Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Viking ship Helge Ask

One of the highlights of Denmark's National House at the 2012 London Olympics was the lovely Viking ship called Helge Ask (coincidently the Denmark team is as I type entering the stadium for the opening ceremony of the Paralympic games).

She is based upon a ship that was scuttled along with four others in the Roskilde Fjord near Skuldelev in order to protect that market town of Roskilde from attack. Back in the sixties the boats were recovered and treated and now are on display at the Viking Ship Museum at Roskilde.

The Helge Ask was built using authentic tools, techniques and materials including pine, birch and oak wood, wool, flax, grease, tar, ochre, horse hair and walrus skin.

The wood was not sawn but split so that it kept the natural strength -it was also not dried so is much more flexible.

What was amazing was one of the two Viking experts over in London stood at the stern and shook the boat so that it oscillated from end to end. The amount of flex was astonishing, she really was able to move to an incredible extent and you could imagine her at sea bending as each wave went under.

The Helge Ask is not a full sized longship that could cross the North Sea, but rather one that could be used in the coastal waters of the Baltic.

One of the Viking experts had sailed such a larger longship, the Sea Stallion, all the way to Dublin where I had a chance to see her first hand (blog post here). I was very envious of his experience, but it did sound rather hard, given the lack of shelter. 

Those Vikings were certainly tough and also, as was shown by the Helge Ask, skilled boat builders too.

The museum sounds really interesting and worth visiting - especially as there're meant to be opportunities to go out sailing in one of their boats. 

Definitely on my list of things to do next time I'm in Denmark.


Tillerman said...

Great post. I'm convinced I'm descended from Vikings. Might be the horns.

JP said...

Thanks - I was lucky to have two experts spend a good half an hour showing me round on my own and then give me a handbook from the museum.

I think there must be a lot of Vikings around here - or at least there seems to be on a Saturday night near the bars.