During the World War II years, Swedish author Frans G. Bengtsson wrote a historical novel about the Vikings and named it "Red Orm." The book went on to become one of the most popular books in Sweden, and, to this day, it has been translated into more than 20 languages.
According to Nancy Marie Brown, the author of the book "The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women," Bengtsson's work had a notable effect on Viking heritage and perception.
In one part of the book, red-haired Orm finds himself on the East Way, which he traverses in a ship with 24 pairs of oars. As the real Viking ships uncovered in Scandinavia had 15 (Oseberg) and 16 (Gokstad) pairs of oars, Brown notes that such a ship would be almost 30 meters long and weigh between 16 and 18 tonnes - if it were empty.
In Bengtsson's story, Orm's Viking crew had to carry out a number of portages between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, which they did by setting loose logs in front of the prow and hauling the ship along these logs.
Expert attempts at recreating the log-rolling technique
For years, archaeologists claimed that the method was unproven at best. So, in the 1990s, they decided to put the log-rolling method to the test.
They made several attempts to transport replicated Viking ships between rivers or strips by using the method. Alas, they could not pull it off. They even tried scaling down the ships but remained unsuccessful. Even efforts that added horses, wheels, and wagons to the equation could not increase the method's efficiency.
Keep in mind that the replicas of the Viking ships were one-third of the length of the vessel Red Orm commanded, and they weighed between one and two tons (Red Orm's weighed 16 tons).
Despite this notable decrease in size and weight, experts were unable to recreate the log-rolling transport technique.
Even though archaeologists disproved the method, Bengtsson's log-rolling story remains part of popular imagery and memory, as well as popular culture.
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