· Apology marks arrival of replica longboat in Dublin
Owen Bowcott, Ireland correspondent
Thursday August 16, 2007
The Danish culture minister, Brian Mikkelson, who was in Dublin to participate in celebrations marking the arrival of a replica Norse longboat, apologised for the invasion and destruction inflicted. "In Denmark we are certainly proud of this ship, but we are not proud of the damages to the people of Ireland that followed in the footsteps of the Vikings," Mr Mikkelson declared in his welcoming speech delivered on the dockside at the river Liffey. "But the warmth and friendliness with which you greet us today and the Viking ship show us that, luckily, it has all been forgiven."
The reconstructed longboat was based on a ship found at the bottom of the Roskilde Fjord, south of Copenhagen. The original vessel was believed to have been built in Dublin - then a Viking city - in 1042 and to have sunk 30 years later.
The wreck was discovered in 1962 and tests on the timbers enabled archaeologists to trace the wood to trees from Glendalough, County Wicklow.
The first Viking raiding parties arrived in Ireland in 795, targeting wealthy monasteries on outlying islands such as Rathlin, County Antrim and Inishmurray, County Sligo. By 841, Vikings were over-wintering in fortified settlements such as Dublin, Wexford and Waterford and over the next two centuries these cities were gradually absorbed into local Irish kingdoms.
The replica ship - built using tools of the era - is 30 metres long and the largest reconstructed longboat ever built.
Guile rather than brute strength was needed to ensure that the Sea Stallion completed its voyage from Roskilde to Dublin in time for the celebrations. The Vikings relied upon sail and rowing power. When the winds failed this summer, the longboat was towed for 345 miles. However, archaeologists advising the project insisted that the experiment had proved the seaworthiness of Viking vessels.
Diarmuid Murphy, 34, from Bantry, Co Cork, one of the sailors on the ship, admitted he almost gave up at the outset.
"About 18 hours into it I was just so cold and wet and I said there's no way I'll do this," he said. The crew survived on a diet of dried food and had to sleep in the exposed and cramped conditions of an open boat for six weeks - with occasional respite on a support vessel.
"There was cold, lashing rain on some days from the morning until the following morning," the ship's project manager, Prieben Rather Sorensen, said. "We did not have the time that the Vikings had as we had to be here today. That was one of the challenges." The longboat is due to make the return voyage next summer.