Viking Boats IntroductionFor nearly three hundred years the ancient Vikings terrorized coastal towns with attacks from their famed longships (long ships). The people in these towns never knew where or when a Viking raid would occur. The sight of the Norse boats, with their square sails, in the distance would send villagers running for their lives. These Viking ships were quick, sleek, and could be sailed right onto beaches. The ancient Norse people built state of the art medieval boats.
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Although famed for the longships the Vikings built many different boats for different purposes such as warfare, trade, fishing, and exploration. In fact to date no two Viking ships discovered have been the same.
Information on How Viking Boats Were Constructed
- Perhaps the most famous characteristic of Viking ships was the dragon (or serpent) head on the bow and stern. Its purpose was to frighten off sea monsters and spirits.
- Viking boats were pointed at each end and they were wide in the middle. This enabled them to sail in shallow water.
- They had a square sail. They also had oars.
- The hull consisted of overlapping wood planks secured by iron rivets. This made the hull strong and flexible.
- There were no oar benches. It is assumed the Vikings would sit on sea chest. This made sense because the seat also served as storage thus sparing precious space and keeping the weight of the boat down.
- Towards the back right side (the starboard side) Viking boats had a large paddle bound to the hull for steering. It is believed the term "starboard" originated in the Viking age.
Types of Viking Boats
WarshipsThese ships were light, sleek, and fast. They were used in the lighting quick attacks for which the Vikings are famous. There were three types (Snekke, Drekkar, and Skeid).
Heavy Freight ships (Knarr)These Viking boats were cargo vessels capable of long sea journeys. They were used for the Nordic peoples far reaching trade routes, and for colonizing Iceland and Greenland. They were higher and wider than the sleeker Warships.
Light Freight ships (Byrding)These Viking ships were lighter than the heavy freight ships and were needed by the Vikings who explored and traded in the east. They needed ships that could sail through sometimes narrow shallow rivers, and that could be pulled out of the water if necessary.
Small BoatsMost Viking boats were small and used for fishing or transporting a small number of people.
Viking Ships - ArchaeologyIn Gokstad (1880) and Oseberg (1906) Norway almost fully intact Viking ships were discovered that dated back to the beginning of the Viking age. The vessel discovered at Gokstad was built around 890 A.D., some seventy five years after the Oseberg ship. It shows great improvements over the Osberg ship. This helps explain an increase in Viking attacks around that time.
In Skuldelev Denmark five boats were uncovered between 1957 and 1962. The five Viking ships ranged in size from small sleek longships to a large cargo ship.
In 1996 work began to expand the museum in Roskilde Denmark that was built to house the ships discovered in Skuldelev. Unbelievably during this expansion no less than nine new Viking boats were uncovered. This find included the longest Viking ship ever discovered, a 119 foot long vessel capable of having a crew of one hundred. All the boats are believed to have been built around 1025 A.D.