What was so special about Viking ships? – Jan Bill


The Vikings came from the rugged,
inhospitable north known today as Scandinavia. As the Roman Empire
flourished further south, Scandinavians had small settlements,
no central government, and no coinage. Yet by the 11th century, the Vikings
had spread far from Scandinavia, gaining control of trade routes
throughout Europe, conquering kingdoms as far as Africa, and even building outposts
in North America. The secret to their success
was their ships. The formidable Viking longship had its origins
in the humble dugout canoe, or log boat. For millennia, the inhabitants of Scandinavia
had used these canoes for transportation. Dense forests and tall mountains
made overland travel difficult, but long coastlines
and numerous rivers, lakes, and fjords provided a viable alternative. The first canoes were simply hollowed out
logs rowed with paddles. Over time, they added planks
to the log boat base using the clinker,
or “lapstrake,” technique, meaning the planks overlapped and were fastened to each other
along their edges. As the Roman Empire expanded north, some Scandinavians
served in their new neighbors’ armies— and brought home
Roman maritime technology. The Mediterranean cultures
at the heart of the Roman Empire had large warships
that controlled the sea, and cargo ships that transported goods
along the waterways. These ships were powered by sail and oars and relied on a strong skeleton
of internal timbers fastened to the outer planks
with copper, iron, and wood nails. At first, Scandinavians
incorporated this new technology by replacing their loose paddles
with anchored oars. This change
hugely improved the crew’s efficiency, but also required stronger ships. So boat builders began to use iron nails
for fasteners rather than sewing. They abandoned
the log boat base for a keel plank, and the boats became higher
and more seaworthy. But these early ships retained the concept
of the original log boat: their strength
depended on the outer shell of wood, not internal frames and beams. They were built as shells—
thin-walled but strong, and much lighter than the Roman ships. Competing chieftains quickly refined
the new ships to be even more efficient. The lighter the boat,
the more versatile it would be and the less investment of resources
it would require— an essential advantage
in a decentralized culture without large supplies of people. These ships still had no sails—
sails were costly, and for now the rowed ships
could meet their needs. That changed
after the Western Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century. Western Europe
took a heavy economic blow, leveling the playing field a bit
for the Scandinavians. As the region revived, new and vigorous trade routes
extended into and through Scandinavia. The wealth that flowed along these routes helped create a new, more prosperous
and powerful class of Scandinavians, whose members
competed constantly with each other over trade routes and territory. By the 8th century,
a sailing ship began to make sense: it could go further, faster,
in search of newly available plunder. With the addition of sails, the already light and speedy ships
became nearly unbeatable. The Viking ship was born. Viking longships could soon carry
as many as 100 Vikings to battle. Fleets of them
could land on open beaches, penetrate deep into river systems,
and be moved over land if need be. When not at war, the vessels were used to transport goods
and make trade journeys. There were smaller versions
for fishing and local excursions, and larger adaptations
for open sea voyages capable of carrying
tens of tons of cargo. Thanks to their inventiveness
in the face of difficult terrain and weak economies,
the Vikings sailed west, settled the North Atlantic
and explored the North American coast centuries before any other Europeans
would set foot there.

100 thoughts on “What was so special about Viking ships? – Jan Bill

  1. The Viking war ships were effective because they would increase their speed to max when entering a corner, then shifting the front quarter of the ships hull about 162 degrees and swiftly drift through the waters just like real men on a ship, fast, effective, and spectacular.

  2. It's funny how some people love praising the works of the vikings while ignoring the raiding, pillaging and conquering they did along the way.
    They were not pleasant people just out for a little trade. And their exploration was not done out of any real desire to plot the world navigation routes or the like.
    Their entire religion and way of life was about going out and killing people for fun.

    It would be like covering the British Empire but ignoring the negative effects of the colonial systems that happened.

    The disconnect is just weird.

  3. Not that its really important but if anyone is wondering the runic inscriptions on the map are just place names. North america, europe, affrica, and greenland.
    Although i dont know of ang evidence suggesting that the runes got the kind of ordinary use as to be written like that. Almost all known runic inscriptions are on memorial stones.

  4. The most special thing was that their boats brought SYRIAN CHRISTIANS to KERALA, INDIA
    Although, keralites dont agree to that, instead they take pride in local folklore , that Doubting Thomas came on a simple boat, like he had no where else to go!

  5. I'm happy you made this video, but honestly I'm really bummed with the animation. I think it's one of the worst animation I've seen on your chanel, and I'm not just saying that bc it 3D. But it is the problem with 3D. It's much easier making quickly made 2D look animation look good than quickly made 3D.

  6. One of the most important things were left out. The logs used for a skip were not cut with a saw but cleaved with an axe, making it flexible and stronger then other ship planks.

  7. "inhospitable north known today as scandinavia"
    Well it wasn't as nice as italy but inhospitable? Isn't that a bit of an overstatement?

  8. when u think about scandinavia, the last thing u would expect to hear in the same sentence would be the roman empire. i mean like u nvr hear of Rome and the norse interacting before considering the most north they been to was Scotland since u said that during that time sea worthy ships was not a thing.the only time they interacted was with the roman was when the ERE(Byzantine) was still a thing.

  9. I still don't get where they came from.
    Like really, you don't casually just “come from scandinavia”.
    What, did they evolve from arctic walruses or something?

  10. You didn't answer the question okay maybe the small and low budget part, but surely other nations had those too.

  11. The Bow and Arrow was developed in every culture throughout history and independent from others. I’d like to see a video explaining why this invention was so common and apart of all of human history

  12. But what i always wondered: they were in America, thats a fact but thats a loooong time and i never see a cargohold and crewquarters in those longboats. Where die they store their rations, where to they sleep/cover from the Elements?

  13. Cool video guys. I wonder if you plan to do some videos on (innovative at the time) strategies of warfare throughout the whole history.

  14. "This is Berk. It four days north of Hopelessness and a few degrees south of Freezing To Death. My village. In a word, sturdy. It's been here for seven generations bit every single building is new. We have hunting, fishing and a charming view of the sunsets. The only problems are the pests. Most places have mice or misquotes. We have…DRAGONS!!!"

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