Wirral says a fond farewell to world's largest Viking longship

The Draken Harald at East Float dock. Picture by Paul Heaps.

The Draken Harald at East Float dock. Picture by Paul Heaps.

First published in News Wirral Globe: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

A VIKING longship has said "bon voyage" to Wirral after an eventful two weeks in the borough.

The Draken Harald Harfagre – the largest Norse/Viking longship constructed in modern times – left Wallasey on Monday to heart cheers from locals as it set off on its long journey back to Norway.

Doubt had been cast over whether the vessel would complete its maiden voyage to Wirral last month after it lost its 70ft mast in severe conditions off the Shetlands.

But the crippled ship managed to make its way to its destination at Wallasey Docks on July 17, after brilliant Seamanship by Captain Bjorn Ahlander saw it arrive – albeit slowly – using a motor as back-up power in the absence of the sail.

A new mast was fitted following its arrival in Wirral, with the tree from which the new mast was constructed – a Douglas Fir – worked on by Norwegian boatbuilders Arild Nilsen and Ola Fjelltun, Cammell Laird and other local shipwrights.

After the repairs, the 2800 sq ft silk sail was reattached and Wirral’s “Viking Navy” of trained volunteer oarspeople enjoyed rowing the vessel around the docks last Wednesday evening.

The sad farewell to the beloved Viking ship took place at Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club in Wallasey – who have “shifted heaven and earth” to get the ship seaworthy again.

Wirral’s Viking expert, Professor Steve Harding, said: “We have recreated a piece of history here. 1,100 years ago Wirral was a significant Viking colony – and with the Vikings also in control of the Irish Sea the inlet in the Mersey in what is now Wallasey Docks would most likely have provided a sheltered haven for repair of Viking shipping.

“Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 1,100 years for the next one to come here.”

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