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A Scandinavian longship, considered an engineering marvel, was a warship used by Norsemen (popularly known as Vikings).
These longships were marine vessels that originated in the Viking Age that lasted between 793 and 1066 AD, and lasted all through the Middle Ages. While they were originally invented for the benefit of Vikings to carry out trade and commerce, wars, and exploration, these longships also became the inspiration behind several forms of other ships and Viking boats that came after.
Even Anglo-Saxon ships and vessels were greatly influenced by these Viking longships. The early existence of Viking longships has been archaeologically proven, thereby validating their history. These longships were unique marine vessels with a long and interesting history. While we see them now in popular animated movies, what we also need to know is that they hold great significance in Viking history. They were a type of oar and sail ship that existed and even dominated northern European seas for around 1500 years. There is so much to know about them like their origins, facts about their design, their significance, and more and in this article, we will discuss some Viking longship facts. Afterward, also check out Viking houses facts and Viking armor facts.
Viking longships, as the name suggests, were invented during the Viking Age. The Vikings are known to this day as powerful and fearless warriors, indicating their excellence in warfare. As such, it is easy to imagine their focus on equipping themselves with the best resources possible at the time.
These longships were prized possessions during the Viking Age as they were not only for troop transport and commerce but they were also naval weapons.
They were called dragon ships by the English because their design resembled a dragon.
Longships were often used to carry the infantry and warriors rather than as naval weapons. During the time of maximum Viking expansion, longships were tied together to provide a more steady infantry war platform. They were also used as transport ships.
The Nydam ship was a longship. It is a famous longship that has been found and preserved in Denmark and which helps modern generations learn about the history of these boats. The Viking Snekkja was another longship type. These boats were small ships that usually measured up to 56 ft (17.1 m).
The Drakkar ship was another type of boat used by the Vikings. These ships were decorated ornately and used particularly by raiders. The most famous Drakkar was the Ormrinn Langi, the name of which translates into 'a long serpent'. The city seal of a town in Norway called Bergen depicts a ship, which is believed to be representing the Viking Drakkar ship.
The design of Viking vessels is considered to be well ahead of its time. The designs are said to have evolved over the centuries and as a result of the vast explorations carried out by the Vikings.
The designs were so fantastic that a lot of ships constructed after several centuries were greatly influenced by these designs. The longship construction was what sounds like long and tedious work, but given their significance, was well worth it. These ships had a square sail along with a mast but in case the wind speed was not adequate, sailors could use the oars that had been provided to row the ship in the desired direction.
The designs and materials of a longship varied, depending upon the area where they were built. For example, longships built in Denmark were made from oakwood, while those built in Sweden and Norway were made of pine.
Since the recognition of the original Viking ships in the 1800s, a lot of builders have started creating and constructing replicas of these ships.
Viking longships were made to various different sizes depending on need. They could carry as little as ten and as many as one hundred and twenty people at a time. The smaller ones were usually built with the aim to fit through small or narrow spaces or canals. The sizes would usually range from 45-75 ft (13.7-22.9 m) in length. The smaller ships could go through shallow water while larger warships were used when required to go into deeper water bodies.
The longships were built by an ancient method (called the clinker method) used since the Stone Age, where planks of wood or timber were put one over the other, in an overlapping fashion and iron nails or iron rivets were used to fasten them together to ensure that they were attached properly. Any gaps and crevices existing were filled with animal hair or tarred wool to make sure no water got into the ship; in other words, the ships' watertight seals were created using this method. The boats had a dragon's head or snakehead design at the head of the boat to instill fear in the hearts of those who saw them.
The ships were also constructed in a manner to ensure they were not heavily weighted ships. The lightweight nature of the ships made it easier to carry and pull the ships on land as well, thereby allowing an easier way of moving a ship from one waterbody to the other, when they were separated by a mass of land. It is details like these that demonstrate the superior design and practicability of Viking ships, in turn giving an insight into the superior intellect and inherent sailor quality of the Vikings.
The functions of the longships were plentiful. They were not created with a single purpose in mind. During the Viking Age, these ships even served as the major source of transport between lands. The different-sized ships would usually perform different functions, but depending upon the needs of the hours, the longships could be used for more purposes than originally intended or designed for.
Since the Scandinavian countries were known to be surrounded by water, and there was a lack of proper roads to enable commuting, ships were the only method to encourage transport.
During the Viking Age, longships were used by the Vikings for several purposes like trade and commerce, exploration, and wars. They acted as naval vessels or boats which helped Vikings to explore new lands which resulted in massive Viking expansion over the years. An example of this is that the Vikings reached the US in 986, much before Christopher Columbus. However, due to a lack of support in their fight with the indigenous people, they were unsuccessful in inhabiting the land.
For quite a long time, these ships also acted as a bridge in the North Sea, connecting several cities together, thereby enabling commuting between different lands. Some of the smaller ships also functioned as fishing boats.
Towards the later years, more specifically the end of the Viking Age, the use of Viking vessels as cargo ships is also evident. These ships were used to carry large amounts of materials and products through the seas, in and out of the land.
They acted as warships when they were used to carry infantry troops of armed warriors to battle or when several longships would be tied together to provide a steady warfare platform for infantry battles.
In times of conflict, Viking leaders would acquire all ships and use them for the purposes of the battle.
Some of the ships were also often used for burial purposes. The prominent members, men, and women of a Viking land would receive a ship burial. In a ship burial, essentially, a ship is used as a tomb to bury deceased bodies. In a Viking ship burial, the deceased members would be readied in fine clothing and buried in a ship, often along with some of their valued possessions, including pets, dogs, horses, and even their slaves.
The slaves or living pets would often be sacrificed and buried along with the deceased member of the community. This fact also reflects that the longships were an essential part of the Viking Age. They were the essence of this age.
The speed of the longship was largely determined by the mode of manipulating. Whether the sail was being used to navigate and control, or the oars, directly affected the average speeds that could be attained by these ships.
The long, narrow and flat longship design allowed these Viking ships to attain speeds as high as 17 knots (according to certain estimates) under the prevalence of favorable weather and sea conditions. The average speed, however, was between five to ten knots.
The Vikings were, during the Viking Age, the most prominent seafarers, who dominated the field with their unbeatable navigation skills. It is believed that Viking navigation skills might have stemmed from their primitive abilities because of their skills and accuracy in judging various navigational factors like winds, current, and the probability of high and low tides.
The discovery of the Viking sundial in Greenland suggests the use of the sundial as a compass by the Vikings in their explorations.
Viking ships were built in a double-headed pattern, enabling them to be reversed easily without the need to be turned around. Their symmetrical bow design helped in the achievement of this as well. This feature was particularly helpful when navigating through icy waters or faced with icy lands. Apart from this, these Viking ships were equipped with rowing oar ports and positions, thereby allowing the passengers to help take the boat forward, while the steering oar was set at the head of the boat to ease changing directions of the ship. Vikings ships were also equipped with square sails. Each square sail was made out of wool, and boats would only have one large sail rather than several smaller sails.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Viking longship facts then why not take a look at Viking village facts, or Viking shield facts?
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