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The MAHS Viking Boat Project

Viking Cargo Boat

by Edward Eisenhuth, Project Advisor
Minersville Area High School, Minersville, PA

This unique hands-on interdisciplinary project got its start in the Fall of 1995 when one of my eighth grade students brought in a picture of a Viking ship built by Danish boy scouts.

After various inquires, we found Arne Emil Christensen at The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway who was willing to help. He and the museum supplied us with plans of an 18 foot boat that was found with the Gokstad Ship.

The Gokstad Ship is a part of a Viking Age burial site that was excavated in 1880 on the coast of the Oslo Fiord. The ship had been pulled ashore and let down in a trench. A dead man was placed in a burial chamber built amidship, presumably with his weapons and clothing. Equipment for the ship, three small boats, horse trappings and a sled were placed on board. More than ten horses were sacrificed and placed in the trench. A large mound of clay was placed over the trench and ship.

The grave site was robbed before excavation, but all the wooden objects were of little interest to the robbers. The blue clay made an excellent seal. All objects were well preserved. Analaysis of the year-rings of the oak has shown the ship was built about 895 and buried 10-15 years later. The 18 foot boat with the Gokstad Ship that we will replicate is believed to be of the same age.

This 18 foot boat was probably an all-purpose boat, given as extra grave-goods. The boat was capable of handling the open sea and would have been used for travel along the coast, fishing and carrying farm products. Its make-up included a 2-3 man crew with equipment or 2 men with 200 pounds of cargo in coastal waters. Building the boat requires a knowledge of lapstrake or clinker boat building. Most of the wood was oak, with some pine used for the uppermost strake. Fastenings are iron rivets clenched over roves in the planking and treenails in the ribs. The boat originally had loose thwarts resting on the edge of the top strake, and floorboards to protect the bottom planking.

Waterproofing was done by placing a tarred string in the plank overlaps. Pine tar was used as a wood preservative both inside and out, and there is no proof either way as to whether the boat was painted. Tools known to have been used were axes, scrapers, augers, chisels and knives.

In addition to the information supplied by Arne Emil Christensen and The Viking Ship Museum, we have also been able to obtain technical support from The National Museum of Iceland, Gunnar Marel Eggertsson, Rob Stevens and David Christie.

Gunnar Eggertsson is a boat builder from Iceland who has built a replica of the Gokstad Ship. Rob Stevens is a boat builder from Maine who built a Viking knarr that will be used in a recreation of Leif Ericsson's voyage to North America. David Christie from Pennsylvania is a hobby boat builder. He has undertaken numerous wooden boat projects. His latest is a whitehall pulling boat. All three men have agreed to be advisors for us as we build our 18 foot boat.

Our goal for this project was to replicate the 18 foot boat, sail it on a local lake with a crew of six and donate it to a museum.




  • A successful formal sailing was held Thursday, September 23, 1999 at 10:00 A.M. at Locust Lake State Park.

  • State Capitol in Harrisburg January 18 - February 2, 2000.

  • Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan May 4 - 7, 2000.

  • Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. May 19 - 21, 2000.


  • Mr. M. Joseph Brady, Superintendent and Mr. Ercole Lacianca, Principal Minersville Area School District
  • Mr. David Rogers, Human Resources Manager Exxon Chemical Company
  • Mr. Larry Sparta, Education Relations Director PP&L, Inc.
  • MS E. Lori Smith, Account Administrator Snayberger Foundation Grant Committee
  • Mr. Rob Crosswell, President and Mr. Galen Koller, General Manager Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Pottsville
  • Mystic Screen Printing & Embroidery


  • Representative Dave Argall, 124th District - Locust Lake sailing point
  • Mrs. Nancy Hertz, Federal Coordinator for Minersville Area School District - grant monies
  • Mrs. Jetta Cooper, Project Secretary
  • Mr. Dave Christie and Mr. Rob Stevens, Boat Builder Consultants
  • Minersville Area Student Boat Building Team
  • Leo Davidovich, Locust Lake Park Manager
  • Clyde Warner Jr., Waterways Conservation Officer
  • Kent Eisenhuth, Project Updates

Pictures of the construction

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The contents of ORB are copyright © 1995-2000 Laura V. Blanchard and Carolyn Schriber except as otherwise indicated herein.

The contents of ORB are copyright © 1995-2000 Laura V. Blanchard and Carolyn Schriber except as otherwise indicated herein.