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How did the Vikings travel across the sea?

The Vikings travelled to other lands such as Britain in ships called Longships.

The Longship was the warship of the Vikings and was able to travel relatively fast and cover a large distance.

A Longship was usually between 20 and 35m long. The largest Longship discovered was at Roskilde and is 35m long.

The Longships would carry between 20 and 60 Viking warriors each with his own weapons and shield.

They were well made, strong, lightweight and shaped to sail quickly through the water.  They were able to sail across very rough seas. They were also were specially designed to have a very shallow hull or bottom.  This allowed them to sail up right onto the beach or sail up shallow rivers and right into the centre of many of the villages they were invading.

The ships were built of pine wood planks which overlapped.  A waterproof tar also made from pine trees was then used add an extra seal the wooden joints. Each Longship had a single mast which held a large square sail.  The sails were made of woven wool and were brightly coloured. On each side of the ship there were oars for rowing when there was no wind.

In bad storms, the sail could be lowered and pulled over the ship like a tent to protect the warriors inside.

The Vikings carved a figure head at front of their ships into special shapes such as the head of a dragon. The ships had names such as Serpent of the Sea.

The Longship was very special to the Vikings.  When a chief or leader died, the ship was sometimes buried in the grave.  This was thought to help the dead person to quickly sail to Valhalla.

When an important warrior Viking died, they were placed in their ships and the ship was then set on fire as it sailed slowly away.

In 1906, the Oseberg Longship was discovered in Norway.  It is the best preserved Viking ship to be found by archaeologists.

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The Oseberg Longship
Longship figure head
Model Longship
with oars
Viking Longship
with square sail
Viking Longship
with square sail