The Viking Ship Krampmacken
With the Viking ship "Krampmacken" on eastward routes
During 1980-85 the "Krampmacken" (a replica of a Viking ship, 8 m x 2 m,
with six oars and a crew of about eleven) made an expedition from the Swedish island
of Gotland in the Baltic to the Black Sea.
A report of the first stage of the journey, from the mouth of the river Wisla in
Poland to Drohiczyn near the Russian border, was issued in 1983. Plans for continuing
the journey (Bug-Pripyat- Dnieper) were thwarted when the Soviet authorities refused
permission, thus obliging us to undertake the second stage of the journey partly
along the Wisla-San rivers in Poland and partly over land, by hauling the ship (sometimes
using horses) over the Carpathian mountains, through the Dukla Pass (for about 300
km) down into the Tisza (Czechoslovakia - Hungary - Yugoslavia). Thence we proceeded
by way of the Danube through the Iron Gate almost to the source where we took "
a short cut" over the Thracian Plateau (approximately 150 km of hauling) to
the ancient Greek town of Dionysopolis (now Balchik) on the Black Sea coast (Yugoslavia
- Rumania-Bulgaria). Following a difficult coastline we then continued southward
to the Bosphorus (Turkey) and Istanbul - the ancient Miklagård of the Scandinavians.
Arduous and risky though the journey was, it was also very instructive. For this
ship of the Baltic, copied from ancient finds and illustrations, was tested in all
possible waters and situations which a Viking ship on an eastward voyage would have
been likely to encounter.
The sails are of particular interest since they are based on the only reliable
representations of Viking Age rig and sails we know of, namely those on the picture
stones of Gotland: these imply a sail construction and a technique which is, in many
respects, totally different from that used in the attempt to reconstruct from ethnological
Furthermore, the thousand-year-old method of hauling, which was used by our
forefathers - for long distances even, and in difficult terrain - proved to be considerably
easier than we had previously imagined. Also, the alternative route we were obliged
to take indicates the possible existence of highways other than those hitherto known
or presumed by us. This, in its turn, gives rise to interesting speculations about
there having been boat traffic along these highways prior to the Viking Age and as
far as the Bronze Age. All of which promises to further our understanding of the
cultural links of our prehistory.
By professor Erik Nyhlén, the leader of the project.
|Most of the material at this web-site is from the book "Vikingaskepp mot
Miklagård" by professor Erik Nyhlén.
Photos by Raymond Hejdström among others.
Krampmacken was built in Visby 1979-1980. The word Krampmacken is a Gotlandic
Construction drawings of Krampmacken from the side
Construction drawings of Krampmacken from the front
Construction drawings of Krampmacken from above.
Viking ship models. Krampmacken in the lower right with the sail, length
8 m. Skuldelev 1 and 3 from Denmark, 13,5 m and 16,3 m. In top is Oseberg
from Norway, length 21,6 m. Krampmacken's predecessors were intended to
be sailed and rowed in the Baltic Sea and on the rivers, and hauled on land.
Therefore the size couldn't be very much larger. The other ships were intended
to cross larger waters and not to travel the rivers.
The sail of Krampmacken is of special interest. It was the first Viking
ship sail reconstructed from the Gotlandic picture stones. Those stones
are unique for Gotland and they are also the only pictures of the Viking
Age showing the sails and rig in great detail.
Picture stone from Tolby, Fole, Gotland.
Picture stone from Riddare, Hejnum, Gotland.
Picture stone from Smiss, Stenkyrka, Gotland.
In 1983 the ship travelled 581 km upstreams in 34 days. It had
to be rowed 259,9 km and sailed 251,5 km. Hauled from the river bank 21.5
km and carried on land on a special wheel construction for 48,1 km.
In 1985 the ship travelled 2726,5 km upstreams and downstreams, mostly
downstreams, in 131 days. It was rowed 1508,5 km, sailed 560 km, hauled
from the river bank 217 km and carried on land 441 km on the wheel construction
Rowing the Viking ship Krampmacken on the river Bug in Poland.
Krampmacken under sail. Here off the shores of Gotland.
Krampmacken under sail. Windy conditions.
The ship was hauled on land 48 km in 1983 to avoid low water in the river.
The ship had to be taken out of the water at a few ocassions to pass waterfalls (today powerstations).
Everything was taken out to be brought by the waterfall.
The ship was hauled short distances on pieces of wood covered with fat
Longer distances the ship was carried on a special wheel construction.
Hauling the ship down to the river bank.
Local people watching while passing between the rivers
In 1985 after having been refused by the Soviet authority to pass through
the Soviet Union, the ship travelled south on the rivers Vistula and San
in Poland and then carried on land through the Dukla pass in the Carpatian
mountains and finally reached the river Ondava in Czechoslovakia.
Again the ship was carried on land in Bulgaria to get faster to the Black
Map of the journey in 1981
Map of the journey in 1982
Maps of the journey 1983 - 1985
Map of the journey in 1995
Krampmacken at Vikings 97
Krampmacken at Viking
1000 years celebration of
Leif Ericssons arrival to North America
Krampmacken on exhibitions
Krampmacken in a cartoon
Föreningen Krampmackarna (The Krampmacken
Other Gotland related web sites.
Gotland, Pearl of the Baltic
Sutton Hoo, the Gothic
- Gotlandic link (English)
The Churches of
The Grooves on Gotland
Other Viking related web sites.
Replicas of Nordic ships
The Viking Ship
Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center
Nordic Underwater Archaeology
Created by Sören Gannholm ©1996
To first page