Viking ships and the way they were built
The Viking longships were doubtlessly the most fastest and durable ships of the early Middle Ages. Thanks to the ingenious skills of the Norsemen in regards to ship construction and crafting, the Norse longships were able to sail on turbulent and calm waters alike, traveling very long distances along the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea, the North Atlantic Ocean as well as on many other bodies of water.
These longships could drift on both high and shallow waters and could have the needed space for embarkment of various goods (i.e. silver, gold, wood, food stockpiles, etc.) in order to establish a colony in a newly discovered land.
But there’s more to the longboats than being a mere means of transportation, since they were also used in burial rituals as well. The Norsemen would inhume their dead on a burning ship, with or without several goods or slaves on it (depending on the social status of the dead).
During the Viking Age, with these ships, the Norsemen crossed the North Sea and then subsequently the North Atlantic Ocean in order to establish settlements in the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and even in modern day Canada, namely in Newfoundland around a thousand years ago. The Vikings set foot on American soil and spotted the North American continent long before Columbus did.
To differentiate the Viking longships, two major categories should be taken into account:
- the ships pertaining to the needs for exploration and/or war (singularly known as ‘langskip’)
- the ships pertaining to the needs for trading, scouting, fishing and sailing on the course of rivers (the ‘knörrs’)
Nevertheless, in Viking Age Scandinavia there were many other ship types including:
- Karve (passenger ship)
- Snekke (passenger ship)
- Byrding (transport ship)
- Drake (the most used war longship)
- Skeid (war longship)
- Busse (war longship)
- Sud (war longship)
- Faering (scouting ship/fishing ship)
The longships had the edges of their hull planks overlapped, meaning that they were clinker built. They had shields attached next to the place of the oars and they could also feature a dragon head. They were narrow, light and had usually up to 16 oars on both sides of a vessel.
There are also other noteworthy Viking Age museums in Scandinavia such as the one in Ladby, Denmark as well as the Birka Museum in Stockholm, Sweden, and last but not leas thet Lofotr Museum in Borg, Norway.
Documentation sources and external links:
- Viking Ships on www.hurstwic.org
- Viking Ships and Shipbuilding on www.danishnet.com
- Index of Icelandic Sagas on www.sagadb.org (Icelandic Saga Database)
- The Oslo Viking Ship Museum on www.visitoslo.com
- The Roskilde Viking Ship Museum (official website)
- The Ladby Viking Ship Museum (official website)
- The Birka Viking Ship Museum on www.stromma.se
- The Lofotr Viking Ship Museum on www.lofotr.no