The Gokstad ship is the largest preserved Viking ship in the world, boasting a length of 24 meters and a width of 5 meters. It was excavated at the Gokstad farm in Sandefjord in 1880 CE, and is believed to have been made between the years 900 and 905 CE.

READ MORE: Famous Viking ships: The story of the Gokstad ship

The project came to life following a dream that department manager Tore Forsberg has held for many years. For a long time, he has wanted to bring traditional Norwegian crafts to the present day and modern architecture.

The foundation started by building a copy of the Oseberg ship for Tønsberg, called "Saga Oseberg". As they did not want to shut down the foundation once this job was completed, they began working on a copy of the ship "Klåstad", which they named "Saga Farmann." Now, the Gokstad ship is their current project. 

Materials crafted in Sandefjord

The materials for the replica are crafted in Sandefjord, and they are then used to build the ship in the neighboring town of Tønsberg.

When building, the workers fell trees and transported them to the building site. Once there, the workmen assess the wood grain and determine how to split the log. The splitting is done with splitting axes, mallets, and wedges. 

As construction manager for the Oseberg Viking Heritage Foundation, Jan Knutsen notes it is ideal to cut it along the wood's grain since keeping as much of the grain intact results in stronger logs. 

Once the splitting is done, they then cut off the surface wood and pith. Indeed, by ensuring that each part was as strong as possible, the Vikings managed to use less material for their shipbuilding.

Replicas regularly take part in celebrations and sailing trips. Photo: Willy Fredriksen / Oseberg Viking Heritage

Funding

Anders Qvale Nyrud, a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences NMBU, is also involved with the Viking ship research project. 

Nyrud sits on the secretariat for the World Conference on Timber Engineering, and it was their shared interests that led Forsberg and Nyrud to meet each other. Now, Nyrud's work has received 100 hours of funding and is set to be the basis of further research.

As Forsberg has said, "It is based on the fact that I so very much want to collect traditional knowledge that can also be important today". As such, it is hoped that this project can complement the construction techniques and forest management that we have today and, of course, help those who work with traditional craftsmanship.

As Nyrud notes, there is great value in using the techniques that they are using and seeing how this work was done. Indeed, their work is preserving a part of Norway's cultural heritage.    

Preserving knowledge

Amongst the people working on this project is also Christer Tonning, an archaeologist from the Vestfold and Telemark County Council. He has experience with the digitization of archaeological discoveries around Norway. 

Thus, Tonning is working on designing a system where they can add the information and characteristics of the trees they are processing in this project, for example, which tools they use and how they are split. The goal is to have the information available for those wanting to make replicas of Viking ships in the future.

Sadly, a lot of the knowledge that the Vikings used when building their ships has been lost to time due to the use of water-powered sawmills from the 16th century CE. Therefore, the project is doing an important job of preserving their knowledge.

Svein Solberg is also a part of the project. Starting out as a volunteer, he actually joined because he was on the lookout for a new hobby. In his day-to-day life, he works with forest health and climate stress, so working on building a Viking ship seemed like a good escape from his office. 

The shipbuilding process has garnered many curious bystanders, and many of them follow the project as it progresses. The project does not depend on the season since it is work done in the winter as it is in the summer. Per their own philosophy, the foundation allows the public to both contribute to the project or simply follow along, should anyone wish to do so.

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