On Sunday April 24th, 2016, the Draken Harald Harfagre (named after Harald Fairhair, first king of Norway) will set sail to cross the Northern Atlantic.
This is the stuff dreams are made of.
The 35 meter-long vessel, built in 2010, is a Viking Age replica of a longship, complete with a square silk sail, hemp ropes and an oak frame. It is crewed by 17 men and 17 women (half of which are volunteers selected from a pool of 4000 applicants). Although the ship recreates the nautical prowess of the first millennium, it is equipped with modern instrumentation, required by law for navigation in open waters.
The ship sets sails from Haugesund, in Norway, this coming Sunday, with the intent to reach the United States, docking in Connecticut in the fall. The mapped itinerary includes stopovers in Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland, Québec City, the Great Lakes and New York City. It will retrace part of Leif Erikson’s journey to America, around the year 1000 AD.
There is no cabin in the ship’s hull. Life on board is tough, cold and wet. The crew and captain sleep and cook their meals on the open deck. When the sea gets rough, water sloshes over and across, threatening to drag the crew overboard.
The Draken will have to face 12 days of open water, with no land insight, on its crossing from Iceland to Greenland (with the dreaded waters of cape Farvel ahead, at the southern tip of Greenland).
Spearheading the transatlantic crossing is Captain Bjorn Ahlander, a mariner of 50 years experience sailing the seas. He is renowned for his navigational exploits, having circumvented the globe.
A thousand years later, the travels of Leif Erikson still inspire generations to set out and explore the immensity of the North Atlantic Ocean. With nothing but courage and the desire for an everlasting legacy, Vikings set out on their longships for the edges of Midgard. Did they ever fear encountering Jormungand on the fringe of the world?
Whatever challenges the Vikings encountered then, the sailors of the Draken will face again, a thousand years later.
This only deepens our appreciation of Leif and his crew’s exploits, so long ago.
If you live along the Draken’s planned itinerary, keep an eye out for a Viking surprise this summer!