Map of the Western Settlement of the Norse in medieval Greenland, in the modern municipality of Sermersooq. The known farms (red dots) and churches are identified, as well as some probable geographical names. "The farm under the sand" is more commonly known as "GUS" from its Danish name "Gården under sandet".
The Western Settlement (Old Norse: Vestribyggð) was a group of farms and communities established by Norsemen from Iceland around AD 985 in medieval Greenland. Despite its name, the Western Settlement was more north than west of its companion Eastern Settlement and was located at the head of the long Nuup Kangerluafjord (inland from Nuuk, the present Greenlandic capital).
At its peak, the Western Settlement probably had about 1,000 inhabitants, about a fourth the size of the Eastern Settlement, owing to its shorter growing season. The largest of the Western Settlement farms was Sandnæs. Ruins of almost 95 farms have been found in the area.
Much less is known about the Western Settlement than the Eastern Settlement, as there is very little mention and no direct description of it in any of the medieval sources on Greenland. The Norse settlement was last mentioned by the traveler Ivar Bardarson, who wrote to the Bishop of Bergen to describe conditions he observed at some point in the period 1341–1360. In his voyage to the Western Settlement, he found only vacant farms. The demise of the Western Settlement coincides with a decrease in summer and winter temperatures. A study of North Atlantic seasonal temperature variability showed a significant decrease in maximum summer temperatures beginning in the late 1200s to early 1300s--as much as 6-8°C lower than modern summer temperatures. The study also found that the lowest winter temperatures of the last 2000 years occurred in the late 1300s and early 1400s.
^William P. Patterson, Kristin A. Dietrich, Chris Holmden, and John T. Andrews (2010) Two millennia of North Atlantic seasonality and implications for Norse colonies. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0902522107