The Best Thing Today — Roskilde Viking Ship Museum

August 10, 2016

Sea Stallion from Glendalough. Photo by MJP.

All of my life I have stipulated my last name as ‘Petersen … spelled with an ‘sen’.’  That technique works much of the time, but I eventually adapted to the reality that spelling surprises happen when you are a Petersen.  Like the time when a new Avalon lease was acquired and our paperwork person managed to get the lease contract correct, but the DMV name incorrect.  Petersen/Peterson.

The new Ms. Petersen is as baffled as me about root cases for these anomalies, so we decided to return to the source: a Viking Shipbuilding Museum, at Roskilde.

Viking ship methods - lap cutting by hand. Photo by MJP.
Viking ship methods – lap cutting by hand. Photo by MJP.

This is a museum full of wonder.  A very active team of employees and volunteers are busy explaining what is known about Viking shipbuilding and what is not known.  Essentially, there are no ‘instructions’ for Viking shipbuilding.  This means that all participants attempt to reverse engineer how boats were crafted and, actually, what they looked like.  Historians only know what tools the Vikings had to work with, and what materials existed at the time.  This information, plus a few examples of discovered boats and rough drawings, is all they have to build their working models.

The process is trial and error.  Reconstructions are built, then taken out to sea for trial, then modified and adjusted, then taken thorough that cycle all over again.

Patty sailing. Photo by MJP.

Pat and I sailed on one for a short time and were able to see first hand how the ships are believed to be constructed, and how they would then be taken to sea.  We did just fine on the short excursion.  No one got wet and everyone else in the boat passed the rowing test.

Detailed presentations about building techniques were also explained and demonstrated.  I never expected that Rope Maker was a viable trade, today or in yesteryear.  But in fact, there are artisans who today make rope by hand and, of course, in years gone bye.  The process of winding various materials into a usable rope is best left for the expert.  Eg, someone willing to callous their hands after infinite hours of twisting various fibrous materials into a strong and useful cord.

The day was fun and informational.  All of the staff was highly informed, friendly, and eager to answer questions.

Thumbs up and recommended for all!

Danes themselves have no problem with our ‘Petersen,’ but at end of day we were no more informed as to American mis-spellings as when we started.


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