The Return

An incongruous image here? 

by Michael Djordjevitch

The Chicago Exhibition of 1893, in celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of the Americas, also commemorated, through the arrival of this ship, The Viking, seen above and below, Leif Eriksson’s discovery of North America five hundred years earlier.  

The Viking, was a replica of a then very recently discovered Viking ship, now known as the Gokstad, which had begun to be excavated in 1880.  This was the very first well preserved Viking Longship known through archeology, and through its replica became one of the earliest instances of experimental archeology.  A seasoned seaman, Captain Magnus Andersen, sailed the replica across the Atlantic, from Norway to New York, up the Hudson, through the Erie Canal and across the Great Lakes to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.   



Below we encounter a contemporary Viking ship, the Draken Harald Hårfagre, currently the world's largest, built as the recreation of a standard 50-oar ocean-capable Viking battleship: an exercise in experimental archaeology bringing together knowledge gained through a century of scholarly excavation, along with the near two thousand year old Norwegian shipbuilding tradition and the Norse Sagas.   

“Summer in the Greenland Coast Circa Year 1000,” by the tragically fated Jens Erik Carl Rasmussen (1841–1893).

That the Vikings could do this, sail the treacherous North Atlantic, has been actively demonstrated through these captivating reenactments.  That they did do it has been shown by the discovery of the remains of a Viking settlement in Eastern Canada, confirming the witness of the Icelandic Sagas.  However, how they did it, that is, navigate the North Atlantic, remains an abiding mystery, still open to much speculation and further discovery.  Was it by a highly developed knowledge of the stars together with the sun and moon?  Likely, but much remains to be discovered and demonstrated.  

“Leif Eriksson Discovers America,” by Christian Krohg (1893).   

The Draken Harald Hårfagre setting out to confront the challenges of the North Atlantic.

A 1925 US 5c Postage Stamp featuring the Viking, for the Norse-American Centennial.

For more on Viking ships and economy see here: