The secrets of Viking ships

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The Vikings were Scandinavian merchants and warriors renowned for their bravery and cruelty in battles. They used to buy from all over Europe and the Far East of Central Asia, precious materials and goods such as silver, jewelry, silk, glass and wine and traded in tin, wheat, wool, wood, iron, fish and whale skin. But more often they were known all over the world for the sale and purchase of slaves. They wrote history after they invented imposing ships for that time: ships with enormous sails.

Even though they were the first ones to have built ships on a large scale, the Vikings managed to revolutionize the idea of ships, with the help of extremely fast vessels which could sail without wind, as they had masts and oars. The most appreciated ship, representative to the popular image of the Vikings, is Longship which has known glory between the IXth and the XIIIth century and that could sail at 15 nods. A true revolution concerning vessels as it was the only one to sail at such speed.

Distinctive features of Viking vessels

The ship’s body is built entirely out of overlapping planks conjoined with iron rivets, extremely durable. Due to the material, the ships are strong and flexible, important and necessary qualities for a ship with sails which cross the oceans. To maintain this flexibility the Vikings not only did they rapped the vessels in wood, but they made the ships’ framework of logs, the structure being held together by iron braces wide as a fingernail.

The Viking vessels are narrow at the heads and wide in the middle as a cherry leaf. The vessel’s structure was not made randomly but they have given it some thought as to be able to go into the narrowest areas of the seas, such as lagoons, bays or caves and to sail in shallow waters. Currently there are no Viking ships remaining from those times, but there are numerous life-size replicas.

Snake head prow

On the right side of the ship, in the back, there is a wing tided to the hull, made also of wood, to change direction. In their terms it was called “ steor”, but nowadays we call it “starboard” - helm or steering paddle of the craft. For years the left side of the ship was called a “ larboard”, name given from “Laden” ( to load) - from the loading of the merchandise and the passengers on board. Embarking and debarking was made on this side as to not exist the risk to destroy the steor.

The majority of the Viking ships had sculptures with deep meaning. The bow was often built of a huge sculpture which illustrated the head of a dragon or snake. The dragon head was fitted in to scare away the evil spirits of the oceans. This tradition has survived for centuries, being adopted even by Christian sailors.

Viking stile in high class crafts

This is a style adopted by many luxurious yacht producing companies. No joke! The reason is obvious: the design and the sails make the ship easier to manoeuvre even in raging sea waters. Nowadays, the material used by the Viking to make their vessels has become a high-flown luxury. The wood crafts are among the most expensive ships in the world, appreciated on the size-price report.

Author: Gina Rotaru

Translated by: Claudia Naiba

Photo source:

Publicat in: iulie 2012
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