Viking ships were built during the Viking Age (780 – 1100) when the Vikings ranged long and far from their Scandinavian homelands. Vikings used their ships for raiding, trading, and traveling.
The special ships constructed by the Vikings, including the iconic longship, helped the Vikings in launching raids, traveling in shallow waters, and achieving the element of surprise in warfare.
For these reasons, Viking ships are considered an important part of the Viking culture.
The Longship was the type of ship most commonly used by the Vikings. It was used for assaults and quick landings. A longship had shallow and fluffy drafts that could be landed at any place without the requirement for a harbor.
It was essentially a long, swift, graceful, strong, and wide shallow draft hull. Vikings constructed these ships as elegant vessels. Longships had oarsmen who used oars to navigate them through the water. Typically, a longship had 16 rowers on each side. These men would powerfully use the oars to achieve speeds of up to 15 knots.
As the longships were small, slim, and worked fine in shallow water, Vikings could row or sail them 100 or more miles inland. This enabled them to launch attacks inland and reach sea islands and land without any available harbors. It also granted them the element of surprise as they could land anywhere, taking the enemy unawares.
The Longships were powered by both paddles and winds. They were symmetrical twofold finished, which enabled them to switch bearings without pivoting.
These were Viking ships built for crossing the Atlantic with room for livestock, tools, and a large number of people. These ships were typically 54 feet long and could carry a cargo of up to 122 tons.
This made them substantially larger than the longships. Knarr ships would rely on wind for power and the oars were only used during landings. These ships also fared better in rough seas and offered a safer mode of journey.
Viking ships such as the longships needed to be strong yet light and seaworthy at the same time. The Vikings achieved this by using clinker construction in which split oak planks were used for the hull.
Iron rivets were used to rivet the planks together while caulking was applied to ensure that the ship was waterproof.
Faering was the open rowboats used by the Vikings. These typically used two pairs of oars. Faering boats would occasionally carry a small sail. These boats were pointed at both ends and made out of wood. The frame was built like a shell into which ribs were assembled.
The length was mostly 3.4 m to 5.2 m. It was a lightweight boat often less than 80 to 90 kg.