The five Viking ships - The Skuldelev Ships

During the late Viking Age, a system of barriers are established on Roskilde Fjord, making it possible to control the sea routes to one of Denmark's great royal and ecclesiastical cities.

Three worn-out ships are towed out to the narrowest point, just outside the village of Skuldelev. The ships are filled with stones and sunk in the sailing channel Peberrenden, which is the most direct route to Roskilde. After twenty years, the barrier is reinforced with two more ships. An effective defence system is created.

A thousand years later an iron cofferdam is driven into the seabed around the barrier. One of the most significant excavations in Denmark can begin.

The Viking Ship Hall

The oldest part of the Museum, the Viking Ship Hall, is constructed as a showcase around the five Viking ships, found in Roskilde Fjord. Together, they provide a unique perspective on Viking Age maritime culture: shipbuilding, seamanship, trade, defence and warfare - and the ability to journey far and wide and explore new horizons.

A raw architectonic simplicity enhances the ship's lines and aesthetic. And a giant window and sweeping views over the fjord creates a background, that are connecting the ships to the water, once again. The experience is undisturbed and gives room for immersion and fantasy.

The permanent exhibitions unfolds this historically diverse and illustrative find: What were the ships used for a thousand years ago? Which role did they play in the Viking Age society? And how was life on board?

See film from the Sea Stallion voyage to Dublin, dress up as a Viking and go onboard at trading ship and a war ship.

The Skuldelev Ships

Skuldelev 1 is large ocean-going cargo ship from Sognefjord in western Norway.

The ship is built of heavy pine planks, and has a rounded form that gives it a high loading capacity and great seaworthiness on the North Atlantic. It is repeatedly repaired with oak near the Oslo Fjord and eastern Denmark. 

The ocean-going trader could have sailed all over the North Sea and the Baltic as well as in the North Atlantic. The ship and its cargo may have been owned by a chieftain or cooperatively by a group of merchants sailing it on traditing expeditions to the European markets. The ship had decks fore and aft as well as an open hold amidships. 

The Viking Ship Museum's reconstruction of Skuldelev 1, Ottar, is on display in the Museum Harbour. 

Dating: ca 1030
Place of construction: Western Norway
Preserved: 60 %
Material: pine, oak and lime
Length: 15.84 metres
Breadth: 4.8 metres
Draught: 1 metre
Displacement: 20 tons
No. of oars: 2-4
Crew: 6-8 men
Sail area: 90 m2
Average speed: 5-7 knots
Top speed: ca 13 knots

Skuldelev 2 is a war machine, built to carry many warriors at high speed. With a crew of 65-70 men, it was a chieftain's ship, like those praised in ancient scaldic verse and sagas.

Tree-ring analysis of the timber show that the ship was built of oak in the vicinity of Dublin around 1042. Vikings settled in Ireland in AD 800 and established several fortified bases along the Irish coast. These bases developed into towns, which today is amongst the biggest in Ireland. Here Vikings lived as merchants, mercenary soldiers and shipbuilders.

The long, narrow shape of the ship and the enormous sail allowed at great speed. And the manning of 60 oars made it possible to keep the ship moving even without wind. 

The Viking Ship Museum's reconstruction of Skuldelev 2, The Sea Stallion from Glendalough, is on display in the Museum Harbour.

Dating: 1042
Place of construction: Dublin, Ireland
Preserved: approx. 25 %
Material: oak
Lenght: approx. 30 metres
Breadth: 3.8 metres
Draught: 1 metre
Displacement: 26 tons (fully equipped)
No. of oars: 60
Crew: 65-70 men
Sail area: 112 m2
Average speed: 6-8 knots
Top speed: 13-17 knots
Average speed for oars: 2.5 knots

Skuldelev 3 is a small, elegant and sturdy trading ship, built for transporting goods in Danish coastal waters and the Baltic. The ship is the best preserved of the five Viking ships found in Roskilde Fjord, and was built of Danish oak. It had decks of loose planks fore and aft and an open hold amidships with room for about 4 tons of cargo. 

The ship may have been used when the owner and his associates or family travelled to a market or meetings at the assembly. 

Wind was the most important means of powering the ship, but the oars could be used when manoeuvring or when travelling short distances in calm weather. 

The Viking Ship Museum's reconstruction, Roar Ege, is on display at the museum harbour.

Dating: ca. 1040
Place of construction: Denmark
Preserved: ca. 75 %
Material: Oak
Length: 14 metres
Breadth: 3.3 metres
Draught: 0.9 metres
Displacement: 9.6 tons 
Cargo capacity: 4.6 tons
No. of oars: 5 oar ports
Crew: 5-8 men
Sail area: 45 m2 
Average speed: 4-5 knots
Top speed: 8-10 knots

Skuldelev 5 is one of the smallest long ship in a war fleet, and is ideal for sailing in Danish coastal waters and through the short, choppy waves of the Baltic.
Unlike the other Skuldelev ships, this ship is built using both new wood and recycled timber. A few years before the ship is sunk in the barrier, it is repaired with both new and recycled wood. We do not know why the ship is built this way, but the construction and repairs are carried out by skilled boatbuilders.

Along the sheerstrake there are fragments of the shield-rack, and on the 6th strake on the port side aft there are traces of a carved decoration. 

The Viking Ship Museum's reconstruction of Skuldelev 5, Helge Ask, is on display at the Museum Harbour.

Dating: ca. 1030
Place of construction: Denmark
Preserved: ca. 50 %
Material: oak, pine, ash and alder
Length: 17.3 metres
Breadth: 2.5 metres
Draught: 0.6 metres
Displacement: 7.8 tons 
No. of oars: 26
Crew: ca. 30 men
Sail area: 46 m2
Average speed: 6-7 knots
Top speed: ca. 15 knots

Skuldelev 6 is a fishing boat, built in the Sognefjord area in western Norway - at the same time and place as the ocean-going trader Skuldelev 1. It is orginally used for fishing in the deep Norwegian fjords, but is then increased with a plank in each side. During the alteration, the original rowlocks were removed and the number of oars reduced. The conversion presumably meant that the ship was used more for transport alng the Norwegian coast.
The Viking Ship Museum's two reconstructions of Skuldelev 6, Kraka Fyr and Skjoldungen, is on display at the museum harbour.

Dating: Ca. 1030
Place of construction: Western Norway
Preserved: Ca. 70 %
Material: pine, birch, and oak
Length: 11.2 metres
Breadth: 2.5 metres
Draught: 0.5 metres
Displacement: 3 tons
Original no. of oars: 14
Crew: 5-15 men
Sail area: 26.5 m2 
Average speed: 4-5 knots
Top speed: 9-12 knots