pirates of the north

April 23, 2008

this boat, the ‘rana,’ sits in front of the museum. it was built in northern norway in 1892 and is known as one of the ‘last vikings’ because of the shape of its hull and its square sail (not shown here).

although the cathedral in roskilde was spectacular, the highlight of the trip was definitely the viking ship museum – both because it was just a great museum overall and also because of my irrational love of all things pirate, which now includes the norse marauders. i hadn’t really equated vikings with pirates before this trip, but as i learned at the museum, ‘viking’ was actually the word that described pirates in england and scandinavia initially (though it eventually expanded in meaning to include the entire period of viking history and the general viking way of life). so. pirates of the north. y’arrrrr!

the main museum building was built to house the remains of five original viking ships that date back to the 11th century as well as a handful of supporting exhibits about the life and times of the viking. the five ships were recovered from roskilde fjord (on the shores of which the town and museum are located), where they had been sunken, or ‘scuttled,’ around the year 1070 as part of blockade to close off one of the fjord’s three shipping channels to unwanted visitors. the five boats were preserved in the water and mud of the fjord until they were excavated in 1962.

an archaeological drawing that shows how the five ships were arranged on the floor of the fjord.

the five ships are all different sizes and were used for different purposes – represented in the museum are an ocean-going trading vessel, a coastal trader, a small longship, a large longship, and a fishing boat.

metal framework holds the remaining fragments of the excavated ships – you can see the oar holes in the photo on the right. a few words about the museum building before we move on: i really like the interior space – it’s simple concrete construction with great light, and the entire north side (to the right-hand side of the left-hand photo) is made up of windows overlooking roskilde fjord (so – if you stand on the south side of the museum and look at the ships, you see them silhouetted against the fjord…it’s really nice).

a model of what the small longship would have looked like in viking days.

this is a model of the excellently-named ‘sea stallion from glendalough,’ a reconstruction of the large longship exhibited at the museum. in 2007, the (full-scale) ‘thoroughbred of the sea’ was sailed from roskilde to dublin, where the original ship was built in 1042. the ship will begin the six-week voyage back to roskilde this summer and will receive its official welcome (and what sounds like a giant viking-themed party) at the museum harbour in august.

if you want, you can dress up like a viking and sit in a reconstructed ship (or tempt certain death by handing over the edge as this girl is doing)/or you can just look at the diorama version of the same thing…

view of the viking ship museum from the museum harbour (i liked the inside better than the outside)

the bridge to the museum island, where you can embark on sailing trips around the harbour (yes – in a reconstructed viking vessel) or watch viking shipbuilding in progress in the boatyard

the bridge again/view of the dock and boatyard (see roskilde cathedral looming in the distance)

the boat on the left is the ‘helge ask,’ an oak, pine, and ash reconstruction of a small viking warship from the 11th century. it was built in the museum boatyard in 1991. the boat on the right…i’m not sure what it is, but if you look very carefully, you can see its tiny red pirate flag. ; )

part of the boatyard on the museum island

i kind of liked the architecture of the buildings on the museum island – nothing too fancy, but they seemed to form a nice little maritime-y ‘village.’ the structures house educational facilities as well as both boat-building and archaeological workshops.

here’s the boat-building workshop. this guy is working on a 5.5-meter oak dinghy modeled after an early 20th century norwegian fishing boat…although this one is for sale and is apparently intended for yachting, so it comes without a fishing well…

i thought this boat had the second best name (after ‘sea stallion’) – it’s called the ‘roar edge,’ and is a reconstruction of the small trading ship found at the bottom of the fjord. it has a square sail, though its six oars can be used in harbours or in calm weather.

two more photos of the ‘roar edge’ – you can see the shadow of the prow (left) and the oar openings (right)

this was great – as i was leaving the museum island, i happened to catch the shipbuilders on their lunch break…and was happy to see none other than the jolly roger tacked to the door of their building. pirates, indeed.

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