10 things about Vikings
1. Viking means ‘a pirate raid’ in the Old Norse language.
2. During the Viking Age, from 800 – 1100 AD there were few more terrifying sights than a long, sleek, dragon-headed ship with a square sail on the horizon.
3. The biggest long ship to be discovered was 119 feet long, with room for at least 72 oars and a crew of 100. It is believed to have been built around 1025 AD.
4. A replicated Viking ship ‘Saga Siglar’ in 1984-86 circumnavigated the globe.
5. Viking explorer Leif Erickson is believed to be the first European to set foot in North America, though the continent may have been ‘discovered’ by Icelandic trader Bjarni Herjolfsson a decade earlier.
6. Vikings are often credited as inventors of the keel, a thick beam that gives boats structural integrity and seaworthiness. With a small draught, Viking ships could be rowed right to the shore to let the plundering begin.
7. Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets. Although Norsemen wore headgear, depictions from the era don’t show any with horns. Before the Viking era, Norse and Germanic priests wore ceremonial horned helmets.
8. Erik the Red was reputedly so violent that fellow Vikings exiled him from both Norway and Iceland.
9. Longships could travel up to 160 miles per day.
10. Viking ships sailed from Norway to the Mediterranean and Black Sea, and from Russian rivers to North America.
Marina High students Josh Fernandez, Christian Sample, Jesse Gonzalez and Shane Hagen may not look like prototypical Vikings. But they sure have a Viking spirit.
And thanks in part to the work they’ve done in wood shop under the guidance of teacher Bob Meade, the school will be able to display the spirit of its mascot for years to come.
For two years the students, along with Lance Cervantes, who graduated earlier this year, have taken the lead in building a 30-foot replica of a Viking ship called a “knarr,” complete with a towering, horned dragon head. The vessel is no mere model or float, but will be a seaworthy sailing and rowing craft when it is launched, Meade and the students hope, in Huntington Harbour in the spring.
Meade said when the idea was first floated, he agreed, never really thinking it would happen. Later, a member of the school board, the late Brian Garland, heard of the project and approached Meade.
“I thought, ‘Oh, no, I’m really going to have to do this,’” he says with a laugh.
Built in the traditional clinker method with overlapping, riveted planks and a sturdy keel, the ship is “about 80 percent authentic” according to Meade. Sure, it’s made with modern marine-grade plywood, rather than Norwegian oak, and fastened with galvanized hardware and sealed with epoxy rather than tree sap. But the look and design hew close to what is known about Viking ships.
Already, 5 feet have been sliced off the length of the boat to make it easier to maneuver and hopefully transport. When completed, the ship will have space for about 10 oarsmen and another 10 to 15 passengers.
Meade, 50, has been a teacher for 26 years and came to Marina High from Westminster High three years ago. Although traditional shop classes are dying out, at Marina High, Meade had the chance to take over the largest shop classes and facilities in the district.
So what did the students think when their shop teacher came to them with the project?
“I didn’t really believe him,” said Fernandez, a 17-year-old senior.
“He sometimes says things,” said Jesse Gonzalez, 17.
“That don’t really happen,” added Fernandez.
Even Meade wasn’t entirely sure he could pull it off, saying he kept it under wraps “because we didn’t know how it would turn out.”
Although Meade said he spent a year on drafts and templates, the kids say they’ve never seen them.
“He told us to build, so we built,” Sample said.
Although Meade, who began planning the ship-building project three years ago, may have originally dreamed of a replicated Viking warship, or long boat, space and safety made the knarr, which is shorter, wider and more stable, the sensible choice.
While the superstructure is all but complete, the decking, rails, mast, oar locks and rudder all have to be finished. There also will be shields affixed to the perimeter of the vessel, and it will need to be painted with marine paint and pass a state inspection.
The school is also hoping a benefactor can be found to supply a trailer to haul the vessel.
The boat weighs about 1,000 pounds and has cost about $1,200 in materials so far. Much of it was paid for by selling lifeguard chairs and skateboard racks the students made in shop.
“Those really saved us,” Meade said.
As the plans came together, the project picked up steam. Meade’s students in an advanced shop class did much of the work and in an after-school Regional Occupational Program class, Meade said there would sometimes be 20 students sanding, bolting and routering the wood.
Meade says this is the fourth boat he has helped build by hand, and is by far the most complex. He started with several skiffs in Oregon and later built a dory that sits in his wood shop.
As the project comes into focus, Meade’s imagination wanders. “I really don’t know where this will take me,” he said.
There are plans to tow the ship around the field at football games and other sports events and to enter the Huntington Harbour Christmas boat parade and other maritime excursions. Meade even envisions taking the Viking ship to Catalina Island.
For Fernandez, Sample, Gonzalez and Hagen, the journey has been transforming. They take great pride in actually building something.
“We’re not good at sitting down,” Gonzales said.
“This is the only class I do well in,” said Sample, a senior.
“This is probably the only class I look forward to,” Fernandez added.
And yet, from an incredulous start, they have created something that the school can take pride in.
“No other school has this,” Gonzalez said.
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