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Old 07-08-2010, 16:02   #46
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Hi, no I have never been involved in the SCA but have been in several historical re-enactment groups.
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Old 07-08-2010, 16:16   #47
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I guess I'll have to revise my understanding. If someone has a reference describing the basis for that interpretation I'd appreciate it.

I'm having trouble visualizing how a longship could be constructed rigidly enough to not flex all over and fall apart. Small rowboats like an "eka" or a poswered "snipa" is one thing, but 60 to 150' loa with a complement of 100 men !?



-Sven

34 years ago while living part of my year in Denmark, I met my then current girlfriend's father whose was a Professor at Roskilde Univ...he also was an expert and unofficial/honorary curator of a viking burial site near Kirtiminde Fyn. He like all things Scottish especially if liquid and accompanied with bagpipe music. He and I would alternate whisky and "lille sorts" (sorry to Danes re spelling... Det er mange år det sidte gange jeg taller Dansk... Anyway one night he and I were discussing Scottish Bagpipe music which he called "bagpipes music" I teased the Professor of Language that "Bagpipe" was both singular and plural.

After returning to the table and drinks after checking the truth of that statement and noticing my superior air, he retaliated with his own question, which was “What is a Viking”. I naturally replied as you would expect. No he roared “it is the act/expedition”. He then regaled me which with an ancient poem. One I couldn’t remember when posting or in reading your post. I therefore put Viking-poem in my search engine and to my surprise Wikipedia threw up the quote he used “fara I Viking” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking#Etymology.

I have further attached a link to http://www.phoenician.org/ancient_ships.htm. They were much bigger than Viking ships and made some 1000 years before. So the technology was certainly there also from the photos very similar in look.

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Old 07-08-2010, 17:32   #48
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SvenG -
I'm having trouble visualizing how a longship could be constructed rigidly enough to not flex all over and fall apart. Small rowboats like an "eka" or a poswered "snipa" is one thing, but 60 to 150' loa with a complement of 100 men !?
This isn't as uncommon as one might think. Lindsay Lord's strip plank method is a modern example of precisely this type of thinking. 150' patrol boats have been built to this scantling rule and it's very successful.

For many generations, up until true water proof adhesives appeared during WW II, designers and engineers have long known it's easier to develop a structure that can "work" a little. Having neighboring, but separate structural elements help in load bearing and load transmission means you can use smaller "pieces" in the puzzle. The resulting structures often move, flex, distort, etc. underway. Since wood naturally has superb flexural qualities, it's only natural to exploit it.
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Old 07-08-2010, 22:38   #49
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On a viking ship, it was not uncommon for elements to flex as much as 15inches out of true, but the vessels were so designed that the actual strength lay in flexing rather than in attempting to be rigid. The true strength member was the very heavy keel. The rib framing simply maintained hull shape but contributed little rigidity, unlike vessels such as the north European cog. On Long ships, the overlapping planks were only about an inch thick and were carefully shaped by finishing axes rather than sawn, and flexible caulking made of jute or horsehair rope impregnated with pine tar (see Stockholm tar) was used to flex with the hull and prevent leakage.
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Old 08-08-2010, 01:58   #50
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I'm having trouble visualizing how a longship could be constructed rigidly enough to not flex all over and fall apart. Small rowboats like an "eka" or a poswered "snipa" is one thing, but 60 to 150' loa with a complement of 100 men !?
-Sven
I am not a skilled woodworker, but from my understanding, the 'concept' of the longships were to give the hull maximum flexibilty....

I wonder what they would have came up with given modern high-tech materials
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Old 08-08-2010, 02:50   #51
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The Vikings didn't design or engineer anything. They had no idea how much flex any particular hull might distort, nor did they care. There is no strength in flexing.

Looking at these types of builds from an engineering perspective makes for an interesting study, but only in hindsight. Yes, the frames (ribs) contributed to hull rigidity, particularly athwartship. Yes, the deadwood assembly contributed considerably to the longitudinal stiffness, but not as much as it would appear. The planks also participated considerably (more then 50%) in longitudinal stiffness.

These are all things that have been well understood for a few thousand years before the Vikings. The Vikings didn't go into a boat build with the idea they were going to build the most flexible boat they could. In fact, I'll bet they tried hard to remove the flex, as best as they could by drawing up lashings as tight as possible, pounding in jute until it was hard, incorporating stiffer structural floors and decreasing frame spacing, etc.

These are precisely the same techniques we use today and the same as was used in ancient Egypt. A modern lapstrake build can take three directions in regard to scantlings: one is to "marry" the planks at the laps, which we'd call glued lap. The resulting hull is rigid, tight and waterproof. Another method is to use thick planking and moderately spaced framing and floors. The planking bears a high percentage of longitudinal load and you can use fewer frames, but this is generally heavier then the third and most common method, which is closely spaced frames with light weight planking over substantial floors and deadwood.

Several modern wooden boat builders in the USA made tens of thousands of powerboats incorporating these very same engineering principles, during the middle of the 20th century.

I believe you all are over thinking what they did and attempted to do. These boats evolved, though quite slowly. For example they may have decreased lashing spacing, to help control leaks, or tried different types of joints or assembly techniques, but there wasn't any concerted effort to make them anything other then "serviceable". In other words, there's no performance advantage to flexible structures, so they didn't go looking for ways to improve it. In fact, flex would increase their leaking and part breaking issues, so I'm very sure they tried to decrease flexing as much as their technology would permit.

If you look at how they built these boats, it's very clear they addressed several naturally occurring or technology related issues. For example they split out their planks, following grain lines or the tree they were working. They did this because they found out (by trial and error) that this produced a stiffer plank, that was less prone to brakeage and more importantly was easier then sawing the planks out. They also used stop waters, which is clearly an innovation that someone tried on a whim that worked.

You have to remember these folks were relying on expertise as much as prayer. It's very probable they would pee on the jute before it was pounded in, to ward off the water demons that might attack it underway. With this level of "engineering" they were more lucky the clever. Now I know I just pissed off all the Viking lovers, but historically this is the case.

Though we don't have reliable tracking of shipping and commerce of this era, it's reasonable to expect that the tracking we see in the middle ages, could be extrapolated backwards and relative estimates made of success. 50% loses or worse would be the norm, not the exception, so now the light that glowingly falls on these ships isn't as bright as one might think. Damn, 50% - 60% loses, now that's an eye opener, especially if you're crew! This isn't an extreme view folks, it's not only reasonable, but pretty much what we'd expect from this technology, in this era of human development. For several hundred years this very slow, almost stagnant nautical development tortured humanity.
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Old 08-08-2010, 03:27   #52
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PAR

You've got a few interesting points there... but coupled with a lot of opinion and some none facts. The most odd seem to be your comments on jute.

If jute (a tropical fibre as we know) were to be found in amounts in scandinavia a thousand years ago It would be very suprising to me, and probably to a few scientists and archeologists as well. I would assume they used flax (linseed fibres) and tar for caulking, like it has been done at least until mid 1900s around Scandinavian waters.

Now, I have not, and will never claim any deeper knowledge either in history or boat design, I am a jack of all trades, master of none, type of guy.

What I DO know for a fact regarding the Vikings (which is BTW a label made in the 1800-1900s from people trying to make money from films, books or whatever, in a similar romantic manner as with 'wild-west' movies or 'samurai' movies for that matter) is that they were land-owners,farmers and craftsmen trying to expand their wealth by trading (mostly) and raiding. Most likely common behaviour at that time in history, and indeed even in our 'modern' time.

For me, the interesting thing is to consider why they were so extremely successful in their 'trade'.

To some extent, religion was an advantage in battle. Their belief was that any man who died in battle came to 'Valhalla' which was nothing but a 'fighters paradise' and only accessed by falling in fight. Thus, they were most likely not too troubled by bad conscience or second thoughts about fighting and killing nor by fear of dying. If their counterparts were truly good christians, this could have been an advantage for our dear vikings. Considering the Crusades, for example, I am not that convinced about the concept of good christians though.

So what kind of advantage DID they have that saw them conquer the large cities and indeed nations they ventured to despite the fact they were outnumbered at least at 10 to 1 wherever they came? That, to me is the really interesting question, and I have nowhere found the answer to it...

My hypothesis is that it was due to their vessels, which clearly was superior to anything existing at this time. Fast under sail or oarpower, light /more than flexible/-weight enough to be rolled on timber over ground to pass rapids on the rivers of what we know as Russia (the very word 'rus' is the slavic people's names on the 'vikings' btw; meaning fairskinned or blond)

These vessels made it possible to travel fast for trading, and also made it possible to attack unexpectedly once they choose to pick a fight. Guerilla warfare of sorts.

I believe that, without their outstanding skills as shipwrights and navigators, there wouldn't be such a thing as Vikings for us to debate here today.

Just my two cents, I am more than willing to listen to anyone more knowledgeable than me explaining their points o views...
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Old 08-08-2010, 06:35   #53
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Jute is a term I use loosely and incorrectly referring to most any threaded natural fibers. You are likely correct in that flax was employed.

The longships were quite good and evolved for specific uses, though most read way too much into development and consequence then was likely their reality. You are also correct in that they did considerably more trading and occupying lands that others couldn't make work, then raiding and pillaging, as this is ultimately self defeating, as all the attempts of European domination have proven.

I do think the religious element is grossly under estimated and this was probably a huge motivating force in the daily life of these people. After all this was one of the darkest eras of humanity in this regard, where nearly every clever attempt to control the masses had been tried, so the supreme being(s) card was played.

Back to the boats, lapstrake construction methods to this day is the lightest building method, unless you get into exotic materials and goos.
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Old 08-08-2010, 07:03   #54
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Back to the boats, lapstrake construction methods to this day is the lightest building method, unless you get into exotic materials and goos.

So, back to wondering how come they made better boats/ships than anyone else in their time, and as far as I understand, also were better navigators,....or mybe just more courageous.

I guess, no one as of today, has the answer to this questions.

As a sailor and navigator, of Nordic heritage, I will always be thrilled by this 'mystery'.
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Old 08-08-2010, 10:32   #55
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Someone had to be best at navigation and building, though both are purely speculative. I think there are several "clans" of Polynesian, that were if not equal, possibly better navigators. They were all courageous. East India Trading Co. records show 50% loses as far as the beginning of the 19th century, so you can only imagine what they experienced.
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Old 08-08-2010, 11:35   #56
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I think one of the things we need to do is step back and take a look at the longships in perspective. Essentially they were the result of a thousand years or more of regional shipbuilding and design. As PAR quite rightly says, they were the culmination of generations of trial and error--as would be the case with most technologies before the advent of modern engineering and man-made materials. The longships were also suited for the geographical area in which they were built and in which their use was intended--shallow draft and light weight necessary attributes as was a modest capacity for carrying cargo and goods (or warriors as the case may be). Shallow draft was necessary for navigation in much of the Baltic coastal areas as well as up rivers, while light weight was a requirement because a crew might have to portage their vessels between rivers and lakes to reach different trading centres where goods could be bought and sold. But, the longship was not ideal for trading expeditions because of its limited capacity and quite large crew. In that respect the knarrs and karves that plied the open seas between major harbours and settlements were better vessels with their deeper hulls and smaller crews and greater cargo capacity, but unlike the longships, they were limited to less shallow harbours and fjords where major trading centres tended to be established; and having smaller crews and being of heavier construction, they could not be easily portaged.

So where does this leave the longship? Obviously, warfare was a major role because its ability to navigate in areas deeper hulled knarrs and karves could not--it was something of the viking age version of a landing craft or LST. One sometimes gets the impression that the Norsemen were simple brute strength warriors charging in and laying waste to all they met, but this is a completely wrong assessment. In fact, when they did attempt head on clashes by directly attacking enemy strong points, they tended to lose as often as not. Major trade centres were often heavily garrisoned by the locals so Norsemen intent on raiding struck usually at poorly defended communities and by-passed the heavily populated and defended centres (in what Liddell-Hart called the indirect approach to warfare). This was where the longship really came into its own and found its ultimate fame as an elusive ship of war that allowed its crews to strike wherever they wanted, and don't forget the crews depended as much on their own cleverness, guile, and fearsome reputation to gain what they wanted with minimal losses.

Now then was the longship truly invincible--no, and there were other ships contemporary with it that were much better warships simply because they had been designed as such from the very start. Once feudalism took hold in medieval Europe, whereby local warlords (some of whom were actually Norsemen who settled the area) raised garrisons and standing fleets to hold vulnerable coastal areas in the name of their king, the Vikings found themselves being defeated more often as not. The longship, which had seemed so unstoppable, and indeed made the Viking Age possible, was no longer the weapon it once was.
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Old 08-08-2010, 20:33   #57
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Some years ago I and my youngest son had the pleasure of spending 2 weeks in Washington DC visiting a Viking era exhibit at the Smithsonian. I expected to see the remains of a rough cut society as depicted in the movies. What I found was a society where both men and women took pride in their appearance. They wore will tailored clothes of finely woven cloth, will made boots, and exquisitely crafted accessories. These were obviously not a bunch of dumb brutes.

To answer the question of whether or not this society had the wherewithal to come up with unique designs you only need to look at their implementation of a wagon. This wagon was lightly built of flexible wood and uniquely it could be disassembled for easy transport aboard their ships. No comparable wagon with these features as been found any place else in the world. So, if 4500 years ago the Egyptians could figure out how to built a giant pyramid at Giza, it is not to hard accept these Viking era people could figure out how to build the best ships of their time.

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Old 08-08-2010, 22:53   #58
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I therefore put Viking-poem in my search engine and to my surprise Wikipedia threw up the quote he used “fara I Viking” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking#Etymology.
Thanks for that. I should have known to go looking there

So it was originally (?) a verb which then later also referred to the one participating in the activity and finally included anyone living in the area at the time.

So, I stand corrected.

Maybe we need a viking subforum here on CF (joke).



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Old 08-08-2010, 22:57   #59
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Perhaps we Scandinavians need a sub-group to belong to.
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Old 08-08-2010, 23:08   #60
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Perhaps we Scandinavians need a sub-group to belong to.
Maybe. It is a different type of sailing and we're probably as active as any region per capita. The Swedish Cruising Club (Svenska Kryssarklubben) is the largest in the world with 40-43,000 individual members throughout Sweden, the rest of Scandinavia, Finland and Germany. I've read (but can't confirm) that Swedes own enough boats so that the whole population could set to sea at one time ... a fun claim even if it may not be true.



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