World's Biggest Viking Ship Sails Into Isle of Man On Epic Voyage

By Rose Shillito | 09 August 2007
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Shows Viking longship in full sail

The Sea Stallion of Glendalough - the biggest Viking longship in the world at 30 metres long. Courtesy Manx National Heritage

A Danish crew has arrived in the Isle of Man on board the world’s biggest Viking ship ever reconstructed in an epic voyage from Denmark to Ireland that retraces the journey made by Norse ancestors almost 1,000 years ago.

The 16-strong volunteer crew set sail on the historic voyage from Roskilde in Denmark on July 1 2007, and arrived in Peel Harbour in the early hours of Wednesday morning (August 8). The Viking longship Sea Stallion from Glendalough is on a 1,000 mile journey with the goal of reaching her 'birthplace' in Dublin on August 14 2007.

The Sea Stallion from Glendalough is a reconstruction of a 30-metre long warship – the largest of five Viking ships discovered at Skuldelev in Roskilde Fjord, Denmark in 1957. Following excavations in 1962, archaeologists discovered the vessel was built in Dublin in 1042 using traditional Scandinavian ship-building methods.

Shows group of men standing on harbour quayside

The crew of the Sea Stallion of Glendalough enjoy a rest on Peel Harbour quayside after an arduous voyage. Courtesy Manx National Heritage

A massive construction project was officially launched in Denmark by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe, who named the ship Havhingsten fra Glendalough (The Sea Stallion from Glendalough) in homage to her Irish origins. Sea Stallion was built using the same tools and techniques the Vikings used, and took four years to construct. Three hundred oak trees were used in total, along with 7,000 nails and 112 square metres of sail – all at a cost of 10 million kroner (almost £1m).

So far the ship has visited Norway, the Orkney Islands, the west coast of Scotland and Islay – and it’s not all been plain sailing. The leg from Islay to the Isle of Man has proved the most arduous, with the crew facing waves up to six metres high and winds of up to 23 metres per second.

Shows group of men standing in front of a Viking longship inside a museum

Members of the original crew of Odin's Raven, the replica longship that sailed from Norway to Peel in 1979. Courtesy Manx National Heritage

Upon mooring at Peel Harbour, the volunteer crew of the Sea Stallion visited the replica longship Odin’s Raven at the heritage centre House of Manannan, where they met the original crew who completed a similar voyage from Norway to Peel in 1979.

“The ship embodies some of the wonder that is archaeology,” said Manx National Heritage field archaeologist Andrew Johnson. “Nearly 50 years ago, under the most difficult of conditions, archaeologists painstakingly excavated fragments of not one but five ships which had been built nearly a thousand years earlier."

"Nothing like it had ever been done before. Since then, they’ve had to find new ways to preserve waterlogged timbers, and have spent what probably amounts to millions of man-hours researching these remains in the finest detail.”

Shows Viking ship in full sail shot head on

Sea Stallion of Glendalough in full sail. Courtesy Manx National Heritage

He continued: “That in itself is a huge achievement, but it doesn’t answer every question, nor does it answer the two most significant ones: what was she like to build, and even more important, to sail? The journey to Dublin, and back to Denmark next year, is not only an adventure, it’s also a great experiment, and a fitting culmination to all that research.”

On arrival in Dublin, the ship will be on display at The National Museum in Dublin until 2008. Then, next summer the ship will return to the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark following a route from Dublin round Land’s End and up the English Channel.

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