Queen Aud Sails from Caithness to Iceland
Geoff Leet

The Norwegian prince Olaf arrived in the Minches with a great fleet in 853 to repel the attacks of the latecoming northmen from Denmark on Norwegian settlements in Ireland. He allied himself with the sub-King of the Hebridies, Ketil-flat-nose-Bjornsson, and married Ketil's daughter Aud-the-deep-minded. In 857 Ketil fell out with Olaf over loot, a fatal career move, and Queen Aud with her son Thorstein-Olfson-the-Red took refuge in Caithness and she became a keen Christian, and may have acquired the "deep mind".

Olaf took a keen interest in Christian Festivals where large numbers congregated ready for capture. For 20 years he developed Dublin as the slave capital of Europe, married Kennith MacAlpine's daughter, enslaved lots of Picts, in 870 helped destroy the Strathclyde Britons at Dunbarton (more slaves), and earned a ship burial at Geirstadir.

Thorstein the Red also prospered becoming Sigurd the Mighty's sub-king in charge of Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Moray until 875 when the Scots betrayed him and he fell in battle.

Queen Aud then commissioned a longship to be built "secretly in the woods", crossed the Pentland Firth to Orkney, collected her grandson Olaf Thorsteinsson and 20 freemen, and sailed via Foula and the Faroes to Iceland. Her arrival features in the Icelandic Landnamabok which notes that "she had Crosses raised because she had been baptised and clung to the Christian Faith." This implies that such belief was uncommon in Iceland since the Celtic monks had lived there. The Orkney Norse were converted suddenly in 995 by another Olaf.