Lifestyle, Ludotheque

Rowing and the Vikings

Photo: Pixabay

Vikings have engaged the popular imagination since the island of Lindisfarne, home of a famous monastery, was raided by seafarers from the North in the year 793 AD. The Viking Age has inspired subsequent generations to keep their memory alive through books, films, theatre and paintings while recent TV-series such as Netflix’s Vikings and the BBC’s The Last Kingdom have renewed public interest in the topic. Game developers have created casino slot games, an example of which can be found by clicking here, that are set in the Viking Age.

Viking ships, clinker-built and propelled by both oar and sail, were used to navigate the seas and rivers of West Eurasia and North Africa as well as the wide expanses of the Atlantic Ocean. These marine vessels, possessing a keel and steering board, had a symmetrical stem and sternpost that were connected to the keel. Dragon-heads, intended to frighten the spirits that haunted the foreign lands which they visited, adorned the bows of these longships and were attached to the stem. The clinker, or lapstrake, method of skinning the hulls was typical of Northern European vessels during the Early Medieval period and was characterised by overlapping wooden planks that were joined by iron rivets.

Photo: Pixabay

Rowing a Viking ship was exhausting work and the crews of these marine vessels would have needed to possess considerable stamina, immense upper-body strength and thick callouses on their hands. The oarsmen, typically warriors from the Scandinavian countries that had been trained in the martial arts since boyhood, would also need to have acquired a significant amount of physical courage to brave life-threatening storms out at sea and to face the prospect of deadly combat with their foes. Life at sea was tough for the Vikings but it brought with it the prospect of glory, new lands to settle, untold riches and the prospect of spending the afterlife in Valhalla.


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