Some people called the Vikings the Norse pirates. Although they went through seas, they were not pirates. As the Vikings would never rob. The common thing that the Vikings and pirates shared was the ship. While the pirates would have to buy their ships to set sail, the Vikings would build a ship for themselves. In this blog on LifeUpFront, we will discover more about the Viking ships and the building technique.
What were types of Viking Ships?
The Vikings would have different types of ships that vary due to their usage.
The Vikings constructed many different types of craft, from small fishing boats and ferries, to their famous longships which later we call them the Midgard Serpent. They were all made from planks of timber, usually oak, overlapped and nailed together. The ships were watertight as the Vikings filled the spaces between the planks with wool, moss or animal hair, mixed with tar or tallow. The ships were all the same long narrow shape, with shallow draughts. This meant that Viing ships could travel in shallow water.
Vikings used longships to make raids and carry their warriors. Often, the prow (front) of the ship had decoration with a carving of an animal head – perhaps a dragon or a snake.
Cargo vessels helped to carry trade goods and possessions.They were wider than the longships and travelled more slowly. Planked deck only laid at the ends of the ship, so that there would be more space in the middle for cargo.
What was life like at sea for Vikings?
There was no shelter on these vessels. At night, Vikings might pull them up on land. They’d take the sail down and lay it across the ship to make a tent to sleep under. Or, they’d pitch woollen tents onshore. If the crew was far out to sea they’d sleep on deck under blankets made from animal skin. Food would have been dried or salted meat or fish. They could only cook if the crew were able to land. They’d drink water, beer or sour milk. The hardship of life on board, especially in rough seas, meant that Vikings did not make voyages in the winter but waited until spring.
The Construction of Viking Ships
The Viking ships were built near rivers or the inlet of the sea. The keels of the ships were mainly made of tall oak trees. Moreover, the Vikings cut long planks of wood for making the sides and short pieces for the ribs. The planks were overlapped and riveted together. This to some extent made the ships much stronger.
The creative Vikings used the animal wool and the sticky tar from pine trees to keep out the water by padding such things into every crack of the ships. Furthermore, the main shipbuilding tool was primarily the famous Viking axe.
As the ships stayed next to the rivers, the Viking found it quite simple to launch the ships into the water. They utilized the log rollers to make their pushing easier.