July 19, 2007

Gratuitous Norse Naval Geekery Posting

What in the name of Thor did the real Vikings do without tow ships?

A replica Viking ship trying to sail across the North Sea has been forced by unfavourable winds to accept a tow.

The Sea Stallion set out on Monday from Norway bound for Scotland but struggled to make headway on a calm sea.

The passage was being undertaken as part of a "living archaeology" project that aims to understand better the seamanship of early Norsemen.

Project organisers from the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, said time pressures had forced their hand.

They told the BBC - which is following the Sea Stallion for a Timewatch film to be broadcast later this year - that their research schedule could not simulate every aspect of Viking behaviour.

"If we went back and hid in a Norwegian fjord - like the Vikings would have done - then we would be there for a week or two. Now, we'll take a tow to Orkney and hope for good sailing there," a disappointed skipper, Carsten Hvid, explained.

Geesh. What do you think those oars are for, ya nancy-boys?

UPDATE: Speaking of Vikings, check out what a little poking about in Yorkshire with a metal-detector can turn up.

Posted by Robert at July 19, 2007 02:36 PM | TrackBack

But you have to eat meat, and lots of it, if you're going to row. Besides, rowing was for the slaves. Who is going to volunteer to play the role of slave? Those who like to get whipped and those, well...you dot the lines...

Posted by: Mrs. Peperium at July 19, 2007 01:46 PM

The climate in the Medieval Warm Period may also have helped the Vikings a little. The North Sea's weather is a mite more hostile than it was in, say, 950 A.D.

To Mrs. P.'s point, I'm not sure that most Viking boats were slave-powered -- if I'm not mistaken, most Viking longboats were crewed by fighters and the bands on board were multi-functional -- the ships were light enough that a band of strong men could portage the damn things around rapids, falls, etc. which meant that no river town in Europe, no matter how far inland, was safe from their depradations. Slaves might be tempted to jump ship at that point; but fighters under their liege lords would want to get back to Norway with literally all the portable wealth they could carry.

But I'm no expert on the Norse, so I'd want to research that point and am willing to accept that their bigger boats may have been slave-powered. Consider that to some of their far flung colonies (Iceland, Greenland, Vineland, Nova Scotia) they brought cattle, women, tools, and families, so there must have been some pretty big boats in those groups.

I imagine that in a long period of being becalmed, the rowers would get pretty sick of salted fish and stale beer; and like the Norwegian blue parrot, they must have indeed been pining for the fjords, slave or no. That being said, I'm sure there were levels of toughness in those S.O.B.'s that we can barely contemplate.

"A furore normannorum libera nos domine" as the ancient prayer has it.


Posted by: The Colossus at July 19, 2007 05:40 PM