Facts About Viking Ships To Get You Ready For The Weekend!

16 Apr 2014

This Easter weekend is the 1014 - 2014 Battle of Clontarf Millennium Festival and Vikings are all the rage. The Vikings were expert ship builders, during the 9th and 13th centuries they were expert explorers. Ships were very important to the Vikings and had such great significance to the Vikings that it is hard to really have a full understanding of the Vikings without knowing about their ships. With that in mind and to help get you in the right frame of mind for the weekend festivities, here are some fun facts about ships that we found on funfacts.org.

  • The most famous and iconic of Viking boats is the longship.
  • Scandinavia is a mountainous area with many fjords (wide, narrow waters). Ships were skilfully built to sail fjords, rivers and seas with ease. Designs of Viking ships were very similar, differing slightly to suit different purposes; ships were built for exploring, trade, combat, raids, transportation and fishing.

  • The Viking ships were usually built of oak and sometimes pine. The ships wooden frames were planked (clinker style) and held in position with iron rivets and gaps were filled and sealed with animal hair or wool mixed with tar to make the ship waterproof. Some boats were beautifully carved with dragons or sea serpents, these Viking ships were sometimes referred to as Dragonships
  • Viking men showed off by running along the side of a ship, jumping from one oar to the next.
  • Viking Ships were equipped with oars and sails; they were steered by a steering oar at the back of the boat. The sails were square in shape and made from either wool or linen and patterned with a stripe or diamond design, in bad weather the sails were sometimes lowered over the ship and fastened to shield the sailors. If the sail was down the Viking ships were powered by rowing with big wooden oars.
  • Longships were the Vikings largest and fastest ships; they were used for exploration, pirating and combat. Viking longship measured approximately 25-30 metres in length and could carry up to 60 men. Other types of boat used by Vikings were called Knarrs and Karves.
  • Knarr ships (sometimes spelt Knorr) were mainly used for transporting cargo. They were taller and wider than longships but smaller in length; they measured approximately 16m (54ft) long and held a crew of 20-30 men.
  • The Vikings built small shallow boats for fishing, short journeys and transporting animals these smaller boats were called Karves. A Karve measured up to 21m (70ft) in length, but was narrower and shorter than a Knarr ship.
  • It was the longship that the Vikings used for pirating and combat. The warships were intricately carved, the figure-head at the front of the ship would depict a dragon or sea serpent, the frightening carvings were used to scare the enemy and frighten the monsters of the sea.
  • A longship at sea would be navigated by the position of the sun, moon, and stars in the sky. Vikings also used their knowledge of birds, fish and mammals to gauge their location, along with the tides, and weather conditions. Vikings were skilful sailors, although they had good navigational skills they did sometimes get lost!
  • The Viking ships travelled unexplored waters that sometimes led nowhere! Sometimes the ships were carried, dragged or rolled above logs overland between rivers and waters; the name for this type of transportation is 'portage'.
  • The crew of a Viking ship would include; a helmsman - to steer, a lookout - to check for danger or land, a bailer - to remove water from the ship, the sailing crew and oarsmen - to power the ship.
  • Viking ship crews ate a diet consisting of preserved fish, dried fruit and unleavened stale bread. The crew would sleep in fur-lined sleeping bags. There were no toilets on board a Viking ship!
  • Sailors kept their personal belongings in a sea-chest, the oarsmen would sit on the sea-chest as a seat to row.
  • Between 850-1000AD the Vikings explored many different countries including; The British Isles, France, Spain, Italy and North Africa. They the travelled west towards the North Atlantic where they discovered Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland.
  • Scandinavian Vikings were the first Europeans to reach America! Explorer Leif Ericson and his crew reached America around 1000AD, 400 years before Christopher Columbus. Experts estimate that Leif Ericson and his crew sailed a distance of approximately 11,000 km (7,000 miles) to reach America

If you are interested in Viking ships and boats there will be a BOAT WORKSHOP taking place at the Battle of Clontarf Festival. 


Source: fun-facts.org.uk