A VIKING longship is set to arrive in Wirral for major repairs to its mast that was damaged during a trip from Norway this week.

Draken Harald - the largest Norse / Viking longship constructed in modern times - will arrive at the mouth of the Mersey on Thursday morning as it heads to Wallasey Docks for major repairs - including replacing the mast which blew off last week in severe conditions off the Shetland Isles on its way from Norway.

Professor Steve Harding, Wirral's Knight of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit together with officers and colleagues of the Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club will host the longship until its departure in early August. They will welcome skipper Bjorn Ahlander and his crew on its arrival on Thursday.

Prof Harding said: "The vessel has been moving slowly to Wirral using a motor as back-up power in the absence of a sail.

"It is arriving a day early to avoid the thunderstorms that have been forecast - in true Wagnerian style - for the weekend.

"The crew will be treated with traditional Mersey Scouse - a dish which originally came from Norway as Lapskaus.

"Norwegian boatbuilders Arild Nilsen and Ola Fjelltun have already found a tree - a Douglas Fir from which the new mast is to be be constructed.

This is now being prepared at a sawmill in Grimsby and will arrive also on Thursday.

They will work with local shipwrights to get the mast fixed and fully reinforced.

Once repaired public visits will be possible and there will be a programme of rowing the vessel in West and East Floats by a Viking navy of volunteers, trained by Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club.