Engineering History: How Vikings Made Ships

By: | July 17th, 2013

Osebergskiy Drakkar

Osebergskiy Drakkar (Image Courtesy http://www.vikingeskibsmuseet.dk/en/)

Vikings are known as fearless warriors, but they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without being great shipbuilders. Norse ship design was passed down from father to son from generation to generation as the art was developed and refined.

norse_lapstrake_principle

According to Jorn Loset of Norway, most skills and knowledge were passed down verbally without any drawings or diagrams. Traditional boat making before the Vikings involved the use of timber formed into strakes or ribs.

The Vikings built the shell first and added strakes and internal timbers at the end. The earliest boats were waterproofed with animal guts, which also served to bind the strakes together. Eventually iron became available for boatbuilders around the eighth century.

The following video shows the building of a present day Viking ship using the same techniques as originally used. Types of tools used by Vikings are discussed.

Slide Show of Viking Ships

David Schilling

David lives in Boston in close proximity to Boston University, Boston College, MIT, Harvard, Northeastern as well as Bostons leading companies and labs. You can also find David on Google+.

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One thought on “Engineering History: How Vikings Made Ships

  1. December 6, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Hello from Denmark. I have with great interest seen “Viking Ship Builder” from Norway.
    Please let me inform you that we also in Denmark have a museum with these great ships from 1000 years ago. It is placed in town Roskilde which was the capital of Denmark many centuries ago and where most of the Danish kings and queens are buried at the Roskilde dome.
    At Roskilde Viking Museum they have also build several viking ships. The last one was build using the replicas of the original tools from start to finish.

    Best regards
    Jorgen Pedersen

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