Replica Viking warship sets sail for Irish homecoming

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The Independent Online

The Vikings are coming. But this time it's in pursuit of scientific knowledge rather than the usual fare of rape and pillage.

For the first time in almost 1,000 years, a Viking warship set sail yesterday from Denmark on a non-stop journey across the North Sea to Ireland.

The Sea Stallion of Glendalough is an accurate reconstruction of an original 30-metre-long warship that marked the pinnacle of Viking marine technology until it was scuttled back in the 11th century. Danish archaeologists excavated the wreck 50 years ago.

Although the replica boat has the modern-day advantage of a GPS navigation system and radar, it was built with Viking-era tools using oak and hand-forged iron rivets. And the 1,200-mile voyage is being undertaken as a unique large-scale archaeological experiment.

"We want to discover how Viking maritime technology worked in practice - how well the structure of the vessel adapts to the movement of the sea, how much wear and tear the hull sustains and how many mariners are required to sail it effectively," said Preben Sorensen of the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde which is spearheading the project.

So there will be no shelter from crashing waves and howling winds for the crew until the boat reaches its destination in mid-August. "What all crew members have in common is that we are all a bit crazy," Claus Oreskov, a 46-year-old Dane, told Associated Press.

The replica boat's arrival in the Irish capital - partly founded by the Vikings almost 12 centuries ago - will be an extraordinary home-coming, for the original vessel was built there exactly 965 years ago, after one of the city's Viking kings, Ivar Haraldsson, came to power in a military coup.