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Vikings Ships

Vikings Ships

Your assignment may be on viking ships and you don't have a clue how to start researching the Vikings. Because it may be an art history paper the expectation is that it covers the design and decorations of these ships and how those designs and decorations are a reflection of viking cultural interests. Other aspects for example, navigation technology, is important but it should not be the focus of the paper. Your paper should contain the following elements regarding Viking Ships:

  • A thorough description of the boats
  • What were the important physical features of the viking boats?
  • What types of command took place on the ships?

Traditionally, Viking ships were constructed with overlapped oak planking, generally no thicker than a man's finger, which was then bound with iron rivets. The sails, clearly adopted by medieval times, were made from sheep's wool "and she wriggled through the water like an eel, flexing at the bow with every wave, recoiling in the stern, pirouetting on the ballast stones and single mast".
As noted by Logan, there was no such thing as "the Viking ship". Viking ships varied in size, ranging from six to 25 meters on average, power (some used only oars, some had sail and oars), as well as their usage. Not all Viking ships were long-range raiders. However, the "classic features" of Viking ships can be found on one ship discovered at Gokstad: "light in the water, graceful to the eye, speedy at full sail, and easy to beach".

A well-preserved Viking ship, dated to the year 900 (roughly), was used as the center of an elaborate burial mound.

The average Viking Ship was as follows:

  • The ship is approximately 76 feet long
  • Has a beam of 17½ feet
  • It is slightly over 6 feet 4 inches from the bottom of the keel to the gunwale amidships
  • The keel of the Gokstad ship is an amazing 57 feet 9 inches long (17.6 meters)
  • The keel was made from a single oak timber

These ships had a very shallow draught, generally 3½ feet, which allowed them to not only cross vast distances of open ocean, but sail far upriver in the interior of Europe.

The Gokstad ship, when it was in service, weighed about 18 tons, yet still only drew at most the aforementioned 3½ feet. The keel has been called "the most remarkable part" of the ship. Over the course of its 17.6 meter length, it tapers from 42 centemeters amidships to 37 centemeters at both ends. The tree that this keel came from must have been at least 25 meters tall. "Craftsmen fashioned this keel so that it formed a gentle arc about 25 centimeters deeper in the center than fore and aft," thus creating a shallow ship. "The pressure of water against the keel countered the pressure of wind on the sail and, thus, the keel kept the sailing vessel from capsizing".

A Viking crew used 16 pair of oak oars to help power the vessel, and each oar was perfectly measured so that they all hit the water in unison. Although the oars were primarily used when the ship could not find the wind, or when navigation through fjords or rivers were required. Otherwise the Viking ship was a sailing vessel. The mast was made of pine, standing between 26 and 35 feet high, holding a woolen sail that measured 23 by 36 feet. The sail was connected to the deck by means of a pole (or spar). By moving the spar, the Vikings were able to angle the sail and tack into the wind

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