Norwegian businessman Sigurd Aase was the man with the idea behind the Viking trip. Together with a team of shipbuilders and historians, in March 2010 he set about building the largest Viking vessel in the world, capable of crossing the Atlantic in the footsteps of his ancestors - not an easy task.
The Vikings had scarcely any records showing how they mastered their greatest achievement, the ships they built. To construct the Draken Harald Hårfagre, the team referred to archaeological finds, Nordic myths and traditional knowledge about shipbuilding. Work began in March 2010, plank for plank, 35 metres long, eight metres wide until finally the ship was completed and ready to start an epic adventure.
The crew members of the Draken Harald Hårfagre come from ten different nations and see themselves as today’s version of their predecessors. “A modern Viking is an individual who pursues an idea, takes on challenges and looks for adventure”, it says on the project’s website. “A modern Viking looks beyond the horizon and finds new solutions to old problems - those creative enough to think outside the box.” The crew sought to leave behind the stresses of the digitised world and focus only on the spirit of adventure.
Around the year 1000 AD, long before Christopher Columbus was even born - Norwegian Leif Eriksson crossed the Atlantic with his Vikings. According to current knowledge, this would make him the first European to set foot on American soil.
Now the crew of the ‘Dragon Harald Fairhair’ has succeeded in matching his feat. The trip departed from the Norwegian port of Haugesund, passing the Shetland and Faroe Islands towards Iceland, Greenland, Canada, and finally onto the Great Lakes to Chicago and New York. Along the way the crew repeatedly struggled with violent weather conditions. “The nights were especially tough, when we encountered icebergs and ice floes that can cause considerable damage to the ship. To notice them in time was certainly a challenge,” explained Captain Bjoern Ahlander to the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan. “But we just clenched our teeth and moved on, probably just like the real Vikings did.”
Wind, rain and icebergs could not deter them. And while history has shown their ancestors weren’t always welcome guests, after five months, the Draken Harald Hårfagre sailed into New York to be welcomed by a crowd of thousands.