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"Nordic Sagas" Guide & Resources

Join Frontiers and travel to Iceland, Sweden and Denmark for this International Special from Scandinavia. Find out how Viking ships sailed from Scandinavia to North America 500 years before Columbus. Discover what an island born in the 1960s is teaching us about evolution and what the scientific community is learning from Icelandic genes. You'll also learn how the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl affected people in Lapland more than 1,000 miles away and what technology is doing for people with disabilities.

Here are the topics and running times of stories on this show and a brief description of related activities you'll find in this online teaching guide.

  • Big Picture -- Mapping Scandinavia, in a PDF format.

  • Viking Ships (running time: 10:41) -- Innovations developed more than 1,000 years ago helped Vikings dominate the seas from the 8th through the 11th centuries. Watch as archaeologists reconstruct and sail ancient ships. Discussion and Activity: Viking Ship Design; A Balance of Forces (design and race model boats); Why the right side of a boat is called the starboard side.

  • Iceland Genes (running time 6:45) -- Iceland's remote population and unique genealogy help scientists hunt for disease genes. Discussion and Activity: Go Back in Time (chart your own genealogy); Iceland Fun Facts.

  • Island Life (running time: 10:19) -- The birth of an island from a volcano in 1963 provides a living laboratory to see how life arrives on the island. What scientists learn from Surtsey will last longer than the island itself -- it has already begun to erode. Activities: Birth of an Island (model an underwater volcano); Invasion Tactics (study ways life can invade an island).

  • Issac and Friends (running time 11:45) -- Swedish scientists are using technology to enable people with disabilities to connect to others. Activity and Discussion: Design your own personal digital assistant; More about Isaac and its developer, Bodil Jonsson.

  • Radioactive Reindeer (running time 13:04) -- The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster had widespread consequences, among them contamination of reindeer herded by Lapland's Sami people. Alan Alda helps round up reindeer to monitor radioactivity. Activities: After Chernobyl (how radioactivity affects the soil); Figuring Out Half-Life.

  • Viewer Challenge -- After you watch Nordic Sagas, test your viewing skills with ten questions about the show!

  • Transcript from Nordic Sagas

  • Related Sites for Nordic Sagas


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.