Viking ship lands in Ireland after nearly 1,000 yrs

DUBLIN (Reuters) - A reconstructed Viking ship pulled into Dublin on Tuesday nearly 1,000 years after the original sank off Denmark’s coast, with its crew retracing the grueling voyages made by marauding Nordic raiders to Ireland.

The Viking warship replica, Havhingsten af Glendalough (the Sea Stallion of Glendalough), makes its way from Dublin Bay into Dublin Port, Ireland, August 14, 2007. The ship left the Viking Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, on July 1. REUTERS/Maxwells/Handout

The Sea Stallion’s weather-beaten, 65-member team set sail from Roskilde in Denmark on July 1 using oar and sail power, journeying over 1,000 nautical miles and aiming to address unanswered questions about Viking ship-building and travel.

Church bells rang out and a flotilla of sailing boats greeted the ship’s entry into Dublin’s port on Tuesday.

“You have come here on a voyage of discovery,” said Dublin’s Lord Mayor Paddy Bourke as the vessel and its volunteer crew of men and women docked.

Crafted from the wood of 300 oak trees, the 30-metre (100-foot) long, 4-metre wide Sea Stallion is the world’s largest reconstructed Viking vessel, its builders say.

The original ship was built in Dublin in 1042 but sank 30 years later in Roskilde fjord, around 30 miles south of Copenhagen, and lay there until excavation began in 1962. The Sea Stallion was completed in 2004 after work started in 2000.

The Sea Stallion’s voyage aimed to mirror the conditions faced by the feared Nordic warriors who unleashed bloody raids on Ireland and England 1,000 years ago.

The ship’s Danish captain, Carsten Hvid, said the toughest moment was coming into the Irish Sea, when high winds and 5-metre waves battered the boat.

“We put on our survival suits and prepared the life rafts,” Hvid told reporters after arriving in Dublin. But he added that no one was washed overboard.

The vessel was towed for a small part of the trip. Most of the voyage was spent braving the elements on an open deck, with just a square meter of living space for each crew member.

Some of the assembled team spent stints on a support ship due to hypothermia or minor injuries.

“You were so tired, but you still had to work together. It has been a great experience,” said Hvid.

In the old Viking sagas, it was not uncommon for captains to spend weeks, months, or even an entire winter waiting for the weather to shift in their favor.

“There was cold, lashing rain on some days from the morning until the following morning,” the ship’s project manager Prieben Rather Sorensen told Reuters.

“We did not have the time that the Vikings had as we had to be here today,” he added. “That was one of the challenges.”

Researchers will analyze film and computer data gathered during the voyage, and the vessel will go on display this month at Dublin’s National Museum until next year, when a crew captained by Hvid will make the return voyage home.

Sorensen said he was already counting down the days to setting sail again. “It is like a narcotic -- you can’t live without it,” he said.