Job announcement for a position as a real-life Viking sea captain in Norway! Yikes. I really wish they’d offered a grad seminar on sailing at UCB. Oh well. I did get to row in a… well, not really a Viking ship, but a 19th century Norwegian fishing boat that was clinker-built in the manner of the Viking ships. A bunch of us aspiring (or already established) Old Norse philologists, paleographers, and general trouble makers took a field trip to the Viking Ship museum in Roskilde and got to go out (they didn’t let us in the actual Viking reproductions though…).
I didn’t think I did too bad, but I definitely saw a few of us academic types rowing counter to each other while chatting and completely ignoring what our wild and wooly and increasingly frustrated Norwegian sea caption was trying to tell us. No one got knocked overboard by the boom (or whatever it’s called), but there were some close calls. Lesson to be learned: being a Viking scholar does not make one a Viking.
Viking ships were great technological innovations of course, and maybe one of these days I will have a chance to talk more about them–the cliff’s notes version: the clinker construction (overlapping strakes along the whole length of the ship) allowed the ship to flex and survive rough seas (so it could go in deep water–great range, in other words), the shallow draft allowed it to go in shallow water (including up creeks–so very far inland), and the adoption of the sail just prior to the Viking age (if I am remembering correctly) meant less rowing, hurray!
And remember that according to one current theory, the term Viking itself comes from the rowing shifts on a voyage abroad!