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 material.

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 name.

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 by handcraft.

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 from sheep.

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 Sea.

Cooking food.

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 Sail 2000
1000 years celebration of
Leif Ericssons arrival to North America

Krampmacken on exhibitions

Krampmacken in a cartoon
Föreningen Krampmackarna (The Krampmacken Association)

Other Gotland related web sites.

Gotland, Pearl of the Baltic

Sutton Hoo, the Gothic - Gotlandic link (English)

The Churches of Gotland

The Grooves on Gotland

Other Viking related web sites.

Replicas of Nordic ships

The Viking Ship Mjøsen Lange

Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center

Kalle Runristare

Nordic Underwater Archaeology

Created by Sören Gannholm ©1996

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