The Mighty Draken Harald Hårfagre Longship in a Storm in the Labrador Sea

Draken Harald Hårfagre (English: Dragon Harald Fairhair) is a large Viking longship built in the municipality of Haugesund, Norway.

Draken Harald Hårfagre brings the seafaring qualities of a warship from the old Norse sagas to life. It is a ship that combines ocean-crossing sailing capabilities with a warship’s use of oars.

Construction

Building began in March 2010. Construction was funded by Sigurd Aase, described as a “Norwegian oil and gas tycoon.”

An oceangoing Norwegian warship

The longship is a ’25-sesse’ (25 pairs of oars) – in other words, it is equipped with 50 oars. Each oar is powered by two men. Under sail it requires a crew of 30 people.

Draken Harald Hårfagre is 35 metres (115 ft) long with a beam of approximately 8 metres (26 ft) and a displacement of about 95 metric tons. The longship is constructed in oak and carries 260 square metres (2,800 sq ft) of sail.

Draken Harald Hårfagre is the largest Viking ship built in modern times. In the Viking age, an attack carried out from the ocean would be in the form of a “Strandhogg”, i.e. hit and run tactics, being highly mobile. By the High Middle Ages the ships changed shapes to become larger and heavier with platforms in the front and back. This was done for the sake of sea battles, that made it possible to board ships that lay alongside each other. In the 13th century, this tactic was well known and widely used in Scandinavia. The law of the land in those days (Norwegian: Gulatingsloven) included standards that required Norwegian provinces (fylker) to cooperate in supplying 116 such warships of 50 oars size (Norwegian: 25-sesser) (25 pairs of oars) for duty in the Norwegian fleet of warships.

Draken Harald Hårfagre under construction
 

Norwegian boatbuilding traditions

Copies of Viking ships are usually based on interpretations of archaeological material. But in the construction of Draken Harald Hårfagre an alternative method has been used. It was decided to begin with the living tradition of Norwegian boatbuilding, with roots that can be traced directly to the Viking Age. The foremost Norwegian traditional boat builders are involved in the project. Their knowledge of traditional boatbuilding is supplemented with the results of investigations carried out on archaeological material, source material in Norse literature, literature from the same period from foreign sources, iconographic material, etc. The goal of the project is to recreate in this manner an oceangoing warship of 50 oars taken right out of the Norse Sagas.

Launch and Maiden voyage

The launching of the longship took place in the summer 2012. Because no one today has real experience handling a Viking ship of this size, the initial period was one of exploring how to sail and row the ship, and for experimentation with the rigging along the coast of Norway.

In summer 2014, skippered by Swedish captain Björn Ahlander, the longship made its first real expedition, a 3-week passage under sail from Norway to Merseyside. There it was hosted by the Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club. It also visited various other locations around the coast of the British Isles including the Isle of Man, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.

Draken Harald Hårfagre in May 2011, working with 17th strake.

Expedition America 2016

The ship left its home port of Haugesund, Norway on the 26th of April, 2016, bound for Newfoundland, the aim being to explore and retrace the first transatlantic crossing and the Viking discovery of the New World. The route included stops at the Shetland and Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland, before landfall on Newfoundland was finally achieved on the 1st of June that year. Future stops are planned along the Atlantic Canadian and American coast.

The schedule of the voyage is:

  • April 24 – Haugesund, Norway
  • May 3 – Reykjavik, Iceland
  • May 16 – Quqortoq, Greenland
  • June 1 – St Antony, N.L.*
  • June 15 – Quebec City, Que.*
  • July 1–3 – Toronto, Ont.*
  • July 8 – Fairport Harbor, Ohio, U.S.*
  • July 14 – Bay City, Mich., U.S.*
  • July 22 – Beaver Island. Mich., U.S.
  • July 27 – Chicago, Ill., U.S.*
  • Aug. 5 – Green Bay, Wisc., U.S.*
  • Aug. 18 – Duluth, Minn., U.S.*
  • Sept. (TBD) – Oswego, NY Canals, N.Y., U.S.*
  • Sept. 1st – Ilion NY
  • Sept. 3rd- Little Falls NY
  • Sept. 15 – New York City, New York, U.S.*
  • Oct (TBD). – Mystic Seaport, Connecticut, U.S.*

(*Approximate dates)

In mid-July 2016 doubts were raised about the ship’s ability to visit US destinations in the Great Lakes. The U.S. Coast Guard deemed it a commercial vessel, requiring a pilot per a 1960 law. The total cost of piloting was estimated at $400,000. Sons of Norway raised over $60,000 in order to help pay the pilot fees. On 4 August 2016 Viking Kings issued a press release declaring that Green Bay would be the ship’s last stop in the Great Lakes, planning to make its next stop in New York in September.

Sources

  • Grossman, David (14 July 2016). “World’s Largest Viking Ship Might be Defeated by U.S. Coast Guard”. Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 2016-07-15. 
  • Heide, E. “Vikingskipa i den norrøne litteraturen” Institutt for lingvistiske, litterære, og estetiske studier, Norrøn filologi, 2012
  • A. W. Brøgger and H. Shetelig. “Vikingeskipene- Deres forgjengere og etterfølgere” Dreyers forlag 1950, p. 2137
  • Bent og Erik Andersen. “Råsejlet – Dragens Vinge”. Vikingsskipsmuseet Forlag, Roskilde 2007, p. 9-44
  • Jon B. Godal: “Measurements, figures and formulas for the interpretation of Western Norwegian boats and Viking ships”, Acta Boralia ,1990. Volume 7, Issue 2, pages 56-8
  • Gunnar Eldjarn og Jon B. Godal: “Nordlandsbåten og Åfjordsbåten”, bind 1-4. A Kiellands Forlag, Lesja 1988
  • Pattinson, Rob (2 July 2014). “In Pictures: World’s largest-ever Viking longship set sail for Merseyside today”. Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 2016-07-15.

6 thoughts on “The Mighty Draken Harald Hårfagre Longship in a Storm in the Labrador Sea”

  1. That is so cool. Like the Greek Navy’s “Olympia” or reproductions of Columbus’ cogs. I love living history like this.

  2. So impressive! This is seriously cool stuff and shows total dedication and enthusiasm by the crew and builders. I’d go for a sail. I agree. Living history is the closest we’ll come to experiencing what it was like – and that’s off-scale awesome.

    Should add, don’t know if you know the Stranglers ‘The Raven’. I’ve got the first two tracks – ‘Longships’ and ‘The Raven’ – going through my head now! 🙂

    1. Oh man, I have saved the Raven – such a great, cool song!! – I don’t want to sound weird but years ago a little old lady told me that my spirit guide was a Raven and wherever I saw it, I would be lucky – let’s hope it foretells good portents for this new incarnation of the website!

      Living history is so important. The ability to involve yourself, immerse yourself and get ‘hands on’ cannot be underestimated. Who doesn’t want to be a Viking??

      You know I’m not an educated historian Andrew,rk ages weren’t dark, but (in a sense like Tony Robinson), I want to bring history to everyone. It is there for us all to enjoy, yes, there are terrible aspects, and I will indulge in those, but the dark ages weren’t dark, \I hope, in a small way, that I can enlighten them.

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