Viking longship leaving Lerwick tomorrow for Merseyside

The largest Viking replica longship in the world, which came into Lerwick Harbour late on Friday night after her mast snapped, will be leaving tomorrow for Merseyside where a replacement mast will be fitted.

The 115-ft Norwegian Draken Harald Harfagre with 30 international crew on board had been en route from Haugesund to Orkney when she was spotted without a mast by a helicopter operating in the North Sea.

The broken mast of the longship. Photo: Stephen Gordon
The broken mast of the longship. Photo: Stephen Gordon

The mast had snapped around 10.30am on Friday in strong winds, 60 nautical miles south-east of Lerwick.

 The vessel was asked if assistance was needed, but the crew indicated they could manage as the longship has an engine. She then made her way to Lerwick, berthing at Alexandra Wharf. Shetland Coastguard was informed but did not need to help.

Some of the 28-metre mast fell on board, narrowly missing a sleeping crewman, while a 15-metre section was lost overboard.

Captain Bjorn Ahlander said  the accident happened in stong winds and heavy seas while half of the crew were on deck – the other 15 were sleeping.

He said: “The mast split and fell down and the yard fell down. We lined up to see if someone was injured but everybody was fine but a little bit shocked. Obviously the mast was too weak, we are getting another one stronger. We are interested in how Vikings could manage to sail ships over the oceans, now we know one thing, they probably had stronger masts.”

This was the vessel’s first foreign-going trip.

The replacement 28-metre mast will be spruce, like the original, but laminated this time to make it stronger. It will be shipped from Norway and fitted in Liverpool. Tomorrow’s trip south will again be made by motor, and the ship will berth in nearby Wallasey on the Wirral, an area rich in Viking history.

Capt Ahlander added: “We are very pleased about the way everybody, Shetland Coastguard, harbour control and the people of Shetland have been so friendly to us.”

Draken Harald Harfrage, named after King Harald Fairhair, has attracted a steady stream of visitors since her arrival in Lerwick.

The vessel was built between 2010 and 2012 and has 25 pairs of oars, which in Viking times would each be manned by two men and thus requiring 100 crew, whereas only around 24 are needed when sailing.


Add Your Comment
  • Maggie Bain

    • July 8th, 2014 7:07

    I am always amazed at the Shetlanders sailors and their courage. Have just finished re-reading Last of the Free and the never ending battle against the elements. I’ve sailed some tall ships in my day but I take my hat off to crew on board Draken Harald Harfagre .

  • Robin Wynford

    • July 8th, 2014 9:03

    I don’t think any of the crew on the Draken Harald are from Shetland. I spoke to one guy from Liverpool and another Norwegian.


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