True Viking Spirit

 Photo courtesy of Olaf Engvig Nansen’s “Fram” was the first specially built ship for Arctic research and trying to reach the North Pole. It opened up for numerous expeditions from several countries to discover and map the last unknown places on earth, namely the Polar Regions in Arctic and Antarctic. Amundsen also used this ship when he managed to reach the South Pole in 1911.

Photo courtesy of Olaf Engvig
Nansen’s “Fram” was the first specially built ship for Arctic research and trying to reach the North Pole. It opened up for numerous expeditions from several countries to discover and map the last unknown places on earth, namely the Polar Regions in Arctic and Antarctic. Amundsen also used this ship when he managed to reach the South Pole in 1911.

Kelsey Larson

Managing Editor

From one of the premier voices in maritime research, and author of “From Viking to Victorian: Exploring the Use of Iron in Shipbuilding,” comes a brand-new book, “Legends in Sail.”

A native of Rissa, Norway, Olaf T. Engvig is internationally known for his lifelong commitment to saving and protecting historic ships. He has received numerous grants and awards including the Saint Olaf’s Medal from King Olav V of Norway and the Gold Medal of Merit from King Harald V of Norway. Engvig is a maritime historian, photographer, author of numerous books, and consultant to maritime museums worldwide.

“Legends in Sail,” explores the story of  several famous historical ships, including Roald Amundsen’s “Gjøa,” as well as other famous ships from Norway’s history, including “Statsråd Erichsen,” “Christiania,” “Transatlantic,” “Christian Radich,” “Lancing,” “Lingard,” “Fram” and “Maud.”

“It all started with a mystery,” says Engvig, of his inspiration for the book.

The very first Norwegian sail training ship in Oslo, the “Christiana,” had been purchased from Britain IN 1877 as “Lady Grey.” However, nobody knew where the mysterious “Lady Grey” came from. And modern researchers kept hitting dead ends.

Engvig was fascinated with this mystery, and when he initially heard about it 30 years ago, he gave it up for lost. But he never really stopped thinking about the ship, as some of her features indicated a very special ship during her prime.

Ten years later, he decided to reopen his investigation, and was able to track “Christiana” to an American clipper ship, the Star of Empire.

“There were two American clipper ships called ‘Star of Empire,’” says Engvig. “Researchers had been confusing them with each other!”

This investigation led to Engvig’s research into the stories of other famous Norwegian vessels. All this research has come together into “Legends in Sail.”

The book has already been granted good reviews, including one from Marifrances Trivelli, Director of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

“From ancient Viking craft to the tall ships still sailing today, “Legends in Sail” brings together the fascinating yet little-known history of Norwegian ships for an English-speaking audience,” wrote Trivelli. “Splendidly researched and beautifully illustrated, “Legends in Sail” is a must-read for sailors, historians and anyone who loves an adventure at sea!”

“The Viking spirit permeates the book,” says Engvig. One story found in the book that is exemplary of this spirit is that of the “Christian Radich.”

During the Windjammer film expedition, the “Christian Radich” carried a 1000 year old genuine Viking Sword across the ocean, handed over to the Captain by King Olav of Norway. This sword was in turn given to President Eisenhower when the ship reached Washington D.C.

The film came out in 1958, and was a big hit with American audiences.

“The sword is today on permanent display at  the U.S. Naval Academy’s museum. This happened in 1957. It is my opinion that this incident, as well as the film Windjammer, boosted the Viking awareness in America and helped establish Leif Erikson Day,” says Engvig. Indeed, Leif Erikson Day was officially established as a national holiday soon afterward in 1964.

The hard cover, 256-page “Legends in Sail” is available for sale at www.engvig.com/olaf.

This article originally appeared in the October 4, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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