Viking Ship from Gokstad

Viking ship from GokstadThe Gokstad ship is a Viking ship excavated in 1880 not far from Sandefjord (Vestfold, Norway) by Nicolay Nicolaysen. The ship was buried in a trench. On board, it had a burial chamber of a wealthy chieftain. Above a large mound was raised. Along with the 24 meters long ship, its oars, pulleys, yards and a ladder were discovered, as well as a woolen cloth and ropes that might have been a sail. The Viking grave also included three smaller boats, six beds, a tent, big bronze cauldron, various kitchen utensils as well as a sledge and riding equipment. Among other burial gifts a hunter’s rucksack and a gaming board have to be named, as well as remains of horses, dogs and even a peacock. The Gokstad ship was preserved due to the thick layer of blue clay in which the trench was dug. However, the prow and stern-posts that raised above this layer were completely lost and we have no idea as for how they might originally look. Remnants of 32 shields, painted yellow and black, were found along each board.
Beside the mast and the deck, the Gokstad ship was constructed of oak. According to dendrochronological dating, the timber was felled around 890. Unlike the Oseberg ship, it was very seaworthy. Even though it was believed that Vikings could only sail running before the wind, replicas of the Gokstad ship demonstrated that it could navigate Beam Reach and even Clause Hauled. The anchor was discovered but soon after the excavation the iron disintegrated, with only an oak stock remaining, which is 9 feet length. The anchor of the Ladby ship, which was better preserved, has the same construction. No thwarts for the oarsmen were found, which may indicate that they sat on their sea-chests. Neither weapons nor silver or gold valuables were discovered by archaeologists, which almost certainly means that the Viking burial ship from Gokstad was looted by grave robbers.
The remains from the Gokstad ship were reburied in 1928 but the mound was re-opened in September 2007. The person buried in the Viking ship was suggested to be Olaf Geirstad-Alf, ruler of Vestfold.

Photo: The Gokstad ship. Courtesy rwhgould. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licence.

6 comments… add one
  • Just wondered if any one knows about the two viking ships brought to the Bahamas in an attempt to get in the tourist buissness. I walked by the owner but regret not striking up a conversation. The boats were 70 or more feet were old as the smell of rot could be observed down wind. Had diesel engines for power not sure if they used the sailed much. I know one sank at one point in the harbour docked on the Paradise island side. I am told my name Hartley is derived from the mother of Oden and the name is found in Ireland and England where Vikings invaded. Been watching the Viking TV series latley and researching viking history. It spears those same basic peoples invaded the British Isles going back to the ice age. Also I discovered the Celtic people grew corn that originated in Mexico and also discovered the Egyptians had been to mexaco and brought back cocain found in there mummies. Just interesting that the new world was explored even before the viking area. CDH

  • Louis des Preaux

    Thank you for that information. I have always believed that those speeds were possible; and with the wind aft, there would have been the fact of planing to a certain degree, until ut became unsafe.

    I came to this site to try and find photo’s or pictorial details of the three rowng boats found in the ship. I should like to try and build a replica of one, if I am capable of that.
    Thank you,
    Louis des Preaux,
    “Louisstadir”,
    Chez Toru,
    17240 PLASSAC,
    France.

    • Viking Rune

      Let us know if you build one, Louis.

      • Building a Viking Longship is what we want to do. Should we combine efforts?? Let us know. ‘Jarl’ Torbjorn Lowell Johnsson.

  • Erik Ringdal

    One of my friends locally has with a norwegian competition sailor claimed 20 knots in Oslo Fjord sailing a modern Gokstad replica (Hjemkomsten) He said modern boats often turned to challenge, but were unable to keep up. It must be mentioned that the replica had a keel of composite wood, making it stiffer. It was heavily rigged, but here we have the benefit of doubt. But still very impressive, showing the potential.
    Crew of a Roskilde replica where I live claims to have made 17 knots, about 17 meters long, faithful replica. With the right crew and conditions this one could probably break the 20 knot “barrier”.

    • Viking Rune

      Very interesting, Erik. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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