Draken Harald Hårfagre

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Name: Draken Harald Hårfagre (English: Dragon Harald Fairhair)
Namesake: Harald Hårfagre (Harald I of Norway)
Owner: Sigurd Aase
Builder: Viking Kings AS
Laid down: March 2010
Launched: 5 June 2012
Status: Active
General characteristics
Type: Viking longship (Skeid)
Tons burthen: 95.5 metric tons
Length: 35 m (115 ft)
Beam: 8 m (26 ft)
Draught: 2.5 m (8.2 ft)
  • 25 pairs of oars
  • Sail (300 m2 (3,200 square feet)
  • Minimum of 100 under oars
  • Minimum of 12–14 under sail

Draken Harald Hårfagre (English: Dragon Harald Fairhair) is a large Viking longship built in the municipality of Haugesund, Norway. Draken Harald Hårfagre 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.


Building began in March 2010. Construction was funded by Sigurd Aase, described as a "Norwegian oil and gas tycoon."[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. Under sail it requires a crew of 30 people.[citation needed]

Draken Harald Hårfagre is 35 metres (115 ft) long with a beam of approximately 8 metres (26 ft) and a displacement of about 95 metric tons. The longship is constructed in oak and carries 260 square metres (2,800 sq ft) of sail.[citation needed]

Draken Harald Hårfagre is the largest Viking ship built in modern times. In the Viking age, an attack carried out from the ocean would be in the form of a "strandhögg", i.e., highly mobile hit-and-run tactics. By the High Middle Ages the ships changed shape to become larger and heavier with platforms toward the bow and stern. This was done for the sake of sea battles, making 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, i.e., 25 pairs of oars) for duty in the Norwegian fleet of warships.[3]

Draken Harald Hårfagre under construction
Draken Harald Hårfagre in 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 Draken Harald Hårfagre an alternative method was 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 Old 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.[citation needed]

Launch and maiden voyage[edit]

The launching of the longship took place in the summer of 2012. Because no one today has real experience handling a Viking ship of this size, the initial period was one of exploring how to sail and row the ship, and for experimentation with the rigging along the coast of Norway.[citation needed]

In summer 2014, skippered by Swedish captain Björn Ahlander, the longship made its first real expedition, a three-week passage under sail from Norway to Merseyside, England.[7] There it was hosted by the Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club.[7] It also visited various other locations around the coast of the British Isles, including the Isle of Man, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.[8]

Expedition America 2016[edit]

The ship in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the westernmost point of its 2016 expedition
Figurehead of Draken Harald Hårfagre

The ship left its home port of Haugesund, Norway on the 26th of April, 2016, bound for Newfoundland, the aim being to explore and retrace the first transatlantic crossing and the Viking discovery of the New World. The route included stops at the Shetland and Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland, before landfall on Newfoundland was finally achieved on June 1 that year. Future stops are planned along the Atlantic Canadian and American coast.[9][10]

The schedule of the voyage is:[11]

  • April 24 – Haugesund, Norway
  • May 3 – Reykjavik, Iceland
  • May 16 – Quqortoq, Greenland
  • June 1 – St. Anthony, Newfoundland and Labrador*
  • June 15 – Quebec City, Quebec*
  • July 1–3 – Toronto, Ontario*
  • July 8 – Fairport Harbor, Ohio, U.S.*
  • July 14 – Bay City, Michigan, U.S.*
  • July 17-20 – Plymouth Harbor, Massachusetts, U.S. (2018 tour)
  • July 22 – Beaver Island. Michigan, U.S.
  • July 27 – Chicago, Illinois, U.S.*
  • Aug. 5 – Green Bay, Wisconsin, U.S.*
  • Aug. 18 – Duluth, Minnesota, U.S.*
  • Sept. (TBD) – Oswego, New York Canals, New York, U.S.*
  • Sept. 1 – Ilion, New York, U.S.
  • Sept. 3 – Little Falls, New York, U.S.
  • Sept. 15 – New York City, New York, U.S.*
  • Oct. (TBD) – Mystic Seaport, Connecticut, U.S.*

(*Approximate dates)

In mid-July 2016 doubts were raised about the ship's ability to visit United States destinations in the Great Lakes. The United States Coast Guard deemed it a commercial vessel, requiring a pilot per a 1960 law. The total cost of piloting was estimated at $400,000.[1][12] Sons of Norway raised over $60,000 in order to help pay the pilot fees.[13] On 4 August 2016 Viking Kings issued a press release declaring that Green Bay would be the ship's last stop in the Great Lakes, planning to make its next stop in New York in September.[14]


The crew of Draken Harald Hårfagre were awarded the Leif Erikson Award by The Exploration Museum at the 2016 Explorers Festival in Húsavík, Iceland. Norwegian ambassador Cecilie Landsverk accepted the award on behalf of the crew from Iceland's President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, followed by a video message from the captain.[15][16]


  1. ^ a b Grossman, David (14 July 2016). "World's Largest Viking Ship Might be Defeated by U.S. Coast Guard". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  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.
  7. ^ a b Pattinson, Rob (2 July 2014). "In Pictures: World's largest-ever Viking longship set sail for Merseyside today". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  8. ^ "World's biggest Viking longship open to the public in Stornoway harbour". Stornoway Gazette. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  9. ^ "Harald Hårfagre has crossed the Atlantic". Nordstjernan Article. June 2, 2016.
  10. ^ "The Vikings are back in North America! Replica 'dragon' ship reaches Newfoundland after month-long Atlantic crossing". Daily Mail Article. June 2, 2016.
  11. ^ "World's largest modern-day Viking ship arrives in Canada after 6-week transatlantic journey". Global News. June 2, 2016.
  12. ^ Harlow, Tim (2016-07-13). "World's largest Viking ship, headed to Duluth, needs to pay $400K or turn around". Star Tribune.
  13. ^ Help Draken Sail Again Sons of Norway Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  14. ^ "Press release August 4, 2016 Tall Ship Journey Ends in Green Bay For Draken Harald Hårfagre". drakenexpeditionamerica.com. August 4, 2016. Retrieved 2016-08-07.
  15. ^ Helgason, Rögnvaldur (24 October 2016). "Forsetinn fór yfir hálendið til Bessastaða (Icelandic)". RÚV. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  16. ^ "American astronaut, modern Norwegian vikings and Indian twin climbers win exploration awards". Húsavík Observer. 22 October 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2017.

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