The Vikings were a powerful force in Scandinavia and Northern Europe from the late 8th century to the 11th century. Through maritime exploration, trade and warfare, they were able to expand their territory and increase their wealth. The Vikings were skilled ship builders and seafarers, and their raiding parties have become the stuff of legend.
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Faering and Sexaering Ships
The smallest and most basic Viking ships fall within the faering, or four-oared, and sexaering, or six-oared, classifications. These boats were not unlike standard rowing boats in size and design. According to the Viking Age website, they were used extensively in the fiords as general light transport, allowing people to get around quickly and reliably in a roadless and mountainous country.
Knarr and Karve Ships
The knarr served as the Viking cargo ship on Atlantic voyages. The ship typically measured 50 to 70 feet in length and had two or three decks, according to the Leif Ericson Viking Ship website. The upper deck held passengers while the lower decks carried livestock, furniture and other goods. The Vikings used a similar ship, known as the karve, for navigating in shallower waters. The broad vessel served primarily as a coastal trading ship.
Snekkja and Skei Longships
The snekka and skei were both narrow Viking longships. Like other longships, the primary role of both vessels was ocean warfare. The snekka was the smallest and lightest of the Viking longships, typically manoeuvring with 20 oars. The slightly larger skei used about 30 oars.
The draakar, or dragon ship, was a large Viking longship. With its ornate dragon design and warrior crew, the draakar is the type of ship most associated with Viking raiding parties. The warship could cross the open oceans under sail before turning to its 60 or so oars prior to an attack. The stealthy nature of the vessel allowed troops to manoeuvre in silence at night before launching surprise attacks against settlements and wealthy monasteries.
The large buza, or busse, class of longship was designed primarily for warfare, but also served as a trade ship. The buza's high sides allowed it to carry large numbers of warriors or particularly heavy cargoes. Unlike the draakar, the buza was not suited to raiding missions. The ship's deep draft made it unsuitable for docking in shallow waters.
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