Didrik Pining

Didrik Pining (c. 1428 – 1491) was a German sailor whom some claim discovered America in 1473, almost twenty years before Columbus.


Didrik (also written Dietrich or Diderick) was a native of Hildesheim in Germany. Pining left his home at the age of 20 to go to sea. He is first mentioned in history as a privateer in the service of the Free City of Hamburg, hunting down English raiders and merchant ships in the North Atlantic. Later, he was in the service of the king of Denmark.

It has been claimed that in 1471, Pining was appointed the captain of a German-led, Danish-sponsored, and Portuguese-financed expedition seeking a northwestern route to Asia. It is further alleged that Pining sailed with three ships to Greenland, and then searched further south. He is also claimed to have landed in 1473 on Newfoundland and Labrador, together with Hans Pothorst, also from Hildesheim, and the Portuguese explorers João Vaz Corte-Real and Álvaro Martins. The navigator is supposed to have been the semi-mythical figure named John Scolvus. Pining allegedly made other visits to Greenland, Labrador in Canada, and in 1476 is claimed to have explored the mouth of the St Lawrence River.

The claims are regarded as controversial.

In 1478, Didrik Pining became the governor of Iceland, serving for two years. He died in Vardø, Norway in 1491, at the age of 63.


  • A school in his hometown of Hildesheim is named after Didrik.

Further reading

  • Klaus-Peter Kiedel, "Eine Expedition nach Grönland im Jahre 1473", Deutsches Schiffahrtsarchiv, Vol. 3 (1980), pp.115-140
  • Norman Berdichevsky, "The role of 'sibling rivalry' in the '(Re)discovery' of America controversy", Journal of Cultural Geography, 12/1, (1991), pp.59-68
  • Thomas L. Hughes, " The German Discovery of America: A Review of the Controversy over Didrik Pining’s Voyage of Exploration in 1473 in the North Atlantic", in: German Historical Institute Bulletin, No. 33 (Fall 2003)
  • Thomas L. Hughes, "The German discovery of America. A review of the controversy over Pining's 1473 voyage of exploration", German Studies Review, Vol. 27, No. 3 (Oct. 2004), pp.503-526 abstracts
  • Paul Pini, "Der Hildesheimer Didrik Pining als Entdecker Amerikas, als Admiral und als Gouverneur von Island im Dienste der Könige von Dänemark, Norwegen und Schweden", Hildesheim 1971
  • Robert McGhee, "Northern Approaches. Before Columbus: Early European Visitors to the Shores of the "New World", Beaver, Vol.72 (Jun.-Jul. 1992), pp.6-23
  • Fridtjof Nansen and Arthur G. Chater, In Northern Mists: Arctic Exploration in Early Times. Published 1911 Frederick A. Stokes co., pg. 125
  • Klaus Friedland, "The Hanseatic League and Hanse Towns in the Early Penetration of the North", Arctic VOL: 37, NO. 4 (DECEMBER 1984) P. 538-543
  • Kirsten A. Seaver, The Frozen Echo: Greenland and the Exploration of North America, ca. A.D. 1000-1500. Published 1996 Stanford University Press, ISBN 0804731616 pg. 202
  • James Robert Enterline, Erikson, Eskimos & Columbus: Medieval European Knowledge of America, JHU Press, ISBN 080186660X pg. 195

See also


External links

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