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The History of Viking Ships and Their Sailing Methods

The history of Viking ships

Ships were an important part of Viking society, not only as a means of transportation but also for the prestige that it conferred on her owner and skipper.

Their ships permitted the Vikings to embark on their voyages of trading, raiding, and exploration.

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The Viking ship was probably the greatest technical and artistic achievement of the European dark ages.

The most famous types of Viking ships are the Longship (Warship) and the merchant ship or ‘Knórr’.

Vikings are known to be great shipbuilders and both of their boats could handle ocean voyages across the Atlantic Ocean.

They did not need a harbor, because they could land on beaches or river banks, simply said anywhere.

The history of the Viking Longship ( Warship)

The Longship was the thoroughbred racing warship.

It was usually about 25m/ 80ft long.

Each gunwale was pierced with holes for oars, and a single mast stepped amidships carried a large, square sail.

This gave the Longships speed and maneuverability and their shallowness of drought allowed them to penetrate rivers.

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They needed no harbors for they were designed to be beached on any shelving sandy shore.

A typical warship might have had 16 rowers on each side.

The evolution of the Viking Knórr (Merchant ship)

The Knórr, the cargo boats, made up the bulk of Viking shipping.

It was sturdy and wide and could carry men and animals as well as tons of supplies.

The Knórr was a cargo ship; the hull was wider, deeper and shorter than a longship.

They were built with a length of about 16 m (54 ft), a beam of 5 m (15 ft)

How they sailed

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The Vikings usually set sail in the morning when the wind and tide were good.

When the sun was going down and the night was rising they would sail to the nearest beach, put up tents, cook their meals and go to sleep, and so on until they reached their destination.

This was the normal Viking sailing procedure.

Sometimes when they traveled to an unknown destination they could sail for days across an open sea.

Often they sailed along rivers and they had to take their ships ashore and haul them across the land to pass waterfalls or take the ships from one river to another.

Onboard the ship each man had a ships’ chest where he had his belongings. When they had to row the ship, the chest was used to sit on while rowing.

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