The Vikings were masterful sailors. Their swift wooden Viking longships, equipped with both sails and oars, enabled them to mount piratical raids on the coastal monasteries and settlements of the British Isles, western Europe and beyond. The shallow draught of these longships meant that they were able to reach far inland by river and stream, striking and moving on before defensive forces could muster.
Well preserved remains of Viking longships, like those found at Skuldelev in Denmark, show they were clinker-built of overlapping planks and measured between about 17.5m and 36m in length. They were steered not by a rudder, but by a single oar mounted on the starboard side. A few late examples are said to have had iron-clad bows and sterns. An average speed of 10 to 11 knots could have been achieved, or perhaps rather more in short bursts. Crews of 25 to 60 men would have been common, seated on benches on open decks, although the largest longships could have carried as many as 100 or more. Packhorses and provisions would also be included if needed. You can see these ships at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark.
LastUpdate: 2016-10-02 12:48:28