The Viking ships are indeed an integral part of the European history and also the world heritage. The Vikings were an advanced warrior race of Scandinavia and they flourished in the period between the 8th and 11th centuries A.D. Many historians have also not shied in mentioning them as conquerors of the sea. This was basically because they were instrumental in discovering many lands far and wide, which were not accessed back then, like Iceland, Russia, Greenland, Britain and even Turkey. Also they conquered these lands, plundered them, and stamped their authority in these regions.
The main and the most outstanding feature of the Vikings were their naval fleet. The medieval Viking ships were strong, durable, finely crafted and quite ahead of their times in many respects. The sea and their vessels formed an indispensable part of the culture of the Vikings which was based on a supreme code of honour to be followed in both justice and warfare. If categorized broadly, the Viking ships fall into three major types,
a) the Knarr- a large vessel for transportation
b) the Karv- a relatively smaller vessel used for near coast sailing and exploration and
c) Longships- which were military battle ships.
The most unique feature of the medieval Viking ships was there design, irrespective of the fact that whether the ships were the transportation kind or the exploration or the warfare ones. Over the years these have come to be known as the serpent head or the dragon head but the truth is that not all Viking ships had these different heads. These were mainly designed for warships and some vessels owned by the nobles and officials. Back then the technology of sails had not yet been discovered by man and therefore these ships were propelled by oars. Even then the Vikings were able to manufacture huge ships designed for transportation and cargo, some of which used 35 pairs of oars. In spite of the difficult mechanism and design the Vikings were able to develop swift ships which were very quick and easy to maneuver.
For e.g. the Knarr was known for its maneuverability along with their loading capacity. Larger capacity cargo ships which routinely transported heavy loads were called the Busse and some others in the same category have been mentioned as Sud, Snekke, Skeide and Drakkar, all of which were large in size. Out of these the Drakkar were the ones which were owned by the superior ranked officials and warriors and therefore had the customary dragon designed head. Some other models of the medieval Viking ships that were a little smaller in size and used for other purposes were Skute, Byrdling and Ferje.
In conclusion it can be said that the Viking ships were strong and durable and their design allowed them to be swift as well. Considering the limited technological tools available at that time they made ships that had overlapping thick boards of wood with a single mast and parallel long oars. This is an engineering design that is hard to find among their contemporaries.
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References: Viking, Lore-and-saga, Aldokkan