Visit from Norway

Photo: Ken Nordan Visiting from Norway, Vidar Magnus Holmdin and Dawn Howard smiling with the “Viking” ship in Chicago, Ill. Holmdin is the great-grandson of Magnus Andersen, who captained the ship in 1893 from Bergen, Norway, to Chicago, Ill., for the Columbian Exposition.

Friends of the Viking ship in Chicago receive a visit with a special family connection

The Gokstad replica ship christened “Viking” that sailed from Norway to Chicago for the 1893 Columbian Exposition had an important visitor recently.

The visitor, considered “family” by many, was Vidar Magnus Holmdin the great-grandson of Magnus Andersen, who captained the ship on its 28-day voyage from Bergen, Norway to Newfoundland, then on to Chicago. Holmdin along with his wife Dawn Howard were in the U.S. visiting friends and made a special trip to see the ship that is so very important to his family.

“We had last seen the ship in 1999 and wanted so much to see it again,” said Holmdin.  “We were worried that the ship would soon be just a pile of wood!”

Holmdin and Howard commented several times that they were very glad to see that the ship was now in better shape than on their last trip and how it was described to them by Holmdin’s parents Lars and Johanne after their visit in 2000.

His mother is the granddaughter of Captain Andersen.

“We can see that you [the Friends of the Viking Ship] are doing a great job of conserving the ship and making it more accessible to the public,” he said.

Indeed, the individuals that organized together in 2008 to form Friends of the Viking Ship (FOVS) not for profit have done many things toward their mission of preserving and public display of this artifact. At present FOVS is seeking appropriate partners who share our mission of securing an optimal long-term home for the ship.

Members of FOVS applied for and received a $52,000 partners in preservation grant from American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation that helped to stabilize the ship, as well as other grants to build viewing ramps and historical story telling posters.

Holmdin and Howard, who had expected to stay only a short while before driving on to visit friends in the upper Midwest, were so drawn by the experience of seeing the ship and the material displayed around the ship that they left the site much later than they had anticipated.  These honored guests received from FOVS board members Lorraine Straw and Ken Nordan, as well as, ship enthusiast Perry Straw, a 45-minute tour of the ship which provided interesting information about the ship’s construction, voyage from Norway to Chicago and insight into the men that were its crew. Holmdin shared with those present his perspective of his great-grandfather and helped them understand a little better Captain Andersen and what was important to him.

Captain Andersen was quoted in the July 9, 1893 Sunday edition of the Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper.

“The first thing I want to do is to correct the impression that got abroad about the Viking ship that it is a private enterprise.  It is not.  It is a contribution from the entire populace of Norway to the World’s Fair in commemoration of what Leif Ericsson did for the advancement of science. The idea was originated by myself, taken from an article which appeared in the New York Herald in 1889 when I was in New York as superintendent of the Home for Norwegian Seamen. I returned to Norway and through the Norges Sjøfartstidende started the proposition. We received popular subscriptions ranging from amounts from 10 cents to $1 and aggregating $12,000. To date, the Voyage has cost about $14,000.”

It is this spirit that Vidar Holmdin most appreciated hearing and understanding about his great-grandfather and what FOVS docents are first to point out when they discuss the opening history of the ship.

For details, visit or write to: Friends of the Viking Ship,  N.F.P., PO Box 3571, St. Charles, IL 60174.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 5, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.