Wednesday, July 12, 2006
The world's largest Viking ship will sail from Denmark to Norway next week, but it's too big to navigate its way into the Oslo Fjord. The upcoming voyage of the Havhingsten will thus end at Tønsberg, about a 90-minute drive south of the capital but a city rich in its own Viking history. Norway's two original Viking ships, the Gokstad and Oseberg vessels, were themselves excavated in areas not far from Tønsberg. The Danish vessel, at a length of 30 meters, is bigger than both of them, and needs plenty of room to navigate with its single sail and oarsmen. "The vessel was supposed to sail to Oslo, but it would have been a terribly long and difficult rowing effort to get it in the fjord," Knut Paasche of the Viking Ships Museum in Oslo told newspaper Aftenposten. "To cross such a large ship with the help of a sail against the wind in narrow waters isn't simple. That's why we opted for Tønsberg."
The Danish vessel Havhingsten was built as a copy of a ship from the 11th century.It took four years to build the Havhingsten in oak, modelled as closely as possible on archaeological findings that the Danes have made in their own Rosekilde fjord. It was built using ancient principles and the types of tools available in the 11th century, and was christened by Denmark's Queen Margrethe in September 2004. The vessel has room for 60 oarsmen. Its sail is made of linen and measures 118 square meters. It will have a crew of 65 on board when it arrives in Tønsberg on July 21, many of whom will be relieved by other oarsmen for the return voyage to Denmark. The unique vessel will test the waters of the North Sea on its way home, part of efforts to determine its seaworthiness for a planned expedition to Dublin via the Orkney Islands next year. The ship on which the Havhingsten was modelled was built there in 1042.