Viking Longship show in Copenhagen

CNC report from Copenhagen
Added On June 24, 2013

The National Museum in Copenhagen opens its door for a spectacular Viking exhibition.

The wreck of the longest Viking longship in the world is the main attraction of this season. And it is the first time that Viking longship has been showed since it was found at Roskilde in 1997.

The exhibition tells the story of the Vikings of Denmark who were feared all over Europe because of the large fleets of ships with fierce warriors.

The ship is called Roskilde Six because it was excavated in Roskilde fjord in 1996-1997 together with several other smaller ships, but it was originally built in Norway supposedly in the year 1025.

Ships of these dimensions enabled Danish and Norwegian kings to transport large numbers of warriors very quickly, which was the prerequisite for being able to conquer England and maintain their domination of the North Sea regions for several centuries. 

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH): DR PETER PENTZ, Danish National Museum Curator:
"This 37 meter long ship was definitely a high class ship and probably belonged to a Viking king. Of course we do not know exactly but the size of this vessel indicates that this was a royal vessel. In its hay days it must have carried 100 men and those 100 men would have been warriors. The ship would have been fast rowed by these 100 warriors and it would have been among the fastest ships of its time."

Around 25 percent of the original oak wood that the ship was built of was preserved as it was lying in Roskilde Fjord. But to be able to put in on exhibition like it is now, it has taken a great deal of effort. Not the least to prevent the old planks to disintegrate when they dried out of water. To prevent this very special process of impregnating it with a special kind of wax through a freeze-dry process has been going on for years.

"A reconstruction was made in order to build this steel support. You see here and in order to give the conservators the right shape in which they should freeze-dry the smaller parts of the ship. And all together when it was decided that we were going to use this ship back in 2009 we have been focusing on this set up for four years doing freeze-dries of the wood. I think we have spent 8-10.000 man hours working on it and we have been carrying out 9 freeze-dry processes of five month each and we had a blacksmith company building this support for us over one year."

The ship is contemporaneous with the Danish king Canute the Great, who conquered England in 1016 and Norway in 1028 and it was probably part of his fleet.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH): DR PETER PENTZ, Danish National Museum Curator:
"We are in the late Viking period so this ship would have been part of a fleet and we have written sources telling us about fleets up to almost 200 ships. Whether all of them were of this size is questionable. I could imagine that this would have been one of the largest in a fleet."

When a Viking fleet arrived to the coast of a country they would conquer or simply loot or claim ransom for not attacking, they would be a terrifying sight.

Not only because of the large scale fleet that would be seen, but also because of the look and the reputation of the Viking warriors, who was known as extremely violent and ruthless when they went into a fight.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH): DR PETER PENTZ, Danish National Museum Curator:
"I do believe that their attitude was much violent than previously expected. In this exhibition for instance we show teeth that have been filed horizontally for decoration in order to look frightening. And we know that they had tattoos, they painted their faces so in everything they must have looked awful and must have struck their enemies with fear."

Viking is a travelling exhibition, which will move onto London and Berlin.

The construction makes it possible to simply pack it all into two climatized containers, so the last journey for the Viking longship has not been made yet. Chances are that it will go on an even longer trip than ever before. Perhaps even to China.

"We hope that we will be able to come to China. It should be possible and if that happens then the ship will definitely come longer now than it did when it was sailing."

The VIKING show opened on June 22 and will last until November 17.