Full-scale Viking replica to be built

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Volunteers are aiming to complete and sail a full-scale replica of Norway’s famed Oseberg ship, one of the best-preserved and most celebrated Viking relics in the world, later this year.

The original Oseberg ship can be found in Oslo's Viking Ship Museum. Builders hope the replica can be used at sea later this year. PHOTO: Viking Ships Museum

Enthusiasts working in Tønsberg, southern Norway – home port of the original Oseberg vessel – are carrying out their work in Viking dress and with replica Viking tools in order to achieve historical precision. The original ship, which is 21 meters long and dates from around the ninth century, was excavated in the early 1900s after being found in a Viking burial ground with two female skeletons and a variety of other items. They’ve all been on display at Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum for years.

Newspaper Aftenposten reports that a team of around 50 volunteers are working on the new vessel. A handful of the team are able to work almost part-time on the project, and those involved range from 14 to 75 years old.

Like the original, the ship will be flat-bottomed, with a distance of just 0.65 meters between the water line and the upper deck. However, in order to make the ship operate better in the water, the builders are planning a broader front to the vessel. The original ship was capable of 15 knots, and had space for 30 rowers, although it is thought to have been only capable of short, coastal voyages.

So far, the keel and bow of the ship have been laid down, using wood from a 150-year -old oak tree from nearby Jarlsberg. The sail of the boat is being made with historically-accurate, hand-made textiles, with the two weavers involved using wool from Vestfold, animal fats and ochre – just like the Vikings – in order to create a 90 square meter sail. Carvers are basing their decorations on the patterns and symbols used on the original Oseberg ship, which have come to be known as the ‘Oseberg’ or ‘gripping beast’ style of Viking art.

Local authorities and the surrounding county government have both contributed NOK 3 million to the project, with a further NOK 10.5 million raised from assorted local businesses. Although the Norwegian education and research ministry contributed around NOK 1 million back in 2005, the project leaders hope for even more money from the state, especially given that the related research and planning could be used as part of future replica projects.

The project is part of an application by the Vestfold region for its range of Viking-related treasures to become an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. National Geographic film crews have already visited the site to document the project, and an hour-long film is planned to be shown in 166 countries about the Viking history of the area.

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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