The Draken Harald Hårfargre (Dragon Harald Fairhair in English) is a curious ship to describe, one most certainly unique in its design and construction. It is neither a reconstruction or a replica of a known Viking ship, instead it is a reinterpretation of an open-decked, ocean-going vessel which may have existed around 1000AD. As well as from archaeological data, the design garnered details from the Norse sagas (a series of epic stories and histories recorded from the oral traditions of Scandinavia and Northern Europe), records from regions further afield, and the long Norwegian tradition of wooden boat building.
The sagas recount tales of huge ships with red silk sails, whilst other records mention flagships of around 36 meters (120′) length, with crews of 100 men. However such information is scant, lacking in the technical details needed to construct such a ship, and there is nothing to say how these ships handled at sea.
At nearly 35 metres (114′) in length, and just over 8 metres (27′) in the beam, Draken is the largest Viking-inspired ship of recent times, around 5 metres longer and 4 metres wider than the Sea Stallion from Glendalough (Havhingsten fra Glendalough) at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark. The single red silk sail is around 300m2, slightly larger than the area of a tennis court, and together with the supporting yard (or rå) weighs around 1.2 tonnes. Raising the sail is a formidable task.Draken is a living experiment, as sailing methods and techniques are worked out; rigging is scaled-up from smaller vessels; things are tested, adapted and re-tried time and time again; and attempts made to establish whether vessels of this size could have been in existence in Viking times. Follow our adventures and find out more here.