Viking Ship at Seattle’s 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition repeated Chicago’s boat

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

It is simply thrilling to watch the effort by the Nordic Heritage Museum to restore the wooden ship in its collection as part of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Centennial Celebration. It is a powerful reminder of the role of Seattle’s Nordic communities in the creation and success of the A-Y-P.

The effort also recalls the rekindled interest in ancient Viking ships that took place following the 1880 discovery and excavation of the “Gokstad.” In an oblique way it also reminds us that much of what happened at the A-Y-P was not unique to Washington State or Seattle. Indeed,like many buildings,events and activities of Seattle’s great fair,the Viking ship that sailed from Kirkland to the A-Y-P boat landing on Portage Bay, repeated on a much smaller scale a similar ship at the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition.

For that giant world’s fair, a close copy of the 8th century Gokstad ship called “Viking,” was built at Christen Christensen’s Framnes Shipyard in Sandefjord. The Bayeux Tapestry completed ca. 1070 provides one of the best contemporary images of Viking longboats.

The 1893 reconstruction was 24 meters long, 5 meters wide, with a mast 15 meters high, and equipped with a 9 by 12.5 meter sail. It had holes for 16 pairs of oars and cost 12,000 kroner. Clinker built with planking hand split from green oak logs, the “Viking” made 11 knots. (“Clinker building is a method of constructing hulls of boats and ships by fixing wooden planks and, in the early nineteenth century, iron plates to each other so that the planks overlap along their edges. The overlapping joint is called a land. In any but a very small boat, the individual planks will also be joined end to end; the whole length of one of these composite planks is a strake.” –wikipedia).

Proving that Leif Eriksson could have made the trip to America 500 years before Columbus, “Viking” sailed all the way from Bergen, Norway on April 30, 1893. It arrived on June 13, 1893 at New London, Connecticut (44 days). From New London, it made its way to the Hudson River, cross New York State on the Erie Canal and then navigated the Great Lakes to Chicago.

Following the fair,the Norwegian government donated the ship to the people of Chicago where it was displayed in Lincoln Park for 100 years. It is the single largest surviving object from the 1893 exposition. It now languishes sadly on private land in Geneva, Il., far from the windy city.

You can find more about that ship at The links at the bottom of the page are especially informative.


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