How Far Did Vikings Travel?

How Far Did Vikings Travel
Erupting out of Scandinavia in the eighth century AD, the Vikings dominated northern Europe, but their influence stretched as far as Russia, Asia, North Africa and the Middle Eastthe Middle East The Middle East (Arabic: الشرق الأوسط, ISO 233: ash-Sharq al-Awsat) is a geopolitical term that commonly refers to the region spanning Arabia (including the Arabian Peninsula and Bahrain), Asia Minor (Asian part of Turkey except Hatay Province), East Thrace (European part of Turkey), Egypt, Iran, the Levant (including https://en.

How far did the Vikings explore?

The Vikings were capable sailors and this enabled them to travel widely. Their ships were highly advanced and, in particular, the progress made in the use of the sails was of great significance. The Viking ships reached as far away as Greenland and the American continent to the west, and the Caliphate in Baghdad and Constantinople in the east.

  1. In the second half of the 9th century it became increasingly common for the Vikings to settle in the countries that they had previously ravaged;
  2. The Danes lived especially in England and Normandy;
  3. Scotland, Ireland and the islands of the North Atlantic were favoured by the Norwegians;

The Swedes, on the other hand, settled in north-western Russia. These newcomers made a living as farmers, craftsmen and traders.

How far would a Viking ship travel?

It was capable of sailing 75 miles (121 km) in one day, and held a crew of about 20–30. Knarrs routinely crossed the North Atlantic in the Viking Age, carrying livestock and goods to and from Greenland and the North Atlantic islands.

How far did the Vikings get in America?

Half a millennium before Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic, the Vikings reached the «New World», as the remains of timber buildings at L’Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of Canada’s Newfoundland testify. The Icelandic sagas – oral histories written down hundreds of years later – tell of a leader named Leif Erikson and a settlement called «Vinland», assumed to be coastal North America.

But while it is known that the Norse landed in Canada, exactly when they set up camp to become the first Europeans to cross the Atlantic, marking the moment when the globe was first known to have been encircled by humans, has remained imprecise.

Now scientists using a new type of dating technique and taking a long-ago solar storm as their reference point have established that the settlement was occupied in AD1021 – all by examining tree rings. Three juniper and fir logs that were cut from the Newfoundland settlement date it to exactly a millennium ago, 471 years before Columbus’s first voyage.

  1. It has been thought that the settlement, L’Anse aux Meadows, was thriving somewhere between 990 and 1050;
  2. This was based on stylistic analysis of architectural remains and a handful of artefacts examined after the settlement was discovered 60 years ago;

The dates also tally with interpretations of the Icelandic sagas, which were written down in the 1200s This study, published in the journal Nature, made use of the cosmic-ray induced upsurge in atmospheric radiocarbon concentrations during a known solar storm in AD993, which released an enormous pulse of radiation that was absorbed by trees at the time.

The logs, with bark still attached, were from trees alive during that solar storm, and excavated from the site. Such solar storms are reflected in annual tree growth rings. In all three samples, 28 growth rings were formed after the one that bore evidence of the storm, meaning the trees were cut in AD1021.

Ordinary radiocarbon dating – determining the age of organic materials by measuring their content of a particular radioactive isotope of carbon – proved too imprecise to date L’Anse aux Meadows when the site was discovered in 1960, although there was a general belief it was from the 11th century.

Proof that the trees were cut by Vikings was there, too. «They had all been modified by metal tools, evident from their characteristically clean, low-angle cuts. Such implements were not manufactured by the Indigenous inhabitants of the area at the time,» the study by scientists at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands said.

«We provide evidence that the Norse were active on the North American continent in the year AD1021. This date offers a secure juncture for late Viking chronology. More importantly, it acts as a new point of reference for European cognisance of the Americas , and the earliest known year by which human migration had encircled the planet.

» The Vikings possessed extraordinary boat-building and navigation skills, establishing settlements on Iceland and Greenland. «Much kudos should go to these northern Europeans for being the first human society to traverse the Atlantic,» Michael Dee, a geoscientist and co-leader of the study, told Reuters.

The date corroborates two Icelandic sagas – the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Erik the Red – that recorded attempts to establish a settlement in Vinland by a leader named Leif Erikson. Also known as Leif the Lucky, he was the son of Erik the Red, who was the founder of the first Norse settlements in Greenland.

  • According to the Saga of the Icelanders, Leif established a Norse settlement at Vinland, which is usually interpreted as being coastal North America, though speculation remains over whether this is the L’Anse aux Meadows settlement;

«I think it is fair to describe the trip as both a voyage of discovery and a search for new sources of raw materials,» Dee said. «Many archaeologists believe the principal motivation for them seeking out these new territories was to uncover new sources of timber, in particular.

How long were Viking journeys?

The Vikings were well known not just for their boat-building skills but also for their long and mostly successful voyages. As skilled sailors, they were able to reach faraway lands using their famed longships. But how long did it take them to sail to England? Well, let’s find out.

Although the Vikings gained a reputation of being invaders, barbarians, predators, and bloodthirsty warriors, their achievements go far beyond raiding and plundering their neighbors. Well, they were capable sailors; something that enabled them to travel far and wide.

From Greenland to the Americas to the Caliphate in Baghdad, the Vikings were great sailors who could traverse the oceans to faraway lands. But even with that, the Vikings seemed to have a special attraction to England. With that in mind, you’ve probably been asking; how long did it take the Vikings to sail to England? The Vikings’ homeland was Scandinavia in what is today Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.

To sail to England or northern Britain in particular, it would take The Vikings about 3 to 6 days in good and favorable conditions at an average speed of 8 knots. But in foul weather, the Vikings could delay their departure, run ahead of the storm, or travel at an average speed of 3 knots with numerous stops, which would then mean that they would even take eight weeks if a serious storm blew up.

Let’s look at how they did it.

What was the average height of a Viking?

‘The examination of skeletons from different localities in Scandinavia reveals that the average height of the Vikings was a little less than that of today: men were about 5 ft 7-3/4 in. tall and women 5 ft 2-1/2 in.

Why didn’t the Vikings stay in North America?

Why Didn’t They Stay? The Viking presence in North America had dwindled to nothing long before Columbus began island hopping in the Caribbean. Why did the Norse fail where other Europeans succeeded? After all, Vikings were consummate seamen and peerless raiders who populated marginally inhabitable Greenland and who would push their way into the British Isles and France.

And with their iron weapons and tools, they had a technological edge over America’s indigenous peoples. Several explanations have been advanced for the Vikings’ abandonment of North America. Perhaps there were too few of them to sustain a settlement.

Or they may have been forced out by American Indians. While the European conquest was abetted by infectious diseases that spread from the invaders to the Natives, who succumbed in great numbers because they had no acquired immunity, early Icelanders may not have carried similar infections.

But more and more scholars focus on climate change as the reason the Vikings couldn. t make a go of it in the New World. The scholars suggest that the western Atlantic suddenly turned too cold even for Vikings.

The great sailing trips of Leif and Thorfinn took place in the first half of the 11th century, during a climatic period in the North Atlantic called the Medieval Warming, a time of long, warm summers and scarce sea ice. Beginning in the 12th century, however, the weather started to deteriorate with the first  frissons  of what scholars call the Little Ice Age.

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Tom McGovern, an archaeologist at Hunter College in New York City, has spent more than 20 years reconstructing the demise of a Norse settlement on Greenland. In the middle of the 14th century, the colony suffered eight harsh winters in a row, culminating, in 1355, in what may have been the worst in a century.

McGovern says the Norse ate their livestock and dogs before turning to whatever else they could find in their final winter there. The settlers might have survived if they had mimicked the Inuit, who hunted ringed seal in the winter and prospered during the Little Ice Age.

  1. With sea ice making the routes from Iceland to Greenland and back impassable for Norse ships for much of the year, the Little Ice Age probably curtailed further Norse traffic to North America;
  2. Iceland also fared badly during this time;

By 1703, weather-related food shortages and epidemics of plague and smallpox had reduced Iceland’s population to 53,000, from more than 150,000 in 1250. It’s worth pondering how the history of the West might have differed if the weather had remained balmy.

Norse populations in Iceland and Greenland might have flourished, and the Vikings might have remained in North America. If the temperature had been a few degrees higher, some of North America might be speaking Norse today.

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Is Kattegat a real place?

Kattegat, where the series Vikings is set, is not a real place. Kattegat is the name given to the large sea area situated between Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Thanks to Vikings, many people assume Kattegat is a village in Norway but this is not the case.

Is Ragnar Lothbrok real?

According to medieval sources, Ragnar Lothbrok was a 9th-century Danish Viking king and warrior known for his exploits, for his death in a snake pit at the hands of Aella of Northumbria, and for being the father of Halfdan, Ivar the Boneless, and Hubba, who led an invasion of East Anglia in 865.

Are there black Vikings?

A small number of Vikings had black—or brown—skin , according to reliable historical evidence. For centuries, dark-skinned people either willingly traveled to Scandinavia or were forcibly taken there as slaves. Over time, some assimilated with the Vikings through farming, marriage, combat, and other cultural factors.

Who is the most famous Viking?

Ragnar Lothbrok Arguably the most famous Viking warrior of them all, not least for his role as the leading protagonist in Vikings, the History Channel’s popular drama.

Why did the Vikings not stay in Canada?

Around the turn of the first millennium, Norse travellers arrived in North America. They settled in a land they named Vinland, which the sagas boasted of having grapes to make wine and an abundance of natural resources. However, the colony did not last. Brigitta Wallace, one of the leading scholars on the Vikings in North America, examines why their settlements failed.

Wallace, a senior archaeologist for Parks Canada, presented her paper  ‘L’anse aux Meadows: Different Disciplines, Divergent Views,» at the Sixteenth Viking Congress, which was held in Iceland in 2009.

The papers from that conference have recently been published in Viking Settlements and Viking Society. She sees Vinland as comprising the coastal areas around the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with L’Anse aux Meadows being the most likely location of what was called Straumfjord at the north end, that the location known as Hóp according to saga sources would be in the Miramichi or Chaleur Bay areas of eastern New Brunswick.

  1. Wallace believes that the connection between the Norse settlement in Greenland was instrumental for the future of Vinland;
  2. It is estimated that Greenland had about 500 inhabitants around the beginning of the 11th century, a number that would be too small to send extensive people westward to populate North America;

The Greenlanders still had plenty of land and resources to make use of at home and probably not enough people to harness them, making it less likely that it would need to explore further areas. The distance between Vinland and Greenland was also an important factor in why the colony could not be sustained.

Wallace writes, «From Brattahlið in Greenland it is almost 2500km to New Brunswick where the wine and good lumber were. That is, if one sails in a straight line, which of course a sailing ship cannot do over such a distance.

it was actually much farther to New Brunswick than to Norway. » Furthermore, she notes, «Vinland had grapes and lumber, but the Norse could get that in Europe. Vinland, on the other hand, lacked other essentials: luxury metals, spices, textiles, weapons, and armour – and family, political, religious, and personal connections. » Another factor that prevented the Norse from establishing a permanent colony in Vinland was the presence of aboriginal peoples. Eastern New Brunswick was home to the Mi’kmaq, which had a large and dense population, and could provide formidable resistance to Viking encroachments. Wallace’s article also provides an overview of what knowledge exists about the Norse settlement L’anse aux Meadows, based upon the archaeological research that has been conducted over the last several decades.

The settlement, which is located in northwest Newfoundland, was used for less than a decade sometime between 990 and 1050 AD. She adds, «clearly, the site was not an attempt at colonization but a seasonal base for exploration.

The absence of barns, byrnes or any other structures associated with domestic animals and farming is striking. Of food bones, all are seal or whale, except for the vertebra of a very large cod. Two shoulder bones originally believed to be pig also appears to be seal. » Viking Settlements and Viking Society contains over 30 articles, many of which look at archaeological and physical research throughout the medieval north. Other papers include ‘Love in Early Iceland’ by Gunnar Karlsson and ‘Scandinavia in the Melting-pot, 950-1000,’ by Else Roesdahl. See also:  L’Anse aux Meadows was a ‘temporary base camp’ for the Vikings in North America, study finds See also:  L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland Top Image: Norse long house recreation, L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

Did Vikings go to Africa?

International raiders — Starting in 865, the Vikings began a massive invasion of England. Known as the «Great Heathen Army,» the pagan soldiers attacked and took over three of England’s four Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Though referred to in military terms at the time, the raiders also included traders , women , and children.

  • The remaining unconquered kingdom, Wessex, escaped Viking rule, but engaged in years of fighting;
  • Eventually the Danelaw , the lands taken over by Danish Vikings, extended across the entire northeastern portion of England;

(Norwegians settled in Scotland. ) England wasn’t the only place where the Vikings made themselves known: they sailed as far south as North Africa, as far west as Canada , and into the Middle East, Russia, France, and Spain ( see a map ). Along the way, Vikings settled, intermixed with the people they conquered, and influenced everything from language to warfare.

Between the 9th and 11th centuries A. , Vikings conducted more raids. But the Second Viking Age, as it was known, involved a new form of power: money. Vikings demanded payment , later known as «danegeld,» in exchange for not conducting raids and maintaining peace.

England’s taxation system was founded on this method of extortion.

How long did it take Vikings to cross the North sea?

This 1893 painting by Christian Krogh imagines Leif Erikson’s voyage to North America around A. 1000. Public Domain Here is what we know: In the 10th century, some Vikings piled into boats and shoved off the shore of what is now Norway. They eventually ended up in Greenland, more than 1,000 miles away. How they found their way there? No one is exactly sure.

It was a long voyage through the dicey water of the North Atlantic—three weeks if all went well—with land rarely in sight. Their boats were sturdy, made from planks called strakes held together with iron rivets, but a swift and steady vessel was no guarantee of safe passage.

«The Vikings were superb boatbuilders, but that great skill would count for nothing if they could not navigate properly,» says Stephen Harding, a biochemistry professor at the University of Nottingham and author of Science and the Vikings. «If a boat got lost at sea, that would almost certainly prove fatal.

  • » Navigation, however, was no easy task;
  • There was no map or chart to rely on, no sextant for celestial navigation, and no magnetic compass to help with dead reckoning;
  • (That was how Columbus did it 500 years later;
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) The Norse sagas offer a few hints about how Vikings rowed and sailed along—but they are vague and incomplete. Close to shore, Viking mariners relied on coastal landmarks, such as how the sun seemed to hang between two particular mountains. Out at sea, when they were lucky, they had the sun and the predictable movements of migratory birds.

  • But the sagas shed little light on how they managed during cloudy or stormy days, common occurrences in the North Atlantic;
  • A 1942 translation of the sagas tells of choppy seas, and sailors «beset by fogs and north winds until they lost all track of their course;

» When the weather soured, crews described the feeling of hafvilla , or «bewilderment. » If clouds and fog veiled their usual visual referents, they could only drift and wait until the sun returned to restore their bearings. But some modern researchers think that Vikings actually did have rainy-day navigation options. Could a crystal like this have helped Vikings navigate the North Atlantic? ArniEin/CC by 3. 0 Fifty years ago, late Danish archaeologist Thorkild Ramskou proposed that Vikings may have navigated with the help of what are called sunstones—probably chunks of calcite crystal, also called Iceland spar, that might be able to reveal the position of the sun even when it is behind clouds or has slunk below the horizon.

And they think it may have had something to do with crystals. How this works isn’t entirely understood, but a number of research groups have tried to figure it out. Ramskou pointed to how calcite treats polarized light—that is, waves of light vibrating in a single plane, instead of in all directions—in a way that creates patterns observers can see.

In 2011, a research group from the University of Rennes reported success pinpointing the sun by putting a dot on top of a calcite crystal and observing it from below. Ramskou proposed that the sailors could have used the crystal to keep track of the sun’s position, and then nudge the ship in the general direction they wanted to go. Assuming this actually works, which is itself no certainty, would it have been enough to get them from one shore to another? The North Atlantic is not a good place to lose your way. parkview094/cc by 2. 0 Earlier this month, Dénes Szás and Gábor Horváth, physicists at Budapest’s Eotvos University, published a report in Royal Society Open Science describing how they modeled 36,000 voyages during various seasons. Based on their calculations, the researchers report that if a Viking crew had calibrated a sunstone and checked it every three hours, there was more than a 90 percent chance they’d get close enough to see the shore of Greenland.

(A smattering of caveats, though: The researchers didn’t account for squalls blowing through, and assumed that the ships didn’t drift too far off course at night, when the crews stopped rowing. ) Harding, who was not involved in the work, thinks it holds water.

«Szás’s and Horváth’s study is, in my opinion, the most exciting study on Viking sunstones since the original suggestion by Thorkild Ramskou in the 1960s,» he says. But it’s not a conclusion, and this question of how the Vikings got where they ended up is still cloudy. Viking navigation has fascinated scholars and the curious for years. The 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago featured this replica of a 9th-century vessel excavated in Gokstad, Norway. Public Domain The Vikings themselves haven’t proven to be much help in solving the puzzle. The stones are indeed mentioned in the sagas, which refer to them as s ólarstein , but they’re not cast as tools.

  1. «The latest study seems to prove that, if the Viking seafarers had a calibrated instrument based on such sunstones, then this would have helped them in their long journeys when landmarks or other signs such as migrating birds were not visible due to clouds,» Harding says;

There’s also the question of how much stock to put in the sagas as historical sources , rather than the hybrids of fact and folklore they appear to be. «Even if [a sunstone was] found on a ship, there would be no proof it had been used as a navigational aid unless it was attached to a dial of some sort,» Harding says, to convert its optical properties into something actionable.

Viking archaeological sites haven’t offered evidence of their use, either, but crystals have turned up in suggestive places. In 2013, a chunk of calcite was found in the wreckage of a 16th-century British warship near the Channel Islands—only a few feet from known navigation tools.

If the crystal had been used for wayfinding, «it’s not unreasonable to suppose that these skills may have been passed down from the Vikings who controlled the seas around the British Isles centuries earlier,» Harding says. But arriving at that conclusion requires quite a bit of mental hopscotch. The Draken Harald Hårfagre , a recreation of a Viking ship, stopped at the Shetland Islands en route from Norway to North America in 2013. Ronnie Robertson/CC by SA 2. 0 Harding also thinks it wouldn’t hurt to get out on the water. Since «modeling and computer simulations are most powerful when backed up by experimental data,» he suggests setting out on a modern recreation of those voyages. (Harding helped crew the 100-oar-strong Draken Harald Hårfagre , a recreated Viking ship, in 2013, before its trip across the Atlantic in 2016.

  • «The only proof would be the finding of a few sunstone crystals, or a detailed description of a sunstone and its use in a Viking saga,» Horváth says;
  • ) For now, sunstones «will remain a hypothesis at least for the foreseeable future,» Harding says;

They continue to exist in that fuzzy, out-of-focus area between myth and history..

Why didn’t the Vikings invade Germany?

Vikings spoke a Germanic language that was still mutually intelligible with the Anglo-Saxons of England, and those 2 groups didn’t even need an interpreter. So, for sure the Viking language(s) was probably even closer to the language(s) of Germany. Given that Sweden, Norway, and especially Denmark are closer to Germany, why didn’t the Vikings invade Germany? I’m under the impression that Germany didn’t possess anything that the Vikings needed or that the Germans had a better military than the Anglo-Saxons to repel any small band of raiders..

Who killed all the Vikings?

In Vikings: Valhalla Episode 1, King Aethelred (played by Bosco Hogan) orders the killing of Danes in a settlement near London as they celebrate St. Brice’s Day on November 13. After honoring St. Brice, the fifth-century bishop of Tours, and a lavish send-off to Harald Sigurdsson (Leo Suter), the prospective king of Norway, the Vikings are attacked by the men of Aethelred’s army.

  • Towards the end of the first episode, the Vikings in Kattegat are ready to seek revenge for their fallen men and women and audiences want to know everything about the brutal massacre;
  • Newsweek has everything you need to know about the real St;

Brice’s Day and what happened.

Where did the Vikings explore?

They settled in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Iceland, Greenland, North America, and parts of the European mainland , among other places.

What countries did the Vikings raid?

Conquests in the British Isles — By the mid-ninth century, Ireland, Scotland and England had become major targets for Viking settlement as well as raids. Vikings gained control of the Northern Isles of Scotland (Shetland and the Orkneys), the Hebrides and much of mainland Scotland.

  • They founded Ireland’s first trading towns: Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, Wicklow and Limerick, and used their base on the Irish coast to launch attacks within Ireland and across the Irish Sea to England;

When King Charles the Bald began defending West Frankia more energetically in 862, fortifying towns, abbeys, rivers and coastal areas, Viking forces began to concentrate more on England than Frankia. In the wave of Viking attacks in England after 851, only one kingdom–Wessex–was able to successfully resist.

  1. Viking armies (mostly Danish) conquered East Anglia and Northumberland and dismantled Mercia, while in 871 King Alfred the Great of Wessex became the only king to decisively defeat a Danish army in England;
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Leaving Wessex, the Danes settled to the north, in an area known as «Danelaw. » Many of them became farmers and traders and established York as a leading mercantile city. In the first half of the 10th century, English armies led by the descendants of Alfred of Wessex began reconquering Scandinavian areas of England; the last Scandinavian king, Erik Bloodaxe, was expelled and killed around 952, permanently uniting English into one kingdom.

How long would it take a Viking to sail to England?

This 1893 painting by Christian Krogh imagines Leif Erikson’s voyage to North America around A. 1000. Public Domain Here is what we know: In the 10th century, some Vikings piled into boats and shoved off the shore of what is now Norway. They eventually ended up in Greenland, more than 1,000 miles away. How they found their way there? No one is exactly sure.

It was a long voyage through the dicey water of the North Atlantic—three weeks if all went well—with land rarely in sight. Their boats were sturdy, made from planks called strakes held together with iron rivets, but a swift and steady vessel was no guarantee of safe passage.

«The Vikings were superb boatbuilders, but that great skill would count for nothing if they could not navigate properly,» says Stephen Harding, a biochemistry professor at the University of Nottingham and author of Science and the Vikings. «If a boat got lost at sea, that would almost certainly prove fatal.

» Navigation, however, was no easy task. There was no map or chart to rely on, no sextant for celestial navigation, and no magnetic compass to help with dead reckoning. (That was how Columbus did it 500 years later.

) The Norse sagas offer a few hints about how Vikings rowed and sailed along—but they are vague and incomplete. Close to shore, Viking mariners relied on coastal landmarks, such as how the sun seemed to hang between two particular mountains. Out at sea, when they were lucky, they had the sun and the predictable movements of migratory birds.

But the sagas shed little light on how they managed during cloudy or stormy days, common occurrences in the North Atlantic. A 1942 translation of the sagas tells of choppy seas, and sailors «beset by fogs and north winds until they lost all track of their course.

» When the weather soured, crews described the feeling of hafvilla , or «bewilderment. » If clouds and fog veiled their usual visual referents, they could only drift and wait until the sun returned to restore their bearings. But some modern researchers think that Vikings actually did have rainy-day navigation options. Could a crystal like this have helped Vikings navigate the North Atlantic? ArniEin/CC by 3. 0 Fifty years ago, late Danish archaeologist Thorkild Ramskou proposed that Vikings may have navigated with the help of what are called sunstones—probably chunks of calcite crystal, also called Iceland spar, that might be able to reveal the position of the sun even when it is behind clouds or has slunk below the horizon.

  • And they think it may have had something to do with crystals;
  • How this works isn’t entirely understood, but a number of research groups have tried to figure it out;
  • Ramskou pointed to how calcite treats polarized light—that is, waves of light vibrating in a single plane, instead of in all directions—in a way that creates patterns observers can see;

In 2011, a research group from the University of Rennes reported success pinpointing the sun by putting a dot on top of a calcite crystal and observing it from below. Ramskou proposed that the sailors could have used the crystal to keep track of the sun’s position, and then nudge the ship in the general direction they wanted to go. Assuming this actually works, which is itself no certainty, would it have been enough to get them from one shore to another? The North Atlantic is not a good place to lose your way. parkview094/cc by 2. 0 Earlier this month, Dénes Szás and Gábor Horváth, physicists at Budapest’s Eotvos University, published a report in Royal Society Open Science describing how they modeled 36,000 voyages during various seasons. Based on their calculations, the researchers report that if a Viking crew had calibrated a sunstone and checked it every three hours, there was more than a 90 percent chance they’d get close enough to see the shore of Greenland.

  1. (A smattering of caveats, though: The researchers didn’t account for squalls blowing through, and assumed that the ships didn’t drift too far off course at night, when the crews stopped rowing;
  2. ) Harding, who was not involved in the work, thinks it holds water;

«Szás’s and Horváth’s study is, in my opinion, the most exciting study on Viking sunstones since the original suggestion by Thorkild Ramskou in the 1960s,» he says. But it’s not a conclusion, and this question of how the Vikings got where they ended up is still cloudy. Viking navigation has fascinated scholars and the curious for years. The 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago featured this replica of a 9th-century vessel excavated in Gokstad, Norway. Public Domain The Vikings themselves haven’t proven to be much help in solving the puzzle. The stones are indeed mentioned in the sagas, which refer to them as s ólarstein , but they’re not cast as tools.

«The latest study seems to prove that, if the Viking seafarers had a calibrated instrument based on such sunstones, then this would have helped them in their long journeys when landmarks or other signs such as migrating birds were not visible due to clouds,» Harding says.

There’s also the question of how much stock to put in the sagas as historical sources , rather than the hybrids of fact and folklore they appear to be. «Even if [a sunstone was] found on a ship, there would be no proof it had been used as a navigational aid unless it was attached to a dial of some sort,» Harding says, to convert its optical properties into something actionable.

  • Viking archaeological sites haven’t offered evidence of their use, either, but crystals have turned up in suggestive places;
  • In 2013, a chunk of calcite was found in the wreckage of a 16th-century British warship near the Channel Islands—only a few feet from known navigation tools;

If the crystal had been used for wayfinding, «it’s not unreasonable to suppose that these skills may have been passed down from the Vikings who controlled the seas around the British Isles centuries earlier,» Harding says. But arriving at that conclusion requires quite a bit of mental hopscotch. The Draken Harald Hårfagre , a recreation of a Viking ship, stopped at the Shetland Islands en route from Norway to North America in 2013. Ronnie Robertson/CC by SA 2. 0 Harding also thinks it wouldn’t hurt to get out on the water. Since «modeling and computer simulations are most powerful when backed up by experimental data,» he suggests setting out on a modern recreation of those voyages. (Harding helped crew the 100-oar-strong Draken Harald Hårfagre , a recreated Viking ship, in 2013, before its trip across the Atlantic in 2016.

«The only proof would be the finding of a few sunstone crystals, or a detailed description of a sunstone and its use in a Viking saga,» Horváth says. ) For now, sunstones «will remain a hypothesis at least for the foreseeable future,» Harding says.

They continue to exist in that fuzzy, out-of-focus area between myth and history..

How did the Vikings explore?

How did they find their way? — The Vikings did not use maps. Vikings sailed close to the coast whenever possible, watching for  landmarks. Out of sight of land, they looked for  the sun : west (towards the sunset) meant they were headed for England; east (towards the sunrise) meant home to Denmark or Norway.

The Vikings invented a kind of  sun-shadow board  or sundial to help find their way. At night they watched the skies and could use the position of the stars to determine which direction they were heading.

Seamen knew a lot about  winds  and  sea currents. By watching birds or even the colour of the water, an experienced sailor could tell when land was close. The Oseberg ship was found in 1904 and is now in a museum in Oslo, Norway.

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