Dragon Harald Fairhair

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Dragon Harald Fairhair. The ninth strake soon in place.
Career (Norway)  Norway
Name: Dragon Harald Fairhair (Norwegian: Draken Harald Hårfagre)
Namesake: Harald Fairhair (Harald I of Norway)
Laid down: March 2010
Launched: 5 June 2012
General characteristics
Type: Replica Viking longship
Tons burthen: 70 metric tons
Length: 35 m (115 ft)
Beam: 7.5 m (25 ft)
Propulsion: 25 pairs of oars
Sail (300 m2 (3,200 square feet)
Complement: Minimum of 100 under oars
Minimum of 12–14 under sail

The Dragon Harald Fairhair (Norwegian: Draken Harald Hårfagre) is a large replica Viking longship built in the municipality of Haugesund, Norway. The Dragon Harald Fairhair brings the seafaring qualities of a warship from the old Norse sagas to life. It is a ship that combines ocean-crossing sailing capabilities with a warship's use of oars.

Construction and maiden voyage[edit]

Building began in March 2010. The launching of the longship took place in the summer 2012. Because no one today has real experience handling a Viking ship of this size, the initial period will be one of exploring how to sail and row the ship, and for experimentation with the rigging along the coast of Norway. In summer 2014 the longship made its first real expedition from Norway to Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club, Wallasey, Wirral, Merseyside, and back via various locations around the coast of the British Isles including the Isle of Man, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.[1]

An oceangoing Norwegian warship[edit]

The longship is a '25-sesse' (25 pairs of oars) – in other words, it is equipped with 50 oars. Each oar is powered by two men and the ship must have a crew of 100 persons, minimum. Under sail it requires a crew of 18–24 people.

The Dragon Harald Fairhair is 35 metres (115 ft) long with a beam of approximately 7.5 metres (25 ft) and a displacement of about 70 metric tons. The longship is constructed in oak and carries 300 square metres (3,200 sq ft) of sail.

The Dragon Harald Fairhair is the largest "Viking ship" built in modern times. In the Viking age, attacks carried out from the ocean was in form of a "Strandhogg", i.e. hit and run tactics, being highly mobile. By the High Middle Ages the ships changed shapes to become larger and heavier with platforms in the front and back. This was done for the sake of sea battles, that made it possible to board ships that lay alongside each other. In the 13th century, this tactic was well known and widely used in Scandinavia.[2] The law of the land in those days (Norwegian: Gulatingsloven) included standards that required Norwegian provinces (fylker) to cooperate in supplying 116 such warships of 50 oars size (Norwegian: 25-sesser) (25 pairs of oars) for duty in the Norwegian fleet of warships.[3]

Dragon Harald Fairhair under construction.
Dragon Harald Fairhair. May 2011 Working with 17th strake.

Norwegian boatbuilding traditions[edit]

Copies of Viking ships are usually based on interpretations of archaeological material. But in the construction of the Dragon Harald Fairhair an alternative method has been used. It was decided to begin with the living tradition of Norwegian boatbuilding, with roots that can be traced directly to the Viking Age.[4][5] The foremost Norwegian traditional boat builders are involved in the project.[6] Their knowledge of traditional boatbuilding is supplemented with the results of investigations carried out on archaeological material, source material in Norse literature, literature from the same period from foreign sources, iconographic material, etc. The goal of the project is to recreate in this manner an oceangoing warship of 50 oars taken right out of the Norse Sagas.


  1. ^ "World’s biggest Viking longship open to the public in Stornoway harbour". Stornoway Gazette. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  2. ^ Heide, E. "Vikingskipa i den norrøne litteraturen" Institutt for lingvistiske, litterære, og estetiske studier, Norrøn filologi, 2012
  3. ^ A. W. Brøgger and H. Shetelig. "Vikingeskipene- Deres forgjengere og etterfølgere" Dreyers forlag 1950, p. 213
  4. ^ Bent og Erik Andersen. "Råsejlet - Dragens Vinge". Vikingsskipsmuseet Forlag, Roskilde 2007, p. 9-44
  5. ^ Jon B. Godal: “Measurements, figures and formulas for the interpretation of Western Norwegian boats and Viking ships”, Acta Boralia ,1990. Volume 7, Issue 2, pages 56-80
  6. ^ Gunnar Eldjarn og Jon B. Godal: "Nordlandsbåten og Åfjordsbåten", bind 1-4. A Kiellands Forlag, Lesja 1988.

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