town of Hull is nearer Scotland on the east coast of England. That was not the closest land fall. But the symptoms seemed far too familiar to ignore so I put 'town of hull' into goggle and started reading 'A brief history of Hull' and that page gave me the solution within the first two minutes.
There were also many fishermen. They sailed to the icy waters around Iceland.
If you are a fisherman who is willing to travel from the east coast of England all the way to Iceland to fish then going twice as far to fish the rich banks off of Newfoundland in North America is not such a big deal. Then by hiring the natives for next to nothing in trinkets you could have them smoke the fish that both you and they caught. Then you could take back home not only that dreaded disease but three times the fish as well as a bunch of furs.
The main export from Hull was wool. Much of it was exported to towns in what is now Holland and Belgium where it was woven and dyed. Some salt was also exported as well as grain and hides. The chief import was wine (the drink of the upper classes). Other imports were wood and iron from Scandinavia, furs, wax and pitch (a substance like tar, made by boiling the sap of pine trees).
Also. if you needed furs or wood products then the rich virgin forests of Vinland was the best place in the world to go. Newfoundland also wasn't that much farther than Sweden and you got a lot more furs if you sailed west rather than east.
To paraphrase myself: 'If you are a fisherman who is willing to travel from the east coast of England all the way to Iceland for just some darn fish then going twice as far to pickup up not only fish but more valuable trade items like furs and pitch at Newfoundland in North America is not such a big deal.'
It's a fact is that the English kept their massive New World fishing on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland a secret even into the 16th century.
It is alleged that the West-of-England fishermen kept their profitable voyages to Newfoundland concealed from the Crown for 50 years and that they were able to do this by bribing the officials. One writer says that it was the great trade and fishery of Newfoundland that first drew Englishmen from the narrow feas and made them a nation of sailors. In the reign of Elizabeth 10,000 men were employed in the Newfoundland business, which amounted to more than £500,000 a year. Here
It's certain that England's fishermen could have also kept it a secret in the 14th century. The fishing ships were not that much different. What happened was that the pope and his men disappeared from the scene. When Henry VIII got rid of the Catholic Church in the early 1500's the secret finally got out.
This next account attests to the absolute integrity and speaks kindly of the average Hull inhabitant or does it?
There are some elements of the history of medieval Hull which are missing or downplayed. These include the large number of instances of piracy perpetrated by citizens of Hull, their illegal trades with Iceland, the effect of black death, and the towns attempts to cope with problem of prostitution, by effectively allowing a "tolerance zone" to develop. Here
This makes Hull appear to be a completely lawless city and I guess it was. The smuggling got so out of control that England just enclosed it.
In fact I'll bet up to half of the imported raw material came from Vinland. Entire crews were probably told they were going to Greenland so that only the captain and a mate or two knew where they actually went.
Now it all fits together. This information validates everything that I remember and answers the questions about the mysterious disease that killed many in the town of Hull. It sounds like the Hull disease was a version of the Skraling's disease. Most diseases get less deadly as time goes on. Syphilis did in the 17th century. This incident at Hull was 300+ years after my Viking life so it may have been half way to becoming what we now know is Pinta or Yaws. These two diseases are called childhood diseases but that is a misnomer. They are just diseases that are so outrageously infectious (and usually don't kill) that everyone gets exposed to them by the time they become adults. Since most people have been exposed at a young age then they have immunity to that disease when they come in contact with it again later on in life. The Skraling disease was probably as infectious as Yaws now is but it was 100% fatal.
There is still the questions that PBS poses about other locations of possible Syphilis outbreaks in the Old World.
Archaeologists have found ancient skeletons with tell-tale signs of syphilis, such as thickening in the lower leg bones and pitting in the skull, at half a dozen sites in England, and also in Italy, Israel, and other locations in Europe.
This next article may hold the answer to some or all of these short outbreaks.
The trade of Hull was dominated by foreign merchants, who made about nine shipments to every one made by an English merchant Here
The English only brought the disease back from the New World. Then other shippers probably 'transshipped' the disease along with merchandise to mainland Europe.
Were these places in Europe where syphilis was found also port cities that brought goods from the new world or from Hull? Probably. (This needs more research.)
I also found what is probably another reference to this disease in of all places the Kensington Runes.
8 Geats and 22 Norwegians on ?? acquisition expedition from Vinland far west. We had traps by 2 shelters one day's travel to the north from this stone. We were fishing one day. After we came home, found 10 men red with blood and dead. AVM (Ave Maria) Deliver from evils. Wikipedia
The 'red with blood' was likely the Skraelings disease and I sincerely doubt any of this group ever made it back to the Old World.
Oh, do I think the Runestone is genuine? I don't know. I was not around then but I can tell you this. They help confirm what I write about and that bespeaks for it's accuracy. I'd say the odds are better than 50%. Yes, I am pretty damn cynical. If I did not have these memories I would probably have started out doubting all this information.
*I am going to name it 'Treponema Newfoundlandia'. Although it was a long time ago and in another life I spent 15 years preventing this disease from spreading to the Old World. The only way to prevent it was to come up with ways to prevent it from being spread to Europe. I took it as my responsibility since I discovered the New World. Since many people in Europe knew about Vinland it was almost impossible to keep some of them from going there and bringing back the disease. (That is another long story of how we turned the tide of civilization from that self destruction. Do you know how hard it is to stop the tide of civilization, and I mean stopping all of civilization from moving west for 500 years? There were thousands of maps similar to the one above which were published that showed Vinlandia on them.) Also, I had close friends and relatives die of this disease. So I feel that I have the right to name the disease. If you don't like it, then go find and fight your own disease for 15 years. Then I'll back you all the way.
**If it was the same disease as the Skralings had then it was so fast that the bones never got the time to partially heal up like they often do with Syphilis. Go here (yuck) and down about 3/4 of the page to see how the bone in syphilis will partially heal back up like skin does.
The disease ate down through the skin and then ate right into, through and then out the other side of the bones consuming everything along the way, be it brain or bone or both until the person who had the disease died.
Here is how to prove if it was the Skraelings disease that killed those people in Hull:
If the bones at the abbey in Hull which have been eaten by the disease are partially healed then they had Syphilis but if they have no healing then the bones had no time to heal and so it is most likely the same disease that the Skralings had. I think the later will prove to be the case but I don't have access to the bones so I can't determine this.
Another thing is that it took direct contact to catch so it was not an airborne disease. We talked face to face with many Skralings and even exchange goods for the first year or so and we never got it. It probably had too high of a metabolism to survive without the nutrients it got from flesh for it to survive outside of the body for more than a few minutes. (Like AID's it was deadly but in light of what we now know about disease it is not one which is that terribly difficult to deal with, just lethal if you don't know about modern health practices.)
I have been trying to figure out why the disease did not spread across England and all I can think of is that the Monks had decent medical knowledge and took advantage of their normally cloistered lifestyle to keep their patients and a few monks isolated or Quarantined from everyone else using the same precautions they learned from dealing with the plague which was endemic at the time. The knowledge they gained perhaps was sent to other hospitals in the ports of England since, as PBS Secrets of the dead implied, this 'sailors disease' showed up again across England and even in Europe. (Both hospitals and I think monasteries themselves sent letters on a regular basis to others for information concerning disease outbreaks, what the symptoms were and how they treated them. At least some did In the 11th century but I have no more idea what they did in the 1300's than you do! In the 11th century I think they sent them monthly or maybe it was quarterly. (We Vikings were often the postal service.) I am pretty certain the monasteries also sent extra letter's when people died of unknown causes. So the records of what happened at Hull may be found in some medieval archives elsewhere, maybe in monasteries that are located elsewhere, even in France and the lowlands.
The course of the Skraling's disease only took four months or less from infection to death. I think the average was about three months.
This disease may also have been the cause of the disappearance of the last colony in Greenland. The 'lost Vikings of Greenland'.
© 2005-9 John Pinil