Viking Ships

In Roskilde, Denmark, at the Viking Ship Museum, the harbour next to it is increasingly full of viking ships of all sizes, as well as of ship types from Norway, Iceland and The Faroe Islands, whose designs are variants of the viking ship design.

The viking ship harbour in Roskilde next to the Viking Ship Museum

The viking ship was very important to viking society as a means of transport. At the second half of the 10 th. century the designs were split up in two specialized types: warships and trade- or freight ships. Travel in viking times on land was difficult, both because of the vast forests with hardly any roads through and because of frequent attacks by local robbers along the few paths that did exist. The monk Adam of Bremen mentions in his writings that a trip from Skåne (present day Southern Sweden) to Sigtuna took five days by ship or a month by foot.

Smaller viking ships moored at the viking ship harbour in Roskilde, Denmark

The collection of viking ships in Roskilde was begun when the Viking Ship Museum decided to create replicas of the viking ships excavated from the bottom of Roskilde Fjord in 1962. Five ships had been deliberately sunk in the Fjord near Skuldelev to make the approach by sea to the town of Roskilde difficult for attackers. The ship hulls are the main exhibition objects at the Viking Ship Museum today.

The Sea Stallion From Glendalough - the largest recreated viking ship at the viking ship shipyard in Roskilde, Denmark

One of the five viking ships, ship number 2 + 4, which was initially thought to be two different ships but turned out to be one very long one, has been recreated as the viking warship The Sea Stallion from Glendalough. The name was chosen to reflect where analysis of the wood it was built of shows it came from, the Dublin area in Ireland in 1042-1043 AD, using traditional Scandinavian shipbuilding techniques. The Sea Stallion from Glendalough is back again after a year on display at the National Museum Of Ireland in Dublin, after having sailed from Roskilde to Dublin in the summer of 2007 and back from Dublin to Roskilde in the summer of 2008.

The inside of the Sea Stallion - mast hole and benches

The Sea Stallion Of Glendalough is 30 meters long and 3.8 meters wide and needs 0.9 meters of water to float, with a de placement of 24 ton. It has two means of propulsion - a square, 120 square meter sail and 60 oars. With a crew of 65, there's 0.8 square meter available per person, making it as cramped aboard the long ship as aboard a submarine. The average viking around 1000 AD was approximately 10 centimeters shorter than today's Dane, but it was still very tight even for them. A voyage made in 2006 with 65 crew showed an average cruising speed of 5.5 nautical knots and a top speed of 15-20 nautical knots.

The inside side of the Sea Stallion with oar holes and benches

The oar holes can be closed when not in use. The viking shields of the warriors on board would be put on the outside of the hull in a shield list, fastening the shields close to the hull with leather straps. The wood of choice for viking ships is oak, but other types of wood was used if oak wasn't available. All the work done on the hull and mast was done entirely with axes and cutting instruments. Vikings didn't know the saw.

Viking ship harbour overview

The trade ship replica Ottar - the dark one behind the smaller dark ship - is 16 meters long, 4.8 meters wide and has a de placement of 36 ton. With a full load (24 ton) it needs 1.3 meters of water to float. The original, ship 1, was built in Western Norway in 1030 AD. It had a crew of 8-9 and an average speed of 5 nautical knots, with a top speed around 13 nautical knots. The fleets of viking ships that were used to attack Europe, England, Russia and the Mediterranean were a combination of ships like the Sea Stallion from Glendalough as troop carriers and Ottar as supply and loot transport ships. Fleets as large as 260 ships are mentioned in sources from that time.

The viking ship shipyard in Roskilde, Denmark

The shipyard next to the Viking Ship Museum on The Museum Isle has grown and become a sight in itself. To maintain and the improve the skills of the builders working at the shipyard, you can now buy your own viking ship built at the shipyard. One viking ship suggested is the viking ship number 6 in The Viking Ship Museum, which comes with a 25 square meter sail and 7 pairs of oars and built mainly of pine and birch. There is no mention what shipping and handling would come to.


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