Most of my research comes from books and the internet, but during a visit to my parents' house a few years ago, I took a side trip to the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum in Denmark. The museum houses five original Viking ships from the 11th century. These ships were used in a blockade in a natural channel close to Skuldelev, which is 20 km north of Roskilde, the Viking age capital of Denmark. During the scrimmage, the ships were purposely sunk. In 1962, they were excavated in thousands of pieces. An unbelievable feat of underwater archaeology. Each piece of timber had to be conserved and then painstakingly puzzled together to recreate the ships. Each ship is a different type and together they give a unique insight into Viking shipbuilding techniques and skills.
|Skuldelev Ship 3: The Coastal Trader|
In addition to the ships and a myriad of exhibitions on Viking culture and customs, the museum has a boatyard where you can watch craftsmen reconstruct prehistoric boats in full scale, using only the tools available at the time. They'll even let you try out the tools. And then they sail the ships across the Roskilde Fjord! And you can go with them!
School and books taught me what outstanding strategists, navigators, and craftsmen the Vikings were, but it’s a whole other thing to see how something is actually done. The extreme precision involved in building a waterproof vessel is mind boggling. Imagine fitting plank by plank together without glue or nails. And the teamwork necessary to sail the ships is amazing. One miscalculated pull on an oar or a rope, and the whole exposed vessel could flip over in open ocean.
After hours of pestering the builders with questions and watching the sailors navigate their authentic vessels across the bay, I visited the museum shop, which is a goldmine of research material. It wasn’t until I remembered my return flight’s weight limit that I was able to drag myself out of the store.
If you ever have a chance, join one of the 120 000 people who visit the museum yearly. Here are my two very special guides: my nephew Eric and my niece Ellen, Viking and Valkyrie in training.
|Swedish Conquerors of the Sea|
Asa Maria Bradley grew up in Sweden surrounded by archaeology and history steeped in Norse mythology. She arrived in the US as a high school exchange student, which is when her ongoing addiction to ranch dressing and crime TV series started. Asa currently resides on a lake deep in the pine forests of the Pacific Northwest with a British husband and a rescue dog of indeterminate breed. Her debut novel, VIKING WARRIOR RISING, was a double RITA finalist and RT Book Reviews gave VIKING WARRIOR REBEL 4.5 stars and Top Pick! status. Visit Asa at www.AsaMariaBradley.com and @AsaMariaBradley