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After 1,000 years, restored Viking ship to sail North Sea
« on: June 25, 2007, 04:51:12 PM »
After 1,000 years, restored Viking ship to sail North Sea
From Breitbart

An 11th-century Viking longship that has been reconstructed to its original condition will soon depart on a seven-week voyage from Denmark across the North Sea to her home port of Dublin, powered only by her sails.

The Havhingsten fra Glendalough (The Sea Stallion from Glendalough) is the largest Viking warship ever rebuilt.

On July 1 the vessel will leave the Danish port of Roskilde, which served as the Vikings' flourishing political and commercial centre from the 9th to the 12th century.

After a 44-day and 900-nautical-mile crossing using only its huge square sail, the longship and its 65 crew will reach Ireland, where it was originally built in 1040 in the Glendalough forest.

The longship took part in clashes between the Anglo-Saxons and Normans in 1050-1060, when many Danish Vikings lived in Ireland.

The boat was sunk in the Roskilde fjord with four other ships at the end of the 11th century to defend the Danish coast from invading Vikings from Norway.

The hull of the oak ship was found in 1962, and reconstruction began in 2000 at the dockyards of Roskilde's Viking Ship Museum -- a task that was to take four years.

After 84 days of tests in nearby waters, the ship is now ready to retrace its route home.

At the Viking Ship Museum, the head of the 35-million-kroner (6.3-million dollar, 4.7-million euro) project, Preben Rather Soerensen, is putting the final touches on the vessel before its departure.

The fresh sea air mixes with the strong scent of pine tar, as handymen work feverishly to make sure the ship is seaworthy.

A carpenter works on smoothing the wooden surface of the keel, another checks the joints, and a third works on the mast.

Looking proudly at the longship, Soerensen, a thirtyish Dane with blue eyes and a scruffy beard, is happy with the final result.

"Only about a quarter of the original hull was found but it was the most important part," he says.

The ship is 30 meters (98 feet) long, 3.8 meters (12.5 feet) wide and has a draught of 0.9 meters (2.95 feet). It weighs 25 tonnes, and has 120 square meters (1,291 square feet) of sail on its 14.5-meter (48-foot) mast.

During tests, the Havhingsten fra Glendalough has reached top speeds of 10 knots. It has no engine and the oars will only be used in ports for delicate maneuvers.

Unlike the Vikings, the crew will however have a radar, a satellite antenna and other navigation equipment.

Shipbuilders from Denmark, the Feroe Islands, Norway and the Aaland Islands took part in the reconstruction, using "the same methods the Vikings used and with tools specially made to resemble those used in the Viking era."

"But the hardest part is yet to come. It's the real test that is about to start," Soerensen says, admitting that he has a few apprehensions about the voyage.

"No one has ever done this kind of a crossing, north of Scotland and in the Irish Sea, which are among the most dangerous waters in Europe."

"The longship, which is an open boat, can flip over in a few seconds in heavy seas. At the time it was common for the Vikings to drown. But we have no intention of following them into the deep," he says.

The 65 crew members will therefore wear full-body life suits and the ship will be followed by a help boat, "just in case".

The aim of the expedition is "to see how the Vikings, as skilled seamen, sailed Europe's treacherous waters with seemingly fragile ships but whose construction techniques have been proven, and to learn about the longships' capabilities and manoeuvrability," Soerensen says.

Like the Vikings, the Glendalough crew will make a few stops along the way, since "two days of sailing on a boat like this, where each person has less than 0.8 square meters (8.6 square feet) to himself, is exhausting."

The crew, aged 16 to 64 and including 20 women, will work in four-hour shifts, and, when not at work, will have "very basic living conditions."

But the risks and lack of comfort have not dissuaded the crew, who come from 11 countries including Australia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Norway and the United States.

They are "adventurers who are interested in the Viking era who want to take part in this historic experience," according to Soerensen.

The longship is due in Dublin by August 14, when celebrations are planned.

It will then go on display at the National Museum of Ireland until the spring of 2008, before returning to the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde where it will join the four other ships that were found along with it at the bottom of the Roskilde fjord.

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