The Midgard Viking Expedition

A journey of sustainability

Midgard Expedition

Photo: Midgard Expedition
The Viking boat is a symbol of courage, adventure, craftsmanship and simplicity.

Cynthia Elyce Rubin
The Norwegian American

Pacific Northwest resident and world-record-holding ocean rower, adventurer, and sailing instructor Erden Eruç recently completed the first solo circumnavigation of the Earth by human power. He started in 2007 and took more than five years to finish. Now he is joining the Midgard Viking Expedition to travel from Oslo to Istanbul by way of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea on a Viking longboat. He will journey to South Africa for the first phase of the expedition.

Midgard Expedition

Photo: Midgard Expedition
A close-up of the Midgard Herron displays hand hewn oak and handmade bolts, traditional building materials and method, of a Viking boat.

His involvement in the Midgard Expedition came about by invitation from Bjørn Heyerdahl, who has a strong Viking identity and lineage, dating back to 812 A.D. He comes by his active explorer and environmentalist mentality naturally as the grandson of Thor Heyerdahl, who sailed across the Pacific in the balsawood raft Kon-Tiki in 1947.

Bjørn launched the Midgard Expedition for sustainable development internationally at the Explorers Club in New York City in 2003, when he was invited to speak at the Lowell Thomas annual dinner at the United Nations and was awarded the Lowell Thomas gold medal for his contribution to the future of scientific exploration.

It can be said Bjørn studied human nature in a very hard workshop, having received a six-year sentence of detention and community service, because he was a conscientious objector in the mid-1980s in apartheid South Africa. He explored firsthand the nature of organizations and the individuals within them. This interest led to further research and, ultimately, the launch of a series of community development programs. His passion for finding solutions and working models of intelligent sustainable human habitation led to the launching of the Midgard Expedition.

Master carpenters in South Africa are building the Viking boat. Bjørn was born in South Africa, and that is where he is building the Midgard, a Viking replica in white oak, using traditional building methods and sustainably gathered materials. All items are made by hand. Even the bolts are hand forged.

Photo: Midgard Expedition

Inspired by the genius in efficiency, design, earth-friendly materials and zero waste of Viking longboats, and the courage of the intrepid Vikings, who built and sailed them, the research vessel RV Midgard Herron will travel the globe with a crew of diverse scientists, explorers and sustainability specialists.

Jason Macleod, a nurse from Cowichan Valley in South Africa, who is taking part in the voyage says, “Basically, we’re a group of people on a Viking ship that will be highlighting and showcasing people, places, and communities that have successfully implemented sustainable practices, like the Vikings did.”

The Midgard’s 12-member crew also includes a navigator, ship builder, professional divers, and explorers.

The sea trials for this vessel will be in late January through early February in the waters around Durban, then around the Cape for a presentation in Cape Town. Two experienced Norwegian sailors will train participants in South Africa. The boat will then be shipped to Oslo for a May-June start.

And so the journey, beginning in South Africa, will explore key sustainability touch points in Lesotho, Durban, and Cape Town. Then the Midgard will be barged to Norway, and starting in Oslo, will trace the original Viking routes across the North Sea to the Orkneys, Ireland, England, the Strait of Gibraltar, and the Mediterranean Sea. The journey will end in the Black Sea, drawing attention to sustainable projects and communities along the way.

Another Viking vessel, the Saga Farmann, will accompany them from Oslo to Bergen, the first leg of the expedition. The second leg is from Bergen to the Orkney Islands. The Saga Farmann plans to travel east, using Russian rivers and canals to wind its way south to the Black Sea, eventually reaching Istanbul.

Midgard Expedition

Photo: Midgard Expedition
The expedition will trace old Viking pathways to honor the spirit, courage and skill of the Viking.

The Midgard Expedition will continue to Scotland, Ireland, Portugal, and then into the Mediterranean. It will travel the northern shores of the Mediterranean, then the Aegean, also ending up in Istanbul. The Midgard may reach Istanbul at the same time as the Saga Farmann.

Eruç, ocean ambassador at Ocean Recovery Alliance says, “This expedition will have educational goals with the goal to inspire our audience to action for a sustainable future. With public participation and sharing, we will cast a wider net.”

The goal is to reach as many enthusiastic supporters as possible, with the hope of engaging global communities in dialogue. In this way, people can learn how to live on our planet without destroying it. Partnering with leading institutions in communities around the world is an effective way to achieve change.

The Midgard Expedition has partnered with Earth Touch for production of a documentary and a multi-episode television series. Vega University of South Africa will handle public relations and social media outreach. Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota will do mapping, news features, and data analysis to share the story, the science and the experience. Educational outreach is a primary goal, but the strong message is sustainability. The planet is now in crisis, and this epic voyage is seeking models of sustainable life.

Financial and in-kind sponsorship is essential. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Around-n-Over, is providing the necessary structure and framework for the expedition. If you would like to participate in this innovative journey, please contact Erden Eruç at erden_eruc@around-n-over with any questions.

This article originally appeared in the January 24, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

Avatar photo

Cynthia Elyce Rubin

Cynthia Elyce Rubin, PhD., is a visual culture specialist, travel writer, and author of articles and books on decorative arts, folk art, and postcard history. She collects postcards, ephemera, and early photography. See