Military Review

Vikings and their ships (part 4)

Snake raced son Trygggvi,
Well done, on the waves

Fall aggravated evil
Gold poobzhatu.
Olav climbed on the Bison,
Noble wolf water.
Sea beast soap
Powerful horn on the road.
(Commemoration Drapa about the Holy Olaf. Translation by S.V. Petrov.)

Most of our people still have heard about the Vikings and their ships, and the Internet age still, so everyone seems to know that they sailed on such long ships with a single mast with a striped sail and a dragon's head on the bow. They seemed to have no other ships? Or were they? In fact, the types of ships in the early medieval Scandinavians were many, and they all differed from each other, as, say, the Matiz is different today from the same Mercedes. Knorr and kaupskip were intended for sailing for trade; for military campaigns for prey - auger (which means “thin and outstanding”), scade (can be translated as “dissecting water”) and dracar or “dragon” - the name that such ships were given because of the custom to cut the dragon's head on a bow such ships.

Vikings and their ships (part 4)

Ferdinand Lieke, Viking Run (1906). I do not know, maybe from the point of view of pictorial skill, Ferdinand Lieke was a wonderful artist, but in relation to stories - the dreamer is still the same. The Vikings did not have a “barrel” on the mast; moreover, the mast itself in his picture is not where it should be. She shifted to the left to the board. And this is the inability to properly build a perspective. Shields on the sides ... Why are they in a raid here? Yes, among them one is rectangular. The swords in the hands of the Vikings obviously of the Bronze Age, it is good that the helmets are not with horns! But the most amazing thing is the ram! Where did he get it from? After all, the finds of Viking ships were already known. Images runestones published ... No, I do not like these painters here!

Ships of a wide range of purposes, which were equally suitable for trade as well as for pirate raids - such as, for example, the ship found in Gokstad, were usually called Skuta or Karfi. The main difference between commercial ships and the military was that the first, that is, knorra and Kaupskyps were short, but wide, had a high freeboard, and also primarily depended on the area of ​​sail. Military vessels, on the contrary, were narrow and long, had a smaller displacement, which allowed them to climb up the rivers and freely overcome coastal shallow water, had a much larger number of oars. That is why Viking warships received the very characteristic name Landskip - or “long ship” (“boat”).

Another "long ship". Viking Museum in Hedeby.

But Viking warships could vary greatly in size. They are usually classified according to the number of benches (cans) for the rowers (sess), or the presence of gaps between the transverse beams ("space", room or spantrum). For example, in the X century. the thirteen-canal ship (trittancess, i.e., a vessel having 13 seats for rowers (cans) on each side, or 26 paddles) was the smallest of those vessels that could be classified as military - i.e. which were even smaller were considered unfit for war. For example, it is known that in Viking raids against England at the end of the 9th century. 16 — 18 canned vessels participated, while the Anglo-Saxon chronicle reports that the Great King of Wessex Alfred already built 896 60-rowing ships (with 30 seats for the rowers on each side), twice as large than the court of the Vikings.

Ship from Oseberg. Viking Ship Museum in Oslo.

By the way, in Norway they honor their history very much. This is evidenced by a large number of museums in Oslo and other cities. One of them - the Vikings Museum, located on the Bygdö peninsula, is dedicated at once to three funeral ships found at the end of the 19th century in burial mounds. Here everything is concise, simple and solemn. Large old windows, a lot of space and light, but the light of old times, history. It is surprising that the shape of the windows and the architecture of the building are directly related to the sense of time. Spacious, as if at the bottom of the clear sea there are these ships ... black, strict and supposedly alive ...

Therefore, the 16 canned ship, found at Gokstad (from about the same time), was the minimum size to be considered a warship. The standard size for warships became 20 or 25-canned ships. The thirty-bank ones were also built, but in very small quantities. Giant warships that had more 30 cans appeared only at the very end of the 10th century. The most famous among them was King Olaf Trygvasson's “The Long Serpent”, who had 34 benches (or seats for the rowers). It was built in the winter of 998; but at that time there were most likely other similar ships. Known and 35-canned ships, built in the XI-XIII centuries. First of all, this is the “Great Dragon” of King Harald Hardrada, built in the winter of 1061 —1062. in nidaros.

Making a replica decoration of the ship from Oseberg.

In "King Harald's Saga" this ship is described as wider than ordinary warships of similar size and proportions, but fundamentally the same as they. The nose is adorned with the dragon's head, on the stern - its tail, and the bow figure was gilded. There were 35 pairs of rowing places on it, and it was just huge for even ships of its class.

And this is how this detail looks in the end.

Among the five ships found in Skuldeleva, one just turned out to be very large, although it turned out to be in poor condition. Experts believe that its dimensions were approximately 27,6 meters long and 4,5 wide, and it was 20 — 25-oar. Other samples of Viking ships were also excavated: for example, in Ladby (burial time ca. 900-950), the length of which was 21 m, and the oars 12 pairs; in Tuna (burial time ca. 850 — 900) —the length of 19,5 m and with 11 pairs of oars. By the way, the ship from Oseberg had 15 pairs of oars; and the Gokstad ship was a bit larger and therefore it had 16 steam. By the way, the knorr that was found in Skuldelev is, for the time being, the only merchant ship that has been discovered in recent years. Its dimensions are: 16,20 to 4,52 m.

Some Viking court replicas are really great. Here, for example, Drakkar "Harald Beautiful-haired."

He - front view.

And this is his "head." Spectacular, one cannot say anything, but differences in the artistic style of the design of such “heads” among the Vikings and those who today imitate them are striking. The form is one - but the content of the decal is completely different!

Both Viking warships and merchant ships had two decks raised in the fore and aft ends. Between them stretched deck, covered with boards, which are specially attached loosely and could rise when stowed cargo in the hold. While anchored or staying in the harbor, it was covered with a large awning like a large tent, and the mast was removed. The Svarfdel Saga, for example, describes 12 ships anchored in this way: “All covered with black awnings. From under the tents, the light was breaking through, where people sat and drank. ”

"Head" of the drakkar. Museum of Cultural History. University of Oslo.

Another similar head ...

The same head from a different angle. Viking Ship Museum. Oslo.

All, and even children, today imagine the Viking ships with shields along the sides. And, yes, it is really believed that the team usually hung them along the gunwale. The only question is how often it was done and why? Some experts believe that, so hanging out the shields, it is impossible to row. But this opinion is based only on the example of the Gokstad ship. On it, indeed, the shields, being tied with straps to a wooden rail, did indeed close the holes for the oars. But already on the Oseberg vessel they were attached from the outside of the gunwale so that rowing did not interfere. Well, and if we again turn to the sagas, then it is directly written there that the shields hung out like that. For example, in the Battle of the Gafrs Fjord saga it was written that the gunshades “shone with polished shields”, and in the “Battle on the Nissa” in 1062, “the soldiers made fortifications from the shields hung along the gunshire”. This is confirmed by drawings on stones from the island of Gotland, where it can be seen that the shields are located exactly on ships in this way.

The carved head of a dragon "Hugin". Spectacular, I do not argue, but it's very kind ... decorative!

What is truly unusual is that on all Viking ships, the decks are completely smooth. None of them hinted at the existence of any benches for rowers. Therefore, it is believed that the rowers were sitting on their chests. In any case, the chests from the Oseberg vessel were quite suitable for sitting.

Here it is, "Hugin." Handsome, is not it? And shields to scale. But ... were they all the same?

True, there seems to be evidence that the Scandinavian sailors of the time were storing all their belongings not in chests, but in leather bags, which at the same time served them as sleeping bags. But it was still not exactly known! On one of the warships found under the Skuldelevym, transverse beams could be used as seats. There is also an assumption that the rowers in general ... stood. The oars themselves had an average length of about 5 meters, on the Gokstad ship they were from 5,10 to 6,20 meters. Moreover, one rower usually paddled with an oar, but two others stood out to help him in battle: one defending the rowing oar from enemy missiles, the other was mate and waited his turn.

One of my first models of Viking ships from the company "SMER". Even then, at the end of 80, when I started getting models from the West, I was struck by some strange, button-like shields, and a strange head and “tail”, although I really liked the figures. What to do? I cut off the "head" and "tail" and made them on my own. He threw the shield-buttons and also made them himself.

For movement on the open sea, the Vikings raised on their ships downright huge square sails. They began to be used in the eighth century, and this was undoubtedly one of those significant technological innovations that ensured the flourishing of their civilization. As an example of their effectiveness, we can cite the sailing of the Viking ship, a replica of the Gokstad ship sailing the Atlantic under sail for 28 days. At the same time, he could hold speeds up to 11 nodes for hours, which was a good indicator for that time for most steam ships, because not all of them were champions who fought for the Blue Ribbon of the Atlantic.

For what I do not like "model sites", so this is for such models. It seems to be very accurate. But ... the "metallized" parts on the Oseberg vessel were not metallized, and if they were, they would be ... gilded. Equal shields ... Also not very historic either.

Here it is - carving from the Oseberg ship. No trace of gilding!

The Viking sails themselves were probably made of wool, although some experts claim that they were flaxen. The ornamental patterns resembling a slanting grid depicted on Gotland runic stones may in fact depict leather belts and ropes, with the help of which the then shipbuilders tried to keep the shape of woolen sails. These drawings also show the principle of taking the reefs with ropes attached to the bottom of the sail. It undoubtedly did not differ from the principle of operation used in the North Norwegian fishing boats until the XIX century. During the tension of the rope, the canvas fastened, formed folds, and thus the sail itself was gradually removed. Viking sails with blue, red, green, and white stripes and cages are described in the sagas. The remains of the sails from the Gokstad ship were white (the color of an unbleached canvas) with red stripes. The mast was most likely twice as short as the length of the ship itself, therefore, since when it was lowered during the battle, it did not even touch the beams at the stern. In general, the form of a single mast was not found.

Model of a Viking ship from the museum in Hedeby.

Model Gokstad ship. Historically, everything seems to be right, but look at the umbons of the shields and the shields themselves. Umbons are larger than necessary and do not have depressions on the reverse side, as well as handles for holding. Shields should have at least a hint of leather trim on the edge!

Another one suggested at the "gathering" of Viking ships in Brest in 2012. Here and the skin is well executed, and the carving, and the shields are excellent and different. But ... somehow the already very depressed turned out to be the dragon on the nose of the authors of this vessel. We ought to give them a more proud, not “lowered” look!

A large steering paddle with a removable handle was located on the right side of the board. The handle is a tiller, part was decorated with runes, which made the steering wheel in the helmsman’s hands more “obedient”. Rook of Oseberg. Viking Ship Museum. Oslo.

The stem and stinger were usually decorated with carved wooden heads and tails of animals, mainly such as a dragon or a snake. Judging by the Norwegian cave paintings, this custom appeared in Europe in the I-II centuries. The names of the ships were usually given on such gilded heads: Long Serpent, Bull, Crane, Human Head. According to Icelandic custom, when traveling to a new land and upon arrival there, you should first transport your head there from the ship to expel the local evil spirits. This custom may have been known throughout Scandinavia. In any case, the Bayeux embroidery depicts flotilla Normans, sailing on the sea, with figures of heads on the stakes, but moored in England - already without them. That is, these "heads" were removable? There is such information that they were so terrible that, sailing home, the Vikings closed or rented them so as not to frighten the children.

Everyone knows the legendary voyages of Thor Heyerdahl on a raft across the Pacific Ocean. But few know that his compatriot Magnus Andersen, inspired by the find of the Gokstad ship in 1880, built his first replica, gave it the name Viking, and in the 1893 year swam across the Atlantic Ocean to prove that such trips were for such ships quite possible. His journey was crowned with success, and after four weeks of sailing, the Viking arrived at the World Exhibition in Chicago. Another Norwegian Ragnar Torset built three copies of the Viking ships. At one of them, Saga Siglar, he is in 1984 - 1986. made even a world tour! All in all, at different times and in different countries over 30 copies of Viking ships were built.

This carved weather vane is made of gilded bronze. In the sagas it is said that such weathervanes were attached to the noses of many Viking ships as a sign of special significance, but this is where it appeared, it is not known. Four copies of such weathervanes have survived to this day, and then only because they turned up on the steeples of churches! This weather vane was found in Helsingland, Sweden, while others on Fr. Gotland and in Norway. All four weathervanes date back to the XI-XIII centuries, but a specimen from Sweden by some scholars dates back to the 10th century. It has the characteristic scratches and dents caused by arrows. So he clearly managed to go to battle! Such weathervanes were used exactly as much as the Viking ships themselves, but on the steeples of the churches they turned out to be due to the tradition of storing the sails and other tackles of warships in churches. Well, when the old ships stopped using, beautiful carved weathercocks migrated to church spiers. So, not only carved heads decorated the bows of Viking warships!
Articles from this series:
Vikings and their axes (Part of 1)
Vikings and their ships (part 2)
Vikings and their ships (part 3)

Subscribe to our Telegram channel, regularly additional information about the special operation in Ukraine, a large amount of information, videos, something that does not fall on the site:

Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. Cat
    Cat 16 July 2018 06: 19
    The large ships of Alfred the Great are not Dacars, perhaps they are closer to the Mediterranean galleys. According to the descriptions, they had a double superiority in size over Danov Dakkarmi, two masts (one of them inclined) and a taller and stronger skin. On the whole, apparently they were made for the sake of absolute superiority, one on one with the average Viking ship.
    About standing rowing? I’m ready to assume that the last ships not equipped with boards for rowers belong to the minors of the Minoans and Greeks. Not effective and tiring. I bow to the options that the Viking ships were equipped with removable cans for rowers.
    Sincerely, Kitty!
    1. Mik13
      Mik13 16 July 2018 07: 37
      Quote: Kotischa
      About standing rowing? I’m ready to assume that the last ships not equipped with boards for rowers belong to the minors of the Minoans and Greeks. Not effective and tiring. I bow to the options that the Viking ships were equipped with removable cans for rowers.

      Let's just say that you can sit on anything while rowing. But the footrest for the rower is necessary in any case. So the "smooth" deck leads to interesting thoughts.
      As for rowing while sitting / standing, it all depends on the height of the oarlock above the deck.
    2. Korsar4
      Korsar4 16 July 2018 08: 26
      I also can’t imagine standing long rowing.

      This sixth can be pushed on a small boat.
    3. Trilobite Master
      Trilobite Master 16 July 2018 10: 42
      Quote: Kotischa
      I bow to the options that Viking ships were equipped with removable banks for rowers.

      For me, the concept of "room" has always for some reason been associated with a chest, a box that holds weapons with personal belongings and which also serves as a bench for the rower. When the ship is equipped in a long journey free metsa is not on it - everything is occupied by something useful that can be useful. Each cubic centimeter of space should be used with maximum efficiency, at the same time, each participant of the trip should have its own place on the ship. Considering the length of the drakkar and the number of oar pairs on them, it can be concluded that the rowers were well, very tight, so their legs most likely rested on the neighbor's bench. On the threshold of the battle, I believe, the oars were folded along the sides, and the chests moved into the middle of the ship, leaving space for the fighters, i.e. each chest had two strictly defined places on the ship — a marching and a fighting one.
      Having some experience of long water trips, I imagine it that way.
      1. Cat
        Cat 16 July 2018 11: 55
        Dear Mikhail and Sergey!
        I will try to argue my point of view of paddling sitting backwards on Daccar.
        1. The bottom of the Scandinavian ships have a pronounced keel and naturally not even. In this connection, to put a locker or chest is quite problematic. Oesheniye of an emphasis for legs apparently there were removable cross bars which rested against thongs and half-frames of the case. Although it is more likely that just on the bottom they lived a forest with cross sections, or maybe even two. Consumables, in connection with which they were not found in the funerary ships, as well as parts of the telage and the mast (including the oars).
        2. Disabled on the early Scandinavian cooab was not. Bypassed planshire with two cross-sections or holes in the sides. To the oar did not fall out, it had a thickening. It was also a bolancer during rowing. In principle, with this design, the shields did not interfere. Disabled modern type appeared gravely later.
        3. In the sagas, Viking fun is often mentioned, in the form of running on oars. The weight of a person stooping over while standing at a 5-meter oar cannot be held. So rowing guys "Northman" sitting on the pope.
        4. The trunk system is interesting! However, like the tunic, he sat on the bag and rested his feet on a block or jib. By the way, what prevented the chests from standing under the jib and being its element. In the sagas, boat sheds (houses) are also mentioned where free Dakkara birds winter. And first of all, the ship was equipped before the trip, perhaps not only with a mast and oars. Or maybe everyone came with his chest?
        Need to think and read!
        Regards, Sincerely Your Cat!
        1. Trilobite Master
          Trilobite Master 16 July 2018 13: 29
          Quote: Kotischa
          I will try to argue my point of view of paddling sitting backwards on Daccar.

          Vladislav, I am partially ready to agree with you, especially regarding your arguments about oarlocks and the construction of oars with a counterweight. That's how I imagine this system.
          However, with regard to the first point, then let me disagree - the drakkars were equipped with a deck, and this, I think, undoubtedly. I do not have any certainty as to how this deck was located, at what height, but I suppose that it is still somewhat above the waterline during normal vessel loading. With a height of about 2 - 2,5 m, and a draft of about 1 m, the height of the bulwark could be about a meter - and this is also from the point of view of safety, because the center of gravity of a human body of medium height will be below the edge of the board (so as not to fly overboard) and, from the point of view of rowing in a sitting position on a small elevation of centimeters in 30-40, provided that the slots in the board under the oars are lower than the gunwale centimeters on 20.
          Unfortunately, in serious literature I didn’t see anything about the presence or absence of scuppers on Drakkars - they were there, there wasn’t, no more than yes. Then it turns out that the water falling through the board, had to slide into the hold, under the deck, and from there scooped up or removed in another way. Well, if the scuppers were, it means that the deck should have been noticeably higher than the waterline, at least by half a meter, but here it would be inconvenient to row because the rowing gates will be high above the water ...
          In short, I do not have complete clarity on this issue. While you yourself do not resemble a drakkar - you will not understand smile
          But the fact that everyone should have their own place on the ship, or rather, two places - for work and for rest (there are three on the warship, the third - according to the combat schedule), that's for sure. And the receptacle for personal belongings and weapons - not to hold them in the hold, where to put the loot then - should also be, moreover, in the quick zone, and in the case of weapons - instant access. So the box-room is the perfect place. Although, perhaps, there were special racks on the deck for weapons, but it is also doubtful - pitching, this and that, and they will interfere with walking, there’s not much space ...
          1. brn521
            brn521 16 July 2018 15: 01
            Quote: Trilobite Master
            Unfortunately, in serious literature I haven’t seen anything about the presence or absence of scuppers in drakars.

            Only full-fledged deck ships with bulwarks could have scuppers. For the Drakkars, such “scuppers” would have to be done on board. And they would be in the area of ​​the waterline, or even under water, if the ship is loaded. For more information on the design of Viking ships, see the same von Firks, for example,
            1. Trilobite Master
              Trilobite Master 16 July 2018 15: 43
              Quote: brn521
              The scuppers could only be full-fledged deck ships with a bulwark

              I will not argue.
              Thanks for the link. I looked at the size of the Drakkar - only one, namely Gokstad, by which I, in fact, was oriented, the height of the side exceeded two meters and that slightly. request For some reason it seemed to me that it (the height of the board) should be greater.
              But about the box I remain unconvinced.
    4. The comment was deleted.
      1. Trilobite Master
        Trilobite Master 16 July 2018 14: 05
        Victor Nikolayevich, "accept the assurances of our highest consideration for you" with the same respect and best wishes. smile
      2. 3x3zsave
        3x3zsave 16 July 2018 14: 58
        So, yesterday there was also Metallurgist Day.
        1. Cat
          Cat 16 July 2018 18: 50
          So the guys almost got into a bit of a mess with Viktor Nikolayevich, thanks to Nikolai he saved us from shame!
          And to be honest, we need to somehow exchange "days", otherwise we have been communicating with many for years ... and everything is in absentia!
          Regards, Vlad!
          1. Mikado
            Mikado 16 July 2018 19: 15
            That's it, I completely agree, Vladislav! Yes Anton - on the example of Victor Nikolaevich and Metallurgist’s Day, you sometimes begin to understand what karma is and why sometimes the profession finds us. wink good Yes, yesterday was Metallurg Day! drinks
            1. 3x3zsave
              3x3zsave 16 July 2018 22: 11
              Ouch !!! My "birthday" is periodically on Easter. Good, however, Nikolai! wassat
              1. Mikado
                Mikado 16 July 2018 22: 47
                Mark the Batsman was also a kind person! request wink
                1. 3x3zsave
                  3x3zsave 16 July 2018 23: 09
                  Well then get ready yourself, Per Noel! We climbed the "stormwater" - you will climb the chimneys! And so 2000 years in a row! Saint Nicholas - the patron of diggers!
                2. 3x3zsave
                  3x3zsave 16 July 2018 23: 44
                  "Do what you want to touch, but Mark Krysooboy - do not touch !!!"
                  H. de Torquemada (from correspondence with Sixtus the Fourth)
                  1. Mikado
                    Mikado 17 July 2018 10: 49
                    and there was also Guy Cassius Longinus!soldier revered as a martyr. And his spear became the "spear of fate."
          2. 3x3zsave
            3x3zsave 16 July 2018 22: 04
            14 April 1973 city
            1. Curious
              Curious 16 July 2018 22: 27
              Guys! Touched by congratulations! Many thanks! Sorry to answer late, just today most of the day on the road.
              1. The comment was deleted.
  2. Adjutant
    Adjutant 16 July 2018 06: 26
    Interesting colorful cycle, read with pleasure
  3. Korsar4
    Korsar4 16 July 2018 08: 25
    The good part.

    "They will never forget Harald affairs,
    The raids of Garald Gardarik "(c).

    Yet it is not in vain that we all come from childhood.
  4. brn521
    brn521 16 July 2018 14: 55
    Standing rowing is something incredible and completely uncomfortable.
    About the cans. The midship frame of the ship from Gokstad is really flat (No. 5 in the figure),. The deck is laid on the only transverse bars (in simple terms), rowers sit on it. And for them, in fact, no cans and stops for legs are provided constructively.
    But later, the ships from Skuldelev already got a more serious set, better opposing the longitudinal bend (No. 6 and No. 7). And there on the lower horizontal bars laid the deck. And the only thing left was to use as cans. One of Skuldelev’s warships has two types of oar ports. Some are located at a distance of 0,78 m from each other. Others - at a distance of 0,9m, which coincides with the distance between the frames. Perhaps 0,78 m was an attempt to strengthen the ship by increasing the number of rowers and it is unclear how to seat them. But it is believed that only those oar ports were actually used that were at the same distance from each other as the frames. Large ships did not have such a problem - the distance between the frames just decreased to almost 0,75 cm.
  5. Mikhail Matyugin
    Mikhail Matyugin 16 July 2018 18: 18
    Luxurious material, directly with pleasure we read!
  6. Operator
    Operator 16 July 2018 21: 31
    The article leaves a strange impression - nobody, along the way, knows whether the drakars were equipped with foot stops or not, i.e. was it possible for the crew to row for a long time?

    If not, the dracars were a technical squalor compared to the Mediterranean galleys or British warships. The only purpose of the Drakkars is to sail downwind to their destination and after a gang raid to quickly "make legs" with the help of an hour of rowing in a standing position of the crew.

    After that, it becomes clear why the Viking raids came to naught at the beginning of the second millennium AD - European states simply outplayed the backward Scandinavians in shipbuilding.