You probably know that Vikings were excellent shipbuilders, but did you know that these ancient masters of the sea left no plans or instructions as to how to build their great long boats? Modern day ship builders interested in building replicas of the great long boats have had to depend simply on pictures, old Norse literature, and any preserved long ships found by archaeologists in the field.
North America is known as Vineland by the Vikings. We know today that the Vikings were the first Europeans to reach North America and to trade with the native people there. Ancient Vikings traveled all over the Atlantic ocean from Greenland to Canada to the Mediterranean. Navigation would have been determined by the stars and other celestial markers.
One inspiring group of modern day Vikings actually built a seaworthy version of a long boat and has replicated the ocean voyages. At 115 feet long, 26 feet wide, and with an 85 foot mast made of Douglas fir, the Draken is the largest modern Viking “great ship” that has actually traveled the northern Atlantic oceans.
Build Plans for the Draken
The Draken build was started in 2010 and commissioned for voyage in 2012. This massive ocean going ship is made of authentic materials that the Vikings would have also used in building their ships including oak wood, hemp, iron, silk, and tar. The Draken is built to be powered by 100 people rowing 25 pairs of large wooden oars - also an authentic way that ancient Vikings would have propelled through in the ocean.
The boat building team took two years to finish the Draken before it was ready for its first ocean voyage in 2012, traveling successfully from Haugesund, Norway to Liverpool, England, and back to Norway. In the Spring of 2016, the Draken made a monumental voyage from Norway to several ports in Canada and the United States. They dodged ice, weather, and many other obstacles to complete their trip.
Expedition America 2016 Portstops
Other groups have also tried to rebuild replicas of these great Viking long boats, but these have mostly been designed for the movies and have not been ocean worthy vessels.
The ancient Vikings trusted their boats to keep them safe in the rough and unpredictable northern ocean waters. The Vikings named their boats and totems were carved directly into them to help bring protector spirits to their voyages. While large and mighty, these open longships did not provide a lot of cover from the elements such as sun and storms while on the open ocean. Voyages would’ve been extremely tough and required very hearty people to complete.
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Learn more about the Draken Harald Hårfagre.