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Viking ships

Viking ships

Ships

Viking ships were marine vessels of unique structure, used in Scandinavia from the Viking Age throughout the Middle Ages. The boat-types were quite varied, depending on what the ship was intended for, but they were generally characterized as being slender and flexible boats, with symmetrical ends with true keel. They were clinker built, which is the overlapping of planks riveted together. Some might have had a dragon's head or other circular object protruding from the bow and stern for design, although this is only inferred from historical sources. Viking ships were used both for military purposes and for long-distance trade, exploration and colonization.

Viking ship pictured in the coat of arms of Saare County, Estonia

In the literature, Viking ships are usually seen divided into two broad categories: merchant ships and warships, the latter resembling narrow "war canoes" with less load capacity, but higher speed. However, these categories are overlapping; some transport ships would also form part of war fleets. As a rule, ship lanes in Scandinavia followed coastal waters, hence a majority of vessels were of a lighter design, while a few types, such as the knarr, could navigate the open ocean. The Viking ships ranged from the Baltic Sea to far from the Scandinavian homelands, to Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Newfoundland, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and Africa.

One particular advantage of the Viking ship is the comparatively low weight, making land transport and portage routine, as in crossing Jutland instead of rounding Skagen to enter or exit the Baltic Sea, and travel on the river networks of Eastern Europe.

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