Types of Viking Ships
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Types of Viking Ships

January 15, 2020


HEY! I have returned! Oh! Look who’s back! Welcome! Uarrr uahah… Thank you lad! Hey Mr. Thorstein! *bleating in excitement* Hello little ones! So what news? Well.. I’ve been at the winter-camps, near the French coast pillaging villages here and there huah ah Sounds good so far Now that summer is at hand, I came back to the real raiding! Hey! You know what?! What? I was the captain of my own ship! I’m surprised you and your crew aren’t at the bottom of the sea hrrmm… hey! I’m an excellent captain! Which type of viking ship did you commandeer? huh… wooden type… yes… uh.. long… large… floating on water! I mean, there were… different types of viking ships like Drakkars, Snekkes and so on… Riiiight… I called mine Bessie! Huaah… Thank the gods for Bessie… Right… so let’s talk about a few types of Viking ships but first I’ll make a little historical introduction to the importance of boats in old Scandinavian societies and I promise to be brief, because whenever Mr. Thorstein is around, it’s difficult to focus on what I’m saying You don’t know, but he’s always behind the camera making faces Oahh! You bloody bastard! Yeah, well… let’s get started By the end of the 8th century a new power awoke in Scandinavia – Vikings As I’ve told you before, Vikings were not a people Being a Viking was someone dedicated to maritime activities, mainly piracy Not every Nordic was a Viking but every Viking was a Nordic Now, why exactly some Nordics became Vikings? If we take a look at Scandinavia as a whole, geographically it’s quite diverse Denmark essentially is a flat territory while in the North, in Norway, predominates the rugged mountainous relief except for the south and the fjord of Trondheim In Sweden it’s a great mixture, mountains to the north and west, deep forests, huge lakes, hills, plains, and the majority of the southern region is flat These natural landscapes and also the very cold climate most of the year, obviously influenced the Nordic communities In general the soils of Denmark and southern Sweden were very good for agriculture and not surprisingly in southern Sweden people highly worshipped Freyr the god of Fertility, agriculture, peace and plenty It was their god, because the great majority of southern Swedes were farmers But in Norway things were quite different Agriculture was very hard and it was mainly along the coast and at the Fjord of Trondheim one of the regions where most battles took place because it was one of the very few places for agriculture and everyone was fighting for it Agriculture was extremely hard in Norway, and some parts of Sweden and as such, pastoralism, hunting and fishing, gave the Norwegians more means of sustenance The importance of the fishing activity in Scandinavia is a reflection of its geography Back then and even nowadays, the majority of the Norwegian population lives near the sea, and their fishing economy is outstanding but as you might have noticed, in the case of the Old Norse peoples of Norway, living near the sea was a survival matter to get food, because it was close to impossible getting food from farming activities The sea gave constant sustenance throughout the year especially during winter, which is the season you can’t farm even if you had the soil for it But because the terrain was so uneven, filled with natural barriers such as mountains, rivers, dense forests, the sea became the main route of communication Just so you have a better notion, there are 11th century accounts which tell us that a journey by land from Stockholm to a region called Sigtuna, which is more or less only 40 kilometres, about 24 miles, took a month to get there, while by sea it took only 5 days Boats became essential for survival, communication and for the successes of Nordic chieftains, and also a symbol of high social statues and wealth, because trading also became an essential activity in Old Scandinavian economy Boats became so important in Old Scandinavian societies that – they were used as tombs in burials and in cremation, as vessels to take the deceased into the other side And those who could not afford to have a boat, or maybe not willing to use the actual vessel for the dead because it was important in economic activities and they did not want to throw it all away, people made burials with stones, arranging them in the form of boats And in the religious context, gods became associated with boats as well Freyr had a great boat called Skíðblaðnir Njorð is associated with fishermen, boats, seafaring, and wealth and prosperity as well The god Baldr upon death is burnt in a boat, and so on Both merchants and military or political leaders had the key to success by owning boats In war the boats allowed rapid deployment of troops and in trading they could efficiently and quickly transport goods, precisely two areas of activity that were essential during the Viking Age Viking raids became a very productive activity for Scandinavians Acquiring wealth, obviously, but also being in contact with other cultures, developing new trading networks, and of course, for survival and political reasons, finding new places to settle, new lands to farm Viking raids opened new possibilities and progressively Scandinavians stopped being Vikings and became professional sailors ever interested in extending their political and economic horizons But speaking of the Viking Age, ships were not only a means of transport They were precisely what gave Vikings advantage in any conflict with their enemies Ships allowed raiding parties to descend almost anywhere on hostile coasts, with little warning and quickly penetrate far inland by navigating on rivers Just picture this: in one single day Vikings could sail an average of one hundred and seventy miles, almost three hundred kilometres How much would it take to cover that distance by land? Months! If Viking met resistance in a certain spot, they could just sail away into another spot long before land troops reach them Viking boats were a success Now, when speaking of Viking ships most of the time we have the same image in our head The langskip, long boats But do you think the masters of boat-building would only make one single type of boat? There was a wondrous variety of Viking ships for different purposes, different activities and different approaches The most used ships for war, were of course the longships In terms of warships there were two main types, the snekkes and the drakkars Snekkes are the type of warships used in coastal districts, back home owned by local chieftains for their private raids and local defence They were long and narrow and had a crew between 24 to 36 bloodthirsty vikings, rowing for glory These ships were perfect for Strandhögg which consisted of coastal raids with the intention of capturing livestock and indigenous peoples for the slave trade Perfect ships for small-scale and hit-and-run expeditions These are the ships Vikings used to sail near the coats and to navigate through minor rivers Then we have the famous Drakkar huge in size, almost twice the size of a snekke They were more symbols of authority and wealth rather than actual war and transport ships They were so costly that only Jarls and Kings could afford them These are often the vessels you see with great rich carvings, multi coloured sails, well, magnificent and costly as I’ve said Rarely used It could have a crew between 60 to 80 people not counting with the warriors it can carry, close to five hundred if not more Due to their size they had a very stable platform which was very good in fighting situations and in stormy seas These were ships not meant for local raids and certainly not to sail in rivers These were ships meant to sail in search for bigger prizes than the average wealth acquired in hit-and-run raids Another type of ship that could be used for raiding, as well as to travel and trade was the karve Not very big, with a crew of 30 to 36 people, somewhat with the same proportions of a snekke but quite broad which was great for trading and could also take more men than the snekke did The karve was better to sail into open waters, but it was slower You can also find the name for this ship, korabis, which was the name the Rus called such ships because these were the trading vessels commonly used in trading with Eastern Europe There were other longships of course, such as the Busse which was a class of longship with large cargo capacity and a large crew They were designed for battle and to give advantage in war against other ships The Skeide, which was also a great longship With lower cargo capacity than the Busse, but also slimmer and faster In terms of trading ships. We have the Knarr Heavy Merchant Ships Slow, broader in proportion than the warships They had a wider and deeper hull for cargo, and they were clearly much more dependent on the sail than the oars They were absolutely great to cross vast stretches of ocean without wreck They were likely used along the coast of Scandinavia and to do trading with Western Europe We have the Byrding, Light Merchant Ships A smaller vessel primarily used as a domestic vessel along the coast to carry supplies for troops, but also trading ships for Eastern Europe Norse traders needed lighter and more manoeuvrable ships, which could navigate through the Russian rivers These were vessels meant to travel deep inland Russia was wilder back then, not like Western Europe with ports, docks, where you could easily go ashore to trade In Russia there was the necessity to leave the ship to trade, there were no ports, so Norse merchants needed lighter vessels, light enough to be pulled out of the water or over rocky areas, shallow areas and other obstacles There were other types of ships often called- often called Skute small and light vessels which could sail fast It isn’t clear whether a “skute” was a class of ships, or if it was a common term for a wide range of smaller ships, including the karve and byrding They were clearly fast, with the advantage of being ready to put on the water and set-sail, because only a small crew with little equipment was necessary, making it a type of vessel which could sail without attracting attention from the surroundings but also easy to hide I would say this was a kind of vessel suited to carry people around, unnoticed or to deliver messages in times of war and great need And there was the ferje, a ferry boat small vessels for crossing short distances, like across fjords Only one man or two would be necessary to sail these Alright my dear friends, thank you so much for watching and I hope you have enjoyed this short video about viking ships This is a sort of introduction for the next video I will make about- Ships in Burial Context So, once again, thank you so much for watching See you on the next video, and of course, as always- Tack för idag!
(Thank you for today!)

14 Comments

  • Reply Alian Anjum June 6, 2018 at 9:21 am

    Please make a video about the different type of Viking tattoo and their meanings

  • Reply ericwbergeron June 6, 2018 at 9:36 am

    much better than wikipedia 😀

  • Reply colin Paterson June 6, 2018 at 9:52 am

    Great to see Mr T back! The highlight of the video. Are you going to elaborate on the individual ships? You are right it does seem more like an introduction and I was expecting more historical background such as the pre-viking ships.

  • Reply a hellenic pagan June 6, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Considering how important boats were why didn't Njord become important? Or am I wrong in assuming that He didn't?

  • Reply Dr Mahlek June 6, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    It’s Mr T! Happy this lovable fool is back.

    Another good video, the boat was clearly very important to the Nordic Bronze Age society’s.

  • Reply Ratatoskr I June 6, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    Arith, are you planning on doing any raids this season? The gold is good.

  • Reply Gary Chynne June 6, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    thank yew. very interesting. my problem is i get sea sick. perhaps a nice little job as a wood carver would be better.
    harharhar

  • Reply Steve Chappelle June 6, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    Does YouTube have any kind of video awards? I'd like to nominate Mr. Torstein (sp?) for Best Guest Performance.

  • Reply crowsbaneful June 7, 2018 at 6:44 am

    I've just seen my dream home! Thanks Arith. I love longboats and galleons my grandfather and his family were ship workers so I have a connection although a different one. I'm looking forward to where you go with this. Is there any chance of making a Viking version of Das Boot?? Lol I'm happy to write the script!

  • Reply Mr. Halloween June 8, 2018 at 5:39 am

    I miss the beard lol

  • Reply Darragh the Heartless October 22, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    Now this is what i like … more ships videos please Arith Harger, Thank you.

  • Reply Jan Reese November 15, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    Another topnotch video to bring à smile to my face.

  • Reply M lucas January 6, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    THE PUPPETS!!!!

  • Reply Mason morgan February 15, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    ya know I don't know why but Mr thorstein kinda reminds me of ALF the alien that eats cats from that TV show like a thousand years ago
    in the 1980s and the early 1990s

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