Shipbuilding expertise allowed trade, travel and exploration

Vikings were skilled shipbuilders, sailors and navigators, allowing trade, travel, exploration, raiding and expansion from the late 8th to the early 11th centuries.

Ships facilitated everyday transportation and were the foundation of Viking power. Vessels were used for various purposes, from cargo ships to fishing vessels.

Text and images obtained from the sagas, archaeological remains and written sources have helped us to know what Viking ships may have looked like.

Ships were clinker built: a unique construction with overlapping planks held together with iron rivets and made watertight with tarred wool or animal hair. Oak was used for the most substantial warships but archaeological excavation has revealed that ash, elm, pine and larch were also used in construction.

Several well-preserved or sunken Viking ships have been identified and excavated, increasing our understanding of the technology and variety of vessels used during the Viking Age. In Norway, excavations in the waterlogged clay of royal burial mounds at Gokstad in 1880, and Oseberg in 1906, identified almost intact longships with carved decoration.

The longship was the most iconic, powered by sail or oars and constructed with a keel to give stability in large bodies of water but also able to navigate rivers. They were used primarily for trade, commerce, exploration and warfare.

Knarr is the Norse term for larger ships that were built for Atlantic voyages, with a capacity for carrying over one hundred tons of people and cargo. The Karve was a smaller type of longship, able to navigate in very shallow water.