This unique hands-on, interdisciplinary project got its start in the fall of 1995 when one of my eighth grade students brought in a picture of a Viking ship built by Danish boy scouts.
After various inquires, we found Arne Emil Christensen at The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway who was willing to help. He and the museum supplied us with plans of a 21 foot boat that was found with the Gokstad Ship.
The Gokstad Ship is a part of a Viking Age burial site that was excavated in 1880 on the coast of the Oslo Fiord. The ship had been pulled ashore and let down in a trench. A dead man was placed in a burial chamber built amidship, presumably with his weapons and clothing. Equipment for the ship, three small boats, horse trappings and a sled were placed on board. More than ten horses were sacrificed and placed in the trench. A large mound of clay was placed over the trench and ship.
The grave site was robbed before excavation, but all the wooden objects were of little interest to the robbers. The blue clay made an excellent seal. All objects were well preserved. Analaysis of the year-rings of the oak has shown the ship was built about 895 and buried 10-15 years later. The 21 foot boat that we will replicate is believed to be of the same age.
This 21 foot boat was probably an all-purpose boat, given as extra grave-goods. The boat was capable of handling the open sea and would have been used for travel along the coast, fishing and carrying farm products. Its make-up included a 2-3 man crew with equipment or 2 men with 200 pounds of cargo in coastal waters. Building the boat requires a knowledge of lapstrake or clinker boat building. Most of the wood was oak, with some pine used for the uppermost strake. Fastenings are iron rivets clenched over roves in the planking and treenails in the ribs. The boat originally had loose thwarts resting on the edge of the top strake, and floorboards to protect the bottom planking.
Waterproofing was done by placing a tarred string in the plank overlaps. Pine tar was used as a wood preservative both inside and out, and there is no proof either way as to whether the boat was painted. Tools known to have been used were axes, scrapers, augers, chisels and knives.
In addition to the information supplied by Arne Emil Christensen and The Viking Ship Museum, we have also been able to obtain technical support from The National Museum of Iceland, Gunnar Marel Eggertsson, Rob Stevens and David Christie.
Gunnar Eggertsson is a boat builder from Iceland who has built a replica of the Gokstad Ship. Rob Stevens is a boat builder from Maine who built a Viking knarr that will be used in a recreation of Leif Ericsson's voyage to North America. David Christie from Pennsylvania is a hobby boat builder. He has undertaken numerous wooden boat projects. His latest is a whitehall pulling boat. All three men have agreed to be advisors for us as we build our 21 foot boat.
Our goal for this project is to successfully replicate the 21 foot boat, sail it on a local lake with a crew of four and donate it to a museum.
Christensen, Arne Emil. The Norwegian Vikings. Oslo, Norway: The Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1998.
Christensen, Arne Emil. “The Vikings.” Norway: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1996.
* Statement by Mr. Edward Eisenhuth *
Mr. M. Joseph Brady, Superintendent and Mr. Ercole Lacianca, Principal Minersville Area School District, P.O. Box 787, Minersville, PA 17954
Mr. David Rogers, Human Resources Manager Exxon Chemical Company
Mr. Larry Sparta, Education Relations Director PP&L, Inc.
Ms. E. Lori Smith, Account Administrator Snayberger Foundation Grant Committee
Mr. Rob Crosswell, President and Mr. Galen Koller, General Manager Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Pottsville
Mystic Screen Printing & Embroidery
Representative Dave Argall, 124th District - Locust Lake sailing point
Mrs. Nancy Hertz, Federal Coordinator for Minersville Area School District - grant monies
Mrs. Jetta Cooper, Project Secretary
Mr. Dave Christie and Mr. Rob Stevens, Boat Builder Consultants
Minersville Area Student Boat Building Team
Leo Davidovich, Locust Lake Park Manager
Clyde Warner Jr., Waterways Conservation Officer
Beth Ehlinger and Jolissa Mataka, Web Site Creators
Kent Eisenhuth, Project Updates
Alcoa Aluminum and Billig Trucking Inc., Transportation of the boat to The Nordic Heritage Museum Seattle, Washington
The Nordic Heritage Museum, Permanent home of the boat as of July 2001