Detail of the Old Norse runes, estimated to be from the 12th Century, carved into a piece of submerged coral, found by visiting scuba divers off Blacktip Island’s east coast. (photo courtesy of Dagny)
The discovery this week of Medieval-era Norse runes carved into coral on Blacktip Island’s Hammerhead Reef has historians and archeologists debating their authenticity, as well as the possibility Viking explorers could have visited the small Caribbean island in pre-Columbian times.
“A dive guest was the first to notice them,” Club Scuba Doo dive manager Finn Kiick said. “Came up yapping about somebody carved on the coral. With that graffitied-up coral in the South Pacific a while back, we quick-timed it down to see what was up and hopefully ID the yahoos who did it.
“I nearly spit my reg when we found these Lord of the Rings-looking letters chiseled into the coral head,” Kiick said. “We had no clue what they were, but we took pictures and researched them on the internet and VOILA! they turned out to be Viking.”
University experts confirmed those findings.
“They’re definitely Old Norse— Elder Futhark runes, to be precise,” Tiperon University-Blacktip linguistics chair Dr. Dunning von Kruger said. “There’s been a bit of degradation since they were carved, probably in the 12th Century, but they appear to claim the island for a King Hrothgar. We have no idea why they would inscribe that underwater. Our theory is they were worried about attacks from local mermen and wanted to get the local ocean gods on their side.”
Local historians are focused on further authentication.
“There’s always been rumors of Vikings landing on Blacktip,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Now we have proof. Dunning’s no Viking expert, but she did write that paper on Visigoths, so that’s close. Modern Blacktippers got their marauding mentality from those ancient Norsemen, and there are lots of blue-eyed folks on the island. We’re looking at island topography now to see where the most likely site is for finding a Viking longhouse.”
Some historians, however, disagreed.
“The idea of accepting this graffiti as a Viking relic with no other corroborating evidence is ridiculous,” TU-B archeology professor Fannie Bottoms said. “How—and why—would Vikings dive 30 feet deep on the reef and carve graffiti?
“I know a little Old Norse. It’s not an ancient land claim,” Bottoms said. “It reads, ‘Björn was here. ABBA forever.’ The most likely source is the roaring-drunk Swedish dive club staying at Blacktip Haven last year. I’m calling Occam’s Razor on this— what’s more likely, ancient runes or modern graffiti?”
One local dive operator is taking advantage of the find by expanding its educational offerings.
“We whipped up a specialty Viking Diver course overnight,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Reg Latner said. “It’s a four-dive course that focuses on Viking culture and history, how to read runes and how to protect artifacts like these.
“Guests’ll do their training dives in Viking gear, horned helmet and all,” Latner said. “We won’t have them carve stuff in coral, of course. We’ll have ‘em make inscriptions in the sand with lionfish spears, then move on to sword fighting and pillaging.”