With great interest for sailing, boatbuilding and vikings the project to build and sail the greatest viking ship of modern times started. The curator of the project, Sigurd Aase, wanted this extraordinary ship to follow in the wake of one of the most challenging viking explorations – the Viking discovery of the New World.
The sagas, archaeology and traditional boat building
In March of 2010, construction began on what would be the largest Viking ship ever built in modern times. Named after Harald Hårfagre, the king who unified Norway into one kingdom, the great dragon ship came together in the town of Haugesund in Western Norway.
At a hundred and fourteen feet of crafted oak, twenty-seven feet on the beam, displacing eighty tons, and with a thirty-two hundred square foot sail, this magnificent ship is indeed worthy of a king.
Norway’s leading experts in traditional boat building and the square sail were engaged in the development and construction of the ship. The construction is an experimental archaeological research program, and the aim was to recreate a ship with the superb seaworthiness that characterized the ocean going long ships in the Viking Age.
Is Draken Harald Hårfagre a viking ship?
Yes, she is a viking ship although built in modern times. Thousands of ships were built in the Viking Age, but only a few burial ships and shipwrecks have been found. This small sample hardly represents the best of the Viking ship technology. The original vessel material that is found is often fragmentary and poorly preserved. If important details are missing, one is dependent on the archaeologists” interpretation when the pieces of a ship are put together or drawings are made. This can be crucial for the seaworthiness of the ship.
Usually, replicas of Viking ships are based on interpretations of archaeological material. We went the opposite way. We were based in a living Norwegian boat building tradition that has existed since the Viking Age. From there we worked backwards in time to recreate an ocean going Viking ship by using all available sources. This includes:
- Archaeological material
- The Saga literature and other sources from the Old Norse literature.
- Foreign contemporary sources from the Viking Age
- Visual representations of Viking ships
- Old sailing records, purchasing lists, reports, and more.
In 2012 Draken Harald Hårfagre was launched and the trial sailing began. During 2012 and 2013 she has been trimmed and tested in the waters along the Norwegian coastline. The summer of 2014 Draken Harald Hårfagre made her first ocean going voyage, from Haugesund, Norway, to Liverpool, England and back again.
Special thanks to Marit Synnøve Vea for contributing with text and knowledge.