Building a Viking Ship – Part I

During my last several trips back to Norway, I have had the opportunity to observe the rebuilding of several of the best known viking ships discovered by archaeologists since the early 1900s. The most famous of these vessels is the 1200 year old Oseberg ship, named after the farm where it was found.

Oseberg Ship - Front
The 1200 Year Old Oseberg Ship

On August 8th, 1903, professor Gabriel Gustafson of the Collection of National Antiquities at the University of Oslo received a visit from a farmer named Knut Rom from Lille Oseberg farm north of Tonsberg in Vestfold.

Oseberg Haugen
The Burial Mound at the Oseberg Farm

Mr. Knut Rom had dug into a large burial mound on his property and had come across what he believed was a ship. Two days later, professor Gustafson started his investigation. He found several parts of a ship, decorated with the ornamentation from the viking era, and the archaeologist was certain that the mound was a ship burial from the early viking age.

professor-gabriel-gustafson-and-crew-small
Professor Gabriel Gustafson and Crew – © University of Oslo by Olaf Væring

Oseberg Ship - Keel Carvings
Amazing Wood Carvings on the Front Stern

The excavation of the Oseberg ship drew great interest from the public. It became necessary to secure the dig with a fence, signs and a guard to ensure that nobody disturbed the work or got too close to the remains. Once the excavation was finished, the longest and most demanding work was still to come. The excavation itself took less than three months, but it took 21 years to prepare and restore the ship and the many artifacts that was part of this discovery.

Oseberg Ship - Side View
Oseberg Ship – Side View

The ship was dried out very slowly before being put together. Great emphasis was placed on using the original timber, and more than 90% of the fully restored Oseberg ship consists of the original timber. Since the original discovery, several attempts has been made to rebuild the Oseberg ship, but In 2010, a new build was started called Saga Oseberg. Using timber from Denmark and Norway and utilizing traditional building methods from the Viking age this newest Oseberg ship was successfully completed.

Viking Ship Frame

The Building Has Began

Building Support
Building Support
Making Wedge for Splitting Oak Logs
Making Wedge for Splitting Oak Logs
Splitting Oak Logs
Oak Logs are Split With Hand Tools and By Drying In the Sun
Splitting Oak Log
Splitting Oak Log
Scaffolding for the Stern
Scaffolding for the Stern
The Ship Builders
The Ship Builders
Making Boards for the Ship Hull
Making Boards for the Ship Hull
Detail of Stern Carvings
Detailed Carving on the Stern
Wood Clamp
Viking Era Wood Clamp

 

Chest Building
Planing Oak for Travel Chest
Travel Chest
Travel Chest
Woman Knitting 2
Woman Hand Knitting
Woman Knitting
Woman Knitting a Hat
Viking Ship In the Fjord 2
Viking Ship In Tønsberg Harbor
Ship Keel
Ship Keel

On June 20, 2012 the new ship was launched from the city of Tønsberg. The ship floated very well, and in March 2014 it was taken out to open seas towards the lighthouse of Ferder. Under full sail, the ship achieved a speed of ten knots,  and proved once and for all that this ancient vessel could really sail and was not just a burial chamber on land. The ship performing very well and the reconstruction of the Oseberg ship was a huge success.

The Captain
The Captain
The Captain and First Mate
The Captain and First Mate
Sail and Ropes
Sail and Ropes
Coil of Rope
Coil of Rope
The Crow on the Sail Mast
Crow Inspecting the Viking Ship

 

Saga Oseberg
Saga Oseberg

 



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