The Ship's Crew
The Norwegian Gulating law From the 1100 - 1200 is the most in depth text about organisation and hierarchy on board the long ships in the Viking Age. It includes several passages about the building process, manning the fleet, rules for the skipper, steersman and cook and war equipment.
Fra museets mange forsøgsrejser ved vi meget om vikingeskibets besætning i nutiden. Da Havhingsten var på togt til Irland bestod besætningen af næsten 140 mænd og kvinder i alle aldre.Men kun 60 - 62 af disse sejlede på skibet ad gangen. Halvvejs i sejladsen byttede de besætningsmedlemmer, der ikke kunne være med i 6 uger, plads med nye. En del befandt sig på en venteliste og kunne træde til, hvis nogen måtte stå af undervejs.
Steersman and skipper
The words skipper and steersman or helmsman were not used in the same way in Viking times as they are today. The skipper on the Sea Stallion is the ship’s captain or commanding officer, and the helmsman is the skipper’s subordinate and deputy. But in Viking times it may have been the other way round. The steersman in Viking times was the ship’s owner and had military command, whereas the skipari (skipper) was the next-in-command or an ordinary member of the crew.
But not much has changed since Viking times when it comes to the skipper’s role on board. The skipper and helmsmen – just like 1000 years ago – have overall responsibility for the ship, crew and equipment – and for making sure the ship reaches its destination.
Old Norwegian legal texts speak of the rules for ordinary members of the crew on warships in Viking times. They were called holumenn and were young men chosen by the steersman. They had no choice about sailing, had fixed watches, and often had to supply the ship’s weapons.
The hands on board the Sea Stallion in 2007–8 are all volunteers, but just as in Viking times are divided into watches. Instead of weapons, however, they have safety and navigation equipment.
The ship’s cook in Viking times was called a journeyman cook, and according to old law texts the cook on a warship ashore had to fetch fresh water and make hot meals three times a day.
The Sea Stallion has a team of two chief stewards who can easily make hot food on board the ship.
Barber-surgeons in the Viking Age?
There are no written sources or laws from the Viking Age mentioning a barber or surgeon on board the war ships. But finds from the Iron Age proofs that they had surgical instrument for treatment of war wounds. The arabic author Ibn Fadlan writes about the treatment and hygiene of the Vikings.
On board the Sea Stallion is a nurse. She is a regular crew member, She dosen't treat war wounds, but diseases like sea sickness, heat stroke and little cuts.
We do not know for certain whether the boat builder (filungar) was part of the permanent crew on the big longships of Viking times. But his tools were definitely on board, so minor repairs could be made during a voyage.
Today, there are two boat builders on the Sea Stallion. They are there to keep an eye on the ship, but also to carry out repairs if the ship is damaged.
In Viking times there were professional storytellers called bards. The bard was often one of the retainers of a king or chief, and his most important job was to tell dramatic stories about the king or chief’s heroic deeds.
The Sea Stallion has a modern bard, a press officer, on board. Just as in the old days, he has to tell exciting stories. But while the bard’s stories were always about the mighty men and were often told to guests in the king’s hall, the Sea Stallion’s press officer tells stories about the ship, the voyage and the crew for the press and the web site.