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Danish Viking Ships

At the end of the 10th century, a naval barricade was built near Skuldelev in Roskilde Fjord, in order to protect the important trading center Roskilde from attacks. In examinations made in the years 1957-59, done by the Danish National Museum, it became clear that viking ships had been deliberately sunk at the barrier, and constituted the main body of the Peberrenden blockade. In 1962 the excavation of the ships commenced, and in 1969 a museum, Vikingeskibsmuseet, dedicated to these ships and their story, was opened in Roskilde, a town at the bottom of Roskilde Fjord and app. 30 kilometers (20 miles) West of Copenhagen.

[Wreck three - a freight and short journey ship]

Initially the archeologists thought that there were six viking ships, but during the excavation it turned out that there were five - including one very long ship. The ship above is wreck no. 3, with a length of 14 meters (46 feet), a crew of 5-6 men, 7 oar holes and it requires a 0.85 meter (2.8 feet) water depth to be able to float.

[Bow made of one single piece of wood]

The vikings were very skilled shipbuilders. The picture above shows the bow of wreck no. 3, which was made out of one single piece of oak wood, a remarkable piece of craftmanship.

[Wreck no. 5 - a small war ship]

Wreck no. 5 is a small warship, which was built and maintained by the peasants around Roskilde as part of their payment for the defence of their homes. Along the railing you still find pieces of the leather bands that held the viking shields to the side of the ship.

[Replicas have been built]

Since the opening of the museum, work to produce exact replicas of the excavated ships has been ongoing at the museum viking ship yard. When the replicas are not taking part in arrangements around the World, they can be found in the harbor next to the Vikingship Museum.

[Replica of the small warship]

One of these ships, pictured here, is a replica of wreck no. 5, the small warship, named Helge Ask. It has been tested both with sail and oars, and can make a maximum speed of 14 knots and carry 28-30 men. The oars are important in ensuring the ability to sail in any direction, particularly against the wind, which it can do 3 times as fast with oars as by sail. Under sail the ship can go up to 60 degrees into the gain wind. The experiments done with the replicas show that the viking ships of the 10th century are able to perform at least as well as the small freight ships used at the end of the sailship era!

[Replica of the large warship no. 2]

The Viking Ship Museum has a viking ship shipyard next to the museum, where replicas of the excavated ships and other period ships are built. Another viking ship replica, which was built in 2000-2004, is the "Sea Stallion From Glendalough", a large viking warship and a copy of ship no. 2 in the museum, the second longest viking ship ever found. It is 29,4 meters or 96 feet long and 3,8 meters or 12.5 feet wide and only needs a water depth of 1 meter or 3 feet to float. It had a crew of 60-100 men, and was fitted with at least 60 oars. The original was built in Dublin, Ireland around 1042AD following Scandinavian construction tradition, and is a transatlantic vessel. It is ships like this that caused the fear of vikings. Imagine a fleet of up to 260 of ships like this suddenly coming out of the horizon and landing raiding vikings that radically changed the lives of the locals on practically every stretch of coastline and riverside in Europe and Russia. There were only about 300,000 people in all of Scandinavia during the viking age - but they, their travels and conquests are widely known even today.

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Copyright © Hans-Henrik T. Ohlsen 1996-2008

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