An 11th-century Viking longship has been carefully reconstructed back to its original condition. A group of explorers will soon depart on a seven-week voyage from Denmark across the North Sea to Dublin, powered only by the sails of the ancient vessel.
Dubbed the “Havhingsten fra Glendalough” (The Sea Stallion from Glendalough), it is the largest Viking warship to ever be rebuilt.
The longship took part in clashes between the Anglo-Saxons and Normans in 1050-1060, when many Danish Vikings lived in Ireland, and was likely sunk in battle at the end of the 11th century.
The oak hull of the ship was discovered in 1962 along with four other ships, at the bottom of the Roskilde fjord. The boat was originally built in 1040 in the Glendalough forests of Ireland. The reconstruction began nearly a millennium later in the year 2000 at the dockyards of Roskilde's Viking Ship Museum in Denmark.
Now fully reconstructed and deemed structurally sound and seaworthy, the vessel will depart July 1 from the Danish port of Roskilde, which once served as the Vikings' flourishing political and commercial center from the 9th to the 12th century.
The blue-eyed and scruffily bearded “head Viking”, Preben Rather Soerensen points out the dangers. "No one has ever done this kind of a crossing, north of Scotland and in the Irish Sea, which are among the most dangerous waters in Europe."
"The longship, which is an open boat, can flip over in a few seconds in heavy seas. At the time it was common for the Vikings to drown. But we have no intention of following them into the deep."
Still the Journey will be dangerous, which is half of the fun. The crew of 65 individuals, aged 16 to 64 and including 20 women, will be working most of the time and be afforded only "very basic living conditions".
But the risks and lack of comfort are all a welcome part of the experience for the would-be Vikings, who come from 11 countries including Australia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Norway and the United States.
They are "adventurers who are interested in the Viking era who want to take part in this historic experience," according to Soerensen.
The aim of the expedition is "to see how the Vikings, as skilled seamen, sailed Europe's treacherous waters with seemingly fragile ships but whose construction techniques have been proven, and to learn about the longships' capabilities and maneuverability," Soerensen says.
Like the original seafarers, the crew will have stops along the way. No word on whether they plan on pillaging villages and drinking from their enemies’ skulls. However, if they truly want to recreate the experience—they probably should.