Leif Eriksson was the son of Erik the Red, founder of the first European settlement on what is now called Greenland. Around A.D. 1000, Eriksson sailed to Norway, where King Olaf I converted him to Christianity. According to one school of thought, Eriksson sailed off course on his way back to Greenland and landed on the North American continent, where he explored a region he called Vinland. He may also have sought out Vinland based on stories of an earlier voyage by an Icelandic trader. After spending the winter in Vinland, Leif sailed back to Greenland, and never returned to North American shores. He is generally believed to be the first European to reach the North American continent, nearly four centuries years before Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492.