The Oseberg ship

The Very symbol of the Viking Age

The snakehead bowhead of the Oseberg ship is the very symbol of the Viking Age, known all over the world. Surrounded by mystery ever since her discovery just outside Tonsberg in 1904, we decided to build an exact reply and perhaps find some answers.

Jay Haavik gjør siste finpussen på utskjæringene før sjøsettingen i 2012. Foto: Jørgen Kirsebom
Jay Haavik is adding the final touch to the ship´s fantastic woodcarvings prior to the launch on June 20, 2012. (Photo: Jørgen Kirsebom)

Was the ship built purely for burial purposes? Could it really sail at all? Was the reconstruction following the excavation done correctly, or did the experts of the time make mistakes – mistakes that perhaps contributed to the fact that a 1980ies replica hardly proved to be seaworthy?

These were some of the questions that we wanted answers to through our shipbuilding. We therefore had to start by doing comprehensive research, including laser-scanning and physical inspections and measurements of the original ship. Then we had to decide on how we should understand the results. In doing so, we cooperated closely with Norway´s Museum of Cultural History/The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, and The Institute of Maritime Research/The Ship Model Tank in Trondheim, Norway. 

Based on the results, we decided to build our replica with the use only of Viking age tools and building methods. Huge logs of oak timber were split and axed into ship planks by hand. The archaeological material as seen on the original ship allowed for some minor adjustments to be made, especially at the keel and bow section. The result proved beyond all doubt that the Oseberg ship had been a great sailing vessel indeed, as proven during our first long voyage; to our friends at the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum in Denmark in 2015.

A queen on the water

The Oseberg replica was built in Tonsberg by a team of boat builders, commencing in the early summer of 2010. A crowd of some 20,000 – including Norway´s King Harald and Queen Sonja – watched her being launched on the 20thof June 2012. She was given the name Saga Oseberg, thus commemorating that the original ship was excavated at the Oseberg farm just outside Tonsberg in 1904. The Oseberg and nearby Gokstad finds are beyond discussion the most spectacular and important Viking Age discoveries anywhere.

Since her launch, Saga Oseberg has proven to be a great sailing ship, logging up to 11 knots or more in favourable winds. She is mainly used for sailing and rowing in her home waters, but is on accession also used by her crew for longer voyages. 

Welcome on board!

Tonsberg is still Saga Oseberg´s homeport. The ship can be hired by appointment. Rental will include 5-6 experienced Viking ship crew members. For details – see GO VIKING! – or contact by Email: ole.harald@sagaoseberg.no

During the summer of 2019 we shall for the first time offer open rowing sessions on fixed dates. Details will follow. This will be a unique experience; hardly anywhere else can you actually join a Viking ship crew for rowing.