The scientific tourist #348 — Islendingur

On display at the Viking World museum near Iceland’s Keflavik Airport, it’s the Islendingur (“Icelander”) — a modern-day recreation of a Viking longship:


But to be specific, this was no attempt to build a “typical” Viking ship — it’s a nearly exact recreation of what’s known as the Gokstad ship — a Viking ship built around 890 AD and uncovered in the 19th century in a burial mound on a farm in Norway.  The Gokstad ship was built during the heyday of Viking expansion in the British isles, and could have carried as many as 70 men at a time on some mix of commercial and raiding trips.

The Islendingur was built nearly single-handedly by a Icelandic shipwright named Gunnar Marel Eggertsson between 1994 and 1996.  In 2000, Eggertsson and his crew of 8 sailed the Islendingur from Iceland to L’anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, recreating a voyage made by Leif Eriksson 1000 years previously.  In 2002, she was brought back to Iceland, and became the focal point of the Viking World museum when it opened in 2008.

At 22.5 meters in length, the Islendingur is on the short side for a Viking longship.  It’s thought that the Gokstad ship it copies may have been an experiment at combining the best qualities of longships (longer, but ill-suited for rough seas) and knarrs (shorter, and deeper, for greater cargo capacity and improved rough water handling).

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