Ottar is sailing to Gotland

Ottar is a reconstruction of Skuldelev 1. The original ship was built in Sognefjord, Western Norway, around the year 1030, while Ottar was built at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde in 1999-2000. Ottar can carry about 20 tons, has square sails and a crew
Ottar is a reconstruction of Skuldelev 1. The original ship was built in Sognefjord, Western Norway, around the year 1030, while Ottar was built at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde in 1999-2000. Ottar can carry about 20 tons, has square sails and a crew of between 6 and 15 people.

Extra efforts are being made to prepare the sea-going Viking ship. This year, the destination is Gotland and nearly 800 nautical miles and many adventures await.

The ship and crew have all tried it before: In 2006, Ottar sailed to Edinburgh in Scotland. The goal that time was to find their way using simple navigation, as the Vikings did a thousand years ago. The crew navigated their way across the North Sea without the use of any charts, GPS or traditional compass.

Now they are setting off again. This time the destination is east to the large Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.

Follow the voyage on the website

You will be able to follow Ottar online here on the Viking Ship Museum’s website, from the moment that the ship casts off the last mooring in the Museum Harbour on 25 June until she returns around 7 August.

Communications equipment has been fitted on board the ship, which makes it possible to follow the ship’s voyage with information about the course, speed and position. The ship’s boatswain, Helene Bjerregaard, will write a travel blog along the way so that you can experience the voyage from your own home.

“We are a couple of crew members who wish to work with celestial navigation, and I’m sure we will also use the solar compass again. And there is always something happening when a ship like Ottar is underway. So yes, there will certainly be plenty to write home about” Helene explains. She also participated in the voyage to Edinburgh in 2006.

A voyage like in the Viking Age?

Naturally, in many ways this voyage will be very different from the trading voyages of the Viking Age, but the skipper on the first leg of the journey, Ole Sand, can point out a number of similarities with the past regarding conditions at sea. “We will sail a ship that is as similar to a merchant ship from the Viking Age as we are currently capable of reconstructing. Furthermore, we will also sail the ship in the way that we are believe it would have been sailed by the Vikings. We must sail on the sea with the wind driving us, and we will be dependent on the whims of the weather and the cycle of the days. These are the same conditions experienced by the Vikings when they sailed to Gotland or further afield” he says.

But the waters they will sail in are very different. Ole explains: “We will sail along the north coast of Zealand, down through the Oresund strait and up into the Baltic. Our modern society has significantly impacted these waters, which are amongst the busiest and most intensively used in the world. This ill make it a major challenge and far more demanding than it would have been during the Viking Age.”

Gotland - the gateway to the Byzantine Empire

Arriving at Gotland with a merchant ship from the Viking era is quite unique and will be accompanied by a deep sense of history. During the Viking Age, Gotland was the connection between east and west and one of the major trading centres, where goods were traded and transferred. Gotland was the gateway to the Russian rivers and the Byzantine Empire.

The prevailing winds during the summer months are from the west, driven by fronts coming in from the North Atlantic. This should make the trip to Gotland much easier than the return trip home to Roskilde. Once we have passed Falsterbo and turn east, there is a good chance of getting reliable and useful winds. If we enter a period with high pressure/summer weather, where a high pressure system forms over Scandinavia, this may lead to problems for the trip to Gotland. So, we are hoping for low-pressure weather on the voyage out and fine summer weather with high pressure on the return voyage.

A mixed group of men and women

The crew for the trip has been selected. A group of 14 men and women have only three weeks to prepare. And they are a mixed bunch:

  • The youngest crew member is 22 and the oldest is 65
  • Six women
  • Six crew with extensive experience in long-distance sailing
  • Students, graphic artists, forestry workers, smithies, geologists, office clerks, and many others ...
  • Mostly Danes, but also a Danish-Canadian and a Danish-Swiss

The motivation is the same: The desire to sail on a Viking ship is the primary motivation for all participants.

Ottar will sail from the Viking Ship Museum on 25 June and is expected to return on 7 August.

You can see a small exhibition about the ship at the museum, and you can follow the ship’s voyage on displays. The museum’s cinema is showing a film about the ship and how it is operated.

On the web address you can follow the ship’s voyage, read the travel blog and write to the ship’s crew throughout the trip.