Sunday, August 12, 2007

 

Modern Vikings sail replica in epic journey

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The Independent
By David Keys
August 12, 2007


An extraordinary voyage by a team of archaeologists and historians has begun to solve some of the greatest riddles of the Viking age. On Tuesday, a giant Viking warship, an exact replica of one built nearly 1,000 years ago, will complete a 1,200-mile trip from Scandinavia to Ireland.

Throughout the six-and-a-half-week voyage, experts from Denmark's Viking Ship Museum have conducted experiments into 11th-century life and tested sailing technology. And they have found the famed longships were slower and more complex than thought. The vessel they replicated had been discovered and lifted by archaeologists in Denmark 50 years ago. Research showed it had been built in Dublin in 1042 and scuttled in Denmark 30 years later.

On this voyage, the vessel sailed from Roskilde in Denmark to southern Norway, then across the North Sea (where it was forced by poor winds to accept a tow from its escort vessel to Orkney), then via the Western Isles and the Isle of Man to Ireland. It will arrive in Dublin on Tuesday.

Its occupants found that in the initial sea trials, the hull "bent" back and forth from port to starboard by as much as 80 centimetres. The ship was so flexible that Viking-style wooden nails began to work loose and the structure was in danger of falling apart.

After closer examination of the remains of the original vessel, the 21st-century Vikings realised their 11th-century predecessors had included substantial strengthening timbers for greater rigidity. So an additional large longitudinal timber was added to the replica and deck planks fastened to the cross-beams.

Archaeologists behind the project also said the experimental voyage had showed that the larger warships were almost 20 per cent slower at top speed than scholars had thought.


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