|Vikingskip.com||Some vikingships known from the norse sagas|
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|The ships in the viking navy -
The norse kings had an organised system for assembling a navy (the "Leidang") when necessary. The ships used for this purpose were usually sea going longships with 20 - 25 pairs of oars. They were fast sailing ships with loading capabilities only for the crew itself. Several descriptions of battles at sea indicates that greater ships than these were slower and heavier to manouver with oars.
Still, many kings and chieftains wanted
larger ships because their higher gunwhale and stems made
them difficult to attack during sea battles. They where
also symbols demonstrating the kings status and
superiority. The largest ships were given names and are
sometimes mentioned in contemporary poetry and in
"Drake" means dragon in
english. These ships were equipped with carved
dragonheads on top of the stem, while the stern often was
shaped like a dragons tail. Many websites in english
refer to these ships as "drakkars", which in my
opinion unfortunately gives less meaning than calling
them "dragons". But the term drakkar seem to be
well established as a term referring to a longship with a
These are some of the famous ships menitioned by their names in the norse sagas:
"Trana" - ca 995 AD
A ship built for king Olav Tryggvason of Norway (973 - 1000 AD). It was built at Nidaros, Trondheim, Norway. It was a longship of the "snekke"-type with 30 "rooms"/ 30 seats for the oarsmen and tall stem and stern.
"Ormen Skamme" - a.k.a. "Ormen Korte" - ca 990 AD
Longship of dragon-class built in the
end of the 10th century for the chieftain Raud den ramme,
Salten, Hålogaland, northern Norway. It had 30
"rooms"/pairs of oars, and was large in
relation to this number of oars. It was decorated with
golden dragonheads. Its length was probably about 32 - 34
"Ormen Lange" - ca 996 AD
This ship was built for the norwegian king Olav Tryggvason in the end of the 10th century AD at Ladehammaren in Trondheim, Norway. It became legendary for its size and extraordinary finish already when it was in use and later in the sagas about Olav Tryggvason. It was a "busse" with 34 "rooms"/seats for 68 oarsmen. Its length may have been as large as 40 - 42 m, and the width 6 - 7 m. In the stem it had a golden dragonhead and a golden dragontail at the stern, making the hull form a dragonlike shape. "Orm" means dragon or large snake. In old norse its name was "Orm hinn langi", which simply means "The long Serpent". The gunwhale "was as high as on ocean ships" according to Snorre Sturlason, thus the hight from keel to gunwhale was perhaps as large as 4 m. My guess is that the gunwhale was made extra high to make the ship more difficult to attack from lower ships. Close to the stern its floor was raised to give its crew additional advantage in close combat. One of the shipbuilders is mentioned by name in the saga - Torberg Skavhogg.
In the year 1000 AD all these three
ships took part in the famous sea Battle at Svolder,
commonly believed to be close to todays Rügen in
Germany. In this bloodshed king Olav Tryggvason was
defeated and killed by a party of the dane king Svein,
the svea king Olav and earl Eirik Håkonsson from Norway.
After the battle the "Ormen Lange" was taken by
"Barden" - 980 - 990 AD
"Barden" was the ship of Earl
Eirik of Norway and was is use around year 1000. It was
large and had a high gunwhale. Its stem and stern was
equipped with some kind of a rammer of made of iron. This
ship was designed for attack at sea, as the rammer was
used to cause damage to the hull of other ships. This
ship was large, perhaps of the same size as "Ormen
Skramme" and "Trana".
"Visund" - ca 1020
"Visund" was the ship of king Olav Haraldson (St. Olav) of Norway. It was large, perhaps of the same size as "Ormen Lange". Its stem had a golden head of a horned vicent (european bison) instead of a dragons head, giving the ship its name "Visund". The ship is classified as a large "skeide" in the saga.
"Ormen" - 1060 AD
This ship was the ship of king Harald Sigurdsson Hårdråde of Norway (1015 - 1066). It was built in Nidaros (todays Trondheim) in Norway around 1060. The ship has the same name as the earlier "Ormen Lange", which was probably was the model for this ship. Snorre Sturlason tells about this ship in detail in his saga about Harald Hårdråde. It was a longship built as a "busseship", and of the same size as Ormen Lange. Elsewhere he also refers to the ship as a "drage" (serpent/dragon), thus beiing a longship. It had 35 "rooms" (sections) and was large according to this number. It was equipped with 35 pairs of oars. In the stem it had a golden dragon head and the stern was formed like hook, probably visualizing the tail of a dragon.
The sea launch of "Ormen" at the river Nidelv in Nidaros. Illustration by W. Wetlesen.
"Bøkesuden" - 1122 AD
The "Bøkesuden" was built in Nidaros in Norway by king Øystein Magnusson just before he died in 1123. The ship was of the same size as Ormen Lang, with a dragon head in the stern and a hook-like stern. Snorre Sturlason notes that the ship had a high gunwhale but rather low stem and stern. Perhaps an error in the design from the shipbuilders? The Bøkesuden was later used by king Inge Haraldsson Krokrygg and Erling Skakke.
"Reinen" - (The "Reindeer) 1130 AD
22 room (sections) large longship owned by king Sigurd Munn. This ship was known in the saga to have been faster than any other ship.
The ship of Earl Filippus - 1206 AD
This was a longship built in Tønsberg, Norway i 1206. It had very high gunwhale and 36 "rooms". This is even more than "Ormen Lange", suggesting a total length of perhaps 50 m. Its width is said to have been 25 "alen", equal to ca 15 m. It had two rows of oars with 48 oars in the upper row and 24 oars in the lower row. Each oar was operated by several men and was as long as 20 "alen". This gives a total number of 72 pairs of oars. With two men on each oar, it then had a crew of at least 144 oarsmen. With four men on each oar this doubles up to 288 men. Either way this ship was very large. It must have been very heavy with a rugged hull and probably with a jointed keel. It must also have been very expensive to keep in operation because of its large crew. Built in the 13th century, this ship was built after the viking age.
36 room large. Mentioned in the saga in 1256. Built for king Håkon Håkonssen in Bergen.
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