November/December Issue 251: Viking takes Chicago


This past summer, the Viking great ship, Draken, toured the U.S. East Coast. This vessel was built in Norway in 2012 on the lines of a 10th-century Viking ship. Yet there was an even more astounding ocean passage done by another Viking ship more than 100 years prior. That ship, named Viking, sailed from Norway to New York in the summer of 1893.

A 78-foot replica, Viking sailed from Bergen, Norway, to Newfoundland and then New York, then up the Erie Canal through Lake Erie to Chicago for the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Viking was an exact copy of the 9th-century Gokstad ship recovered from a Viking burial mound in 1880, the first Viking vessel recovered almost intact.

Viking was guided by Captain Magnus Andersen and sailed unescorted across the Atlantic in 27 days at an average speed of about 10 knots. Andersen, a professional mariner since he was 15 and a captain of his own sailing ship by the time he was 23, was determined to prove that a Viking vessel of the kind that Leif Erikson could have sailed to Vinland could survive a trans-Atlantic passage from Norway to the Americas.

The Columbian Exposition of 1893 was designed to celebrate the 400 years since Columbus had “discovered” the Americas.

Andersen, who was the publisher of a newspaper in Norway, asked the King of Norway for funds to build a replica of the Gokstad ship. The monarchy was very skeptical of the survivability of such a venture and they refused to help fund the construction project.

The ship was originally designed for 32 oarsmen, but Andersen set sail with a crew of 11, with only a barometer, sextant and a compass. Andersen, by the time of his adulthood, had already sailed to almost every navigable port in the world and was an expert at celestial navigation. More than 200 Norwegian mariners applied for the 11 spots. Andersen was obsessed about proving to the world that the ancient Vikings could have made the passage. This is now accepted knowledge, but it wasn’t in the 1890s.

They arrived with great honors in Chicago on July 2 of 1893. Chicago had a large Scandinavian community and Viking’s captain and crew were honored everywhere they went. The vessel was given to the city of Chicago, where it underwent a complete restoration.

It is July 10. Captain Andersen is running down the latitude, confirming his estimated position with a noon sight of the sun. The height of eye is 7 feet. The DR is thought to be 47° 25’ N by 42° 05’ W. Because Capt. Andersen had no timepiece with him, he had to calculate in his head when the time of LAN would occur. He estimated when the sun was approaching local noon from his previous days taking the noon sight. The lower limb sight of the sun gave him an Hs of 64° 28’. Because Andersen had no clock, it is difficult to know how he figured the time of his sight and what declination he used for the sun. We’ll use a declination of 22° 11.3’ N.

A. What is the Ho?
B. What is the latitude?

A. Ho is 64° 40.9’
B. Latitude is 47° 30.4’ N

By Ocean Navigator