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Viking ship replica re-enacts age-old journey

A replica Viking ship sailed triumphantly into Dublin’s harbor Tuesday after attempting to re-enact the arduous 1,000-mile journey Scandinavian warriors made more than a millenium ago.
The Viking warship replica, the Sea Stallion of Glendalough, makes its way from Dublin Bay into Dublin Port, Ireland
The Viking warship replica makes its way to Dublin's harbor after attempging to reenact a 1,000-mile journey.REUTERS/Maxwells/Handout
/ Source: The Associated Press

A replica Viking ship sailed triumphantly into Dublin’s harbor Tuesday after attempting to re-enact the arduous 1,000-mile journey Scandinavian warriors made more than a millenium ago.

But this time around, there was a little towing with the rowing, and absolutely no pillaging.

The six-week journey of the ship “Stallion of the Sea” crossed the waters of northern Europe from Scandinavia, around Scotland and into the Irish Sea, retracing the path of Vikings who invaded Ireland. At times, it passed through violent waters and high winds.

Spectators cheered and sailors blew their horns as the ship drew into the harbor in Dublin, which was founded by Vikings in the 9th century.

The 65-member crew was overjoyed upon arrival.

“Of course we’re happy,” Capt. Poul Nygaard told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “Tonight we will be celebrating in an Irish pub.”

Danish culture minister Brian Mikkelsen, watching the ship arrive, chose the occasion to apologize for the Viking invasions of Ireland.

“In Denmark, we are certainly proud of this ship, but we are not proud of the damages to the people of Ireland that followed in the footsteps of the Vikings,” Mikkelsen said. “But the warmth and friendliness with which you greet us today and the Viking ship show us that, luckily, it has all been forgiven.”

The Vikings, who hailed mainly from Denmark but also from neighboring Scandinavian countries, plundered Ireland and Britain through the eighth and ninth centuries, briefly conquering a vast stretch of England. Denmark’s royal family traces its lineage to Viking king Gorm the Old, who died in 958.

Experts have long wondered at the Vikings’ navigational prowess and the ship was intended to simulate the conditions of a Viking voyage from Scandinavia to Ireland. But it carried some decidedly un-Viking-like equipment — a support ship, global positioning systems, radar, radio, life jackets, survival gear and satellite weather forecasts.

The initial plan was to travel nonstop from Roskilde to Dublin relying only on the wind and raw rowing power — like Viking warriors did 1,000 years ago. But when the winds were not cooperative, the crew stowed their oars and had their vessel towed 345 miles across the North Sea.

Nevertheless, the experiment has proven the seaworthiness of Viking vessels, said Anton Englert, a curator at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, where the original is on display. He said it would have been too difficult — and dangerous — to completely recreate the original sea crossing.

“We modern people cannot in the course of one summer season make up for the navigational experience and feeling of weather-hardened Viking Age professionals,” he said in an e-mail.

The crew had been blogging from the boat and well-wishers could follow the progress using satellite imagery by Google Earth.

The 100-foot Stallion is a replica of a Viking ship believed to have been built in 1042 in Glendalough, Ireland. The craftsmen who built it used Viking-era tools.

Englert said the ship’s arrival in Ireland would close an archaeological circle, returning a copy of the ship to where the original was made.

The replica will be kept at the National Museum of Ireland, which is dedicating a special exhibition to the Sea Stallion before it sails back to Denmark next year.

The ship’s crew came from Britain, Ireland, the United States, Germany, Australia and Scandinavia.