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The Viking Longships

Updated on October 18, 2017

The Scandinavian ship builders of the Eighth Century gave the Viking raiders the perfect vessel to navigate the treacherous and volatile German Sea. Their advancements in boat building was able to open up the European continent to greater trade,conflict,settlement and adventure. Using intelligent design and master craftsmanship, the Vikings were able to spread their influence further away from their native homelands.

The Long ships were crafted using the basic tools of the Dark Age and they lacked the precision equipment of our modern times. The Scandinavian workers used their own estimates and an experienced eye for detail to gauge the measurements required for construction. The Ship builders had to get the construction right, or the consequences for the Viking crew would be catastrophic.

A Viking Longship.
A Viking Longship. | Source

Before the start of the Viking Age, the vessels of the north Europeans were not very strong and were often sunk in bad weather. The shipbuilders introduced an Oak Keel to give the Long ship added strength and flexibility. The Keel is a solid piece of wood which ran from stem(front) to the stern. The hull was made from overlapping planks, or strakes, which were nailed together with reinforced iron. The deck was constructed with the same lighter wooden planks and pitch was used to waterproof the vessel.

The wooden planks would have been quite cheap to use as the wood was fairly common in most of Scandinavia. The use of Oak would have made the boat a bit more expensive to build as it has always been seen as a more exclusive hard wood. To craft a fairly large sized Long ship, could have taken several months to construct. A lot of the technical information of their skills were never written down and the Viking Shipwright's passed on much of their knowledge in the oral tradition.

A Viking Longship in heavy Sea's.
A Viking Longship in heavy Sea's.

Viking Long ships visited...

  • The British Isles.

  • Iceland.

  • Greenland.

  • Northern USA.

  • Canada.

  • Iceland

  • Faroe Islands

  • Western Europe (France/Spain)

  • Eastern Europe (Greece/Turkey)

  • North Africa

Not bad for a group of people often called barbarians!!!

Dragon Ships

The most famous type of Longship is often known as the Dragon ship, this was due to the carved image of a Dragon's head on the Stem of the Keel. To witness these highly decorated and large Dragon head's emerging from the eerie mist's of the isolated water ways, must have scared the inhabitants to death.In good conditions the Dragon ship's could travel over 13 km an hour, if the wind dropped they could drop the sails and row the Longship.

The Dragon Ship's were used to attack the religious settlements in Northern England and Scotland. The Viking's of Denmark could sail to attack the Eastern coastal towns of Britain in as little as Two days. The Viking Dragon ships had a shallow depth to them, this meant the boats were light and very flexible, these Longships could navigate most River's and had little difficulty in making landfall on most locations.

When the wind level dropped the vessel could be powered by up to 36 Viking raiders with oar's in hand. The Viking's would have sat on seat's on the chest's that held their personal possessions. To keep the Longship moving in harsh conditions the Viking's on board had to row constantly and bail out Sea water that accumulates in the shallow hull. If the Sea water was left in the hull, it could cause the Longship to sink.


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    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 4 years ago from England

      They were a fantastic technological achievement for the time, even now the replica longships have journeyed to America and back with no trouble. Thanks for stopping by again.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      The longships seemed very versatile-- from ocean-going to penetrating Europe's rivers for hundreds of miles. Very interesting.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 4 years ago from England

      Thanks for your great compliment. It amazes me that they were able to lift these ships and carry them over ground to avoid things such as waterfalls or rapids.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I am not amazed at their industriousness. But wow! I am amazed at your great reporting.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 4 years ago from England

      Thanks for reading, always appreciate your feedback.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Cool, thanks