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Viking ships

Viking raiders sailed in narrow wooden longships.Viking raiders sailed in narrow wooden longships. The Vikings were among the most skilful boatbuilders and sailors of their time. Their warships, known as longships or dragon ships, were sleek and fast. They were powered by square-shaped sails or, if there was no wind, by oarsmen. The front ends of the ships, the prows, were often carved into ornamental shapes, such as dragon’s heads.


The Vikings used their fastest ships, the longships, for raids. These ships were long and slender, and had flat bottoms. Their shape allowed them to be navigated up narrow inlets and to be landed on beaches—good for surprise attacks and quick getaways. The ships were flexible enough to bend a little when seas were rough.Views of a Viking longshipViews of a Viking longshipThe ships were fitted with sails but could also be rowed: some had 50 oars. A steering oar, fastened by leather bands to the hull, worked as a rudder. The helmsman steered using a tiller, which was attached to it. The chief warrior on each ship stood bravely at the bow. Brightly painted shields were slotted into racks that ran the length of the ship on either side.

Some of the largest longships were called skeids (which means "cutting through the water"). They were around 30 m (100 ft) long and could carry a crew of 80.

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