Why make these
viking ship pages?
My starting point for
making these pages was originally quite modest. I had
a small collection of photos of viking ship replicas
and got the idea that I could present some of them on
My interest in wooden
boats reach back to when I was a kid. At home we
always had some kind of vessel which could be rowed,
paddled or sailed. By the summer I was 7 my
grandfather Ola taught me how to row by myself in a
nordfjord færing on the lake in the Bjørkedal
valley in northwestern Norway. Later that year I
attended the local scout association of Snarøen Sjø were I lived close by Oslo. They were
"sea-scouts", with focus on sailing and
boat maintenance rather than trekking in the forests.
The boats there were open wooden boats ranging from
14 to 20 feet rigged with one mast and usually two
sails. They were simple and easy to master, but
challenging enough for us kids. At home we also had a
14 feet fibre glass sailing boat for some years. When
I was 13 we also built a fibre glass canoe which is
still in use from time to time. Eventually my brother
also got a 14 feet "Askeladden"
sailer, which replaced the older boat. The Askeladd
wss sold some years later.
Now I am settled in the Dalsfjord in the northwestern
Norway, not far from Bjørkedalen. At the time we
have access to a small rowing boat, but I want to
step up to a slightly larger boat with sail in a few
years. The scenery here is great and the fishing is
good almost anywhere, so I really don't need any
large vessel. What matters most is just to be on the
fjord now and then.
In the 1980-ties a
series of full-scale viking ship replicas were built
in Bjørkedalen quite close to us. The norwegian
adventurer and journalist Ragnar Thorset sailed several of these ships across the
Atlantic Ocean. The Skuldelev knarr replica "Saga
Siglar" even made it all around the world.
I didn't want to miss out the sea launchings of these
great ships. The launching of the Gokstad replica
"Gaia" in Bjørkedalen was the
beginning of my collection of viking ship photos.
Later on I witnessed several other launchings, among
them another knarr replica named "Borgundknarren".
From 1990 and on annual rowing contests were held in
Bjørkedalen and later in Nordfjordeid. After taking
part in one of these as a crewmember on a viking ship
my interest in wooden boats kept growing.
After publishing the
first photos of boats on our homepage, I started to
search for more information about the vikings and
viking ships in particular. I was surprised to see
how big the interest for this subject was on foreign
websites, especially in Sweden, Denmark, England,
Germany and the US. On the other hand only little was
to be found on norwegian websites. A good norwegian
site with norwegian text which spanned from the stone
age log-boats to modern wooden boats simply did not
exist at that time. Some good scandinavian sites are
made by the norse-dane Arild Hauge and
the swedes Ove Långe and Axel Nelson. They have inspired me, but had to start
from scratch when I began to write these pages.
However things change and develop in time, so the
number of sites about viking ships is increasing.
Hopefully this is an indication of more people
building and using these fine boats. If people stop
to use and build wooden boats, the building tradition
and knowledge of practical use will eventually vanish.
No website can replace such a loss.
As I read more about
the viking ships and their origin I was thrilled by
the connection between the boats made two millenniums
ago and the wooden boats which still are built in
western and northern Norway.Their construction is
virtually the same with overlapping strakes, a
shallow long keel, sharp stems and sterns and
stabilizing crossbeams. The boats have developed in
small increments all the time, exept for the
introduction of the sail in Scandinavia in the 7th
and 8th century. The viking ships were fast and did
not need any harbours as they could land on beaches
and enter shallow river mouths where enemy ships
could not follow.
The sail and keel was the quantum leap which made it
possible for the scandinavians to cross the North Sea
and the Baltic Sea and raid the coasts of England and
continental Europe. Without these ships the viking
age as we know it would simply not have occurred, and
the forming of nations in northern Europe would have
looked significantly different. The english language
would have been different today. For instance the
city of New York would have had a another name, as
York is derived from norse "Jorvik". Maybe
Christopher Columbus had a clue about the viking
settlements in Vinland - Newfoundland - when he set
out to discover America 500 years later? All such
changes are hard or impossible to imagine today. By
no doubt the viking ships changed european history
Smaller wooden boats
are still in use along the western coast of Norway.
In Bjørkedalen and some other places the tradition
of building these boats is still carried on. Some of
my ancestors also made boats for a living, as my
great grandfather Per Løset was one of the
shipbuilders in Bjørkedalen. His skills had been
passed on from father to son for centuries at least
from the medieval age. Records of his ancestors there
can be traced back to early in the 13th century.
These craftsmen did whatever they could to make the
most out of the rich pine and birch forests in
Bjørkedalen. Building boats was a great way to keep
control of the resources all the way from the
standing tree in the wood to the finished product.
In our guestbook one
vistior mention that the nazis used viking symbols in
their propaganda, and that it is now time to take
back this part of our heritage. I can't agree more.
The viking heritage and norse boat culture belongs to
our common scandinavian legacy. No political party or
ideology make a claim on this, neither before, now or
in the future. I despice racism and narrowminded
The cruelty of the norse raidings can not be defended
today from our ethic values, but must be understood
in relation to its time. What mattered then was the
right of the stronger. The man in power ruled it all,
while the others had to submit themselves. At the
bottom were the "trells", which was a class
of slaves. Taking part in a successful raid could be
a fast way to wealth and power. Today the modern
society promote values like tolerance and equality
between men regardless of social class, religion and
race. But sadly enough, in many parts of the world
things haven't really changed much in 1000 years.
The first of the viking raidings from 789 and on can
also be interpreted as a direct response from the
heathen Scandinavia against the expanding church and
powerful kingdoms further south in Europe. Especially
the christian Emperor Charles (fr. Charlemagne) of the Franks (b.742, d.
816) presented a threath to the Northmen as he fought
war against the dane king Godfred.The first of the
targets selected were monasterys along the shores of
England, which were perfect targets if one
deliberately wanted to spread fear and rumours about
the wild berserkers from the heathen north. This can
explain at least some of the shift from peaceful
trading connections to the repeatedly violent attacks
and colonization which characterize the viking age.
As you may have
understood already, these pages have become like a
hobby project to me. I'm not a professional in any of
the fields presented here. But I try to do my best to
collect and present content based on facts and not on
romantisized assumptions and wishes. I struggle to
doublecheck my sources carefully. I have also
realized that I am in a favourable position regarding
some of the subjects here, as I know some of the
craftsmen which still perform the art of building
norse wooden boats in the traditional manner.
To english readers I
must apologize for the orthography in the sections
with english texting. I'm a native norwegian, so
english is a foreign language to me. I don't (yet)
have had anybody to read through and correct
misspellings here. I also find it hard to translate
all the special maritime terms from norwegian to
english. Some of the norwegians names for certain
boat parts doesen't even have an english equivalent.
But I try to "write around" the word to
clarify the meaning of the word.
It also takes time to shoot new pictures because the
locations are very scattered, in fact all across
northern Europe. Because of this I also must ask you
to respect my copyright to most of the pictures here.
When a picture is shot by another photographer this
is stated. Thanks Ottar Bjørkedal for letting me use
his images on the page about the long ship "Havhingsten".
From now on I expect
these pages will grow slower. But I hope you find it
worth to revisit them from time to time.