Viking ships
A little background  

Wreck 3 (aft view)

Although people generally mention Viking ships as if there were one basic type, it would be better to think of such ships as a class, varying from oceangoing craft to warships. What all Viking ships have in common is a beautiful symmetry and in being clinker-built. By clinker, each hull plank overlaps its neighbor.

While knowledge of the various ship types is common from Viking Age literature, 1957 brought physical reality to the differences through the recovery and restoration of five Viking ships from Roskilde fjord, in Denmark.

Well, it wasn’t too obvious at first: Several years of recovery had the immediate result of 1500 plastic bags with 50,000 wood pieces. One can imagine the extensive notes that were kept as the ships had to be put together after being flattened under water for nearly a thousand years. The end result can be seen in the ships' own museum in Roskilde.

The original numbering of ships included six, but it turned out that "two" of them were actually one very long ship; as a matter of fact it was the longship, the first Viking warship recovered. Another discovery was the knørr, the deep and more-rounded Viking ship that sailed the North Atlantic to Iceland, Greenland, and America.

Then there was Wreck 3, a small fishing or trading vessel, which began my own voyage, so to say. Incidentally, both the knørr and Wreck 3 were designed primarily for sailing and had but a few oar holes. Anyway, Billing Boats, a ship model company in Denmark, released a 26-inch-long version of Wreck 3. And so began my own adventure into building a Viking ship.

I thought I had finished that model years ago, but with the advent of 3D computer programs, it seemed like a natural subject for modeling and animating. And with each new version of Ray Dream, more possibilities open up to tidy the model. Perhaps one day the ship might be finished too.
Wreck 3 (fore)


Viking ship information
Web sites

  • Extensive information on Gaia, a full-size Viking ship reconstruction, and the Gokstad ship.
  • The Briese-Bane Viking Ships Information Centre has many links to folks with Viking ship pages.
  • Peter Sjolander's Viking Navy has a wealth of information on Viking ships, including line art and photos.


  • A. W. Brøgger and Haakon Shetelig, The Viking Ships, New York: Twayne, 1951, 1971. Perhaps the definitive book on the Norwegian Viking ships, including the well-known Gokstad and Oseberg ships.
  • Basil Greenhill, Archaeology of the Boat, Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1976. It covers the very first boats till the end of the Viking era -- though Thor Heyerdahl could probably give him a good argument on the importance of reed in the building of early boats.
  • Olaf Olsen and Ole Crumlin-Pedersen, Five Viking Ships from Roskilde Fjord, Copenhagen: The National Museum, 1978. The first book on the discovery, rescue, and reconstruction of the Danish Viking Ships.
Note: The background tile is based on a picture drawn by May Lis, who captured the spirit of the ancient rock paintings of Norway.

Look Out!  |  Viking ship AVI