building the world’s most iconic viking ship, part 7

One last post on my time with the replica Oseberg ship. I always like to have an overview of this sort of project and share what I have learnt. Often the interest is the detail but the most important things are the big picture about how the worksite works and the project is organised. This is clearly a multimillion pound/dollar project and most big projects that work are driven by one passionate individual. This project is the brainchild of Geir Rørvik. Geir runs a boatyard outside Tonsberg and his passion is for traditional boats. Since the Oseberg boat, the most iconic Viking ship of all, was found here it seems an obvious thing to have some recognition in the town. The original ship is in the museum in Oslo so a replica that could serve as an icon for the town would be a wonderful project. The New Oseberg Ship Foundation  was set up and now they have a great team headed by chairman Einar Erlingsen. As well as succeding in attracting considerable funding for the project they have done really well at getting sponsorship in kind. The worksite is right in the centre of town on the tourist trail along the waterfront. This land is owned by the Quality Hotel (green clad building in the background) and as well as giving the land they feed the whole worksite crew lunch for free every day.

Another key feature of the project is that it is happening in full view of the public. Not only is there this busy cycle/footpath around the outside of the site there is a path right through the centre of the site too. The whole town are involved with the project and are watching it gradually grow. Many of them come along and help out as volunteers, young and old alike.

Tuesday evenings and Saturdays are volunteer days, it’s important to co ordinate volunteer work, you need to have less precious tools available (these are Hultafors axes, still good but £50 each rather than £350) And having a reasonable number of regular volunteers who have a reasonable skill level saves the shipwrights time in training and supervision. Having lots of untrained folk visiting for a few days would actually slow things down rather than help. Here is a young blacksmith using the on site forge on a volunteer day.

 And the textile group have 40 volunteers, they made the woolen sail and the costumes for the worksite. Here they are working on natural dying.

Public events keep locals and press up to date with progress, this is a Viking market day and the opening of the new shop.

 The worksite felt a happy and relaxed place which is important each morning the shipwrights met and Thomas would ask if everyone knew what they were going to do today, if they didn’t he would allocate work. Geir is in the red to the left. One thing I did miss compared to the Japanese work site last year was we used to do warm up exercises and stretches each morning which reduced the risk of injury when doing heavy work, it was good for creating a feeling of togetherness in the team too.

Another keen supporter of the project has been Tonsberg youth hostel voted recently as “the friendliest youth hostel in the world” and I can understand why. They have been able to support the project by occasionally offering free accommodation to visiting workers when they are out of season (in season they are booked full months in advance) This was a huge help to me as the cost of living in Norway is very expensive. This was breakfast.

And to show the cost of living this is £16 worth of groceries from the supermarket I was very grateful for my free breakfast and lunch. I resisted the temptation to join friends for a beer at £7 a pint.

Tonsberg is close to Oslo Torp airport and flights from the UK very reasonable. I would highly recommend a visit, feel free to email me for contact details if you are planning to go. They aim to complete the build by next May and I hope to go back in the spring to see the project develop. In the meantime you can keep in touch with progress via the official website here and facebook page

As for me my next big project in the spring is helping build a replica of the Bronze age Dover boat. Even bigger timbers on that one and bronze tools to work with, it will be more of a mix of technologies though with some power tools used to meet the budgets.

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