a long time the Scandinavians had been famed for their skills in
building ships that were long, narrow, light vessels propelled by
oars. They had masts and sails, but only as subordinate propelling
agents. The secret is the bottom of the ship where the strakes are
not nailed to the ribs, but lashed. This clinkered construction made
the ship strong yet flexible.
Vikings had two different sorts of ships, the warships and the
merchant vessels. The warships could sail very fast and were easy to
manoeuvre, for instance in connection with surprise attacks, and
could therefore get away very quickly. The ships were long and
narrow and could glide through the water easily.
merchant vessels transported goods and were therefore wide and drew
deep, and they were more reliable in bad weather. The merchant
vessels were propelled by oars, but also carried sails.
build a Viking ship they preferred oak wood as it was very durable,
but other species of timber could be used. It took a long time to
build a Viking ship as they did not know the saw, but shaped the
timber with an axe. The Vikings loved their ships and gave them
names. They adorned them with dragon heads and beautiful carvings;
they also decorated the sails with drawings.
from the Bog of Nydam
Nydam Ship dates to 4-500 years A.D. and is approximately of the
same size and construction as the ship found in 1880 in a burial
mound at Gokstad near Sandefiord, and which is several hundred years
both have much in common with today´s Nordland Ship. Both vessels
are about 23-24 metres long and 3,20 metres wide. The first one
carried 28 oars, the latter 32.
posts from the Gokstad Ship designed to be mounted on the ship.
Battle of Svold, 1000 ad. Depicted on an older painting
may be assumed that the majority of the Viking ships have been
moderate as to size, and many were even very small. But quite
frequently we hear of chieftains who built far bigger and stronger
ships. Especially from Trondheim where the most famous of them all
was Olaf Tryggvason´s “The
Long Serpent.” It was 48 metres long, twice the length of the
Gokstad Ship, had high shipboards and carried 68 oars. It was as
long as the big line ships from the times of Niels Juel and
Tordenskjold, but not so wide or high.
Scandiavian Viking ships were frightening to behold. Dragon figures
in the stem, drawings of wild animals on the sails, the gunwale
armoured with the Viking shields from rim to rim while rhythmic oar
strokes propelled the fast moving boats onwards.
generations every Scandinavian minstrel was familiar with this
picture of the gigantic Vikings and their ways. In the song about
Helgi Hundingsbane we hear of a Viking fleet in a harbour the night
before their expedition starts. The giants are sleeping on board the
ship under the pitched tents. At daybreak their chieftain threw the
tents off the stern so that the heroes could see the coming of dawn,
and they hoisted woven sails up the mast. Oars were creaking, iron
clanging, shield crashing against shield. The Vikings pulled on the
oars, the fleet rushed onwards far from land. When the waves met
with the long keels, the sound was as if the heavy breakers and the
Ironbard must be mentioned as a particularly strong and elaborate
war ship. It belonged to Eric, the earl of Lade. Like the Long
Serpent it took part in the Battle of Svolder in the year 1000. At
the top of the stem it was covered in iron spikes, and from stem to
stern it was armoured with iron plates that went below the water