The traditionally constructed, sustainable wooden Viking longboat that graced Hermanus New Harbour recently arrived safely at its next port of call, Gordon’s Bay, after a successful 11-hour, 40-nautical mile journey, combining rowing and sailing.
The 35-foot (10m) rowing vessel, Midgard ‘Heron’ is conducting the southern African leg of the expedition, which began in Struisbaai this month and will end in Hout Bay in a few weeks’ time.
Crew members, most of whom are professionals in their fields and have day jobs, will meet up every few weeks or months to complete a section of the route.
Rounding the southernmost tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas was a world first, as the only recorded navigation of this global landmark in a Viking longboat. The longboat will be shipped to Oslo, Norway at a later stage and then continue sailing across to the Caspian Sea, retracing ancient Viking shipping routes.
Expedition founder, ‘active explorer and global citizen’ Bjørn Heyerdahl and his crew (13 scientists, explorers and elite athletes handpicked by him, four of whom are women) are using this unique expedition to explore models of intelligent, sustainable human habitation, lessons which they hope to incorporate into their own lives and to share on a global platform.
The midgardexpedition.com slogan jauntily states: “The Vikings are coming… the search for intelligent life on earth.”
Bjørn, a South African of Norwegian descent, chose to recreate the Viking craft at his home in the North-West Province – using planks of white oak, hand-forged clinker bolts and handwoven rope – as a means of exploring sustainable habitation.
The zero-waste ‘Heron’ is a totally sustainable vessel that is built from earth-friendly materials using the Viking’s efficient design.
The climate crisis on Earth has spurred Bjørn to act: “We’ve got to that point where the Vikings were 1 200 years ago. They were running out of resources and were experiencing the effects of climate change. From a sustainability point of view, humanity is at that place right now.”
The Viking longboat was trucked to Durban for successful sea trials and then taken by road to Struisbaai for the launch. The Struisbaai-to-Hermanus leg took 16 hours to cover 64 nautical miles.
Bjørn is descended from a much-heralded family of marine expeditioners and is himself a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, the Explorers Club. His grandfather, Thor Heyerdahl was the pioneer of the Kon-Tiki voyage in 1947, in which he set out from Ecuador for Polynesia in an extremely basic wooden raft, and the 5 000 km Ra expeditions from Morocco to Barbados in an ancient Egyptian-style reed boat. His uncle sailed on the 50-year Kon-Tiki commemorative voyage on a replica of the original Kon-Tiki vessel.
Speaking on the boat’s performance in the water, he says: “During the Hermanus to Gordon’s Bay leg, we got to test her properly. We had 2.5 – 3m following swells and were doing up to 9 knots with wind speeds of 25 knots. She was thrown around a lot but there was hardly a drop of water in the open boat and she was extremely buoyant!”
Bjørn was very happy with the hospitality the crew received in Hermanus and thanked Schulphoek Guesthouse for accommodating them.
To follow this sea-breaking expedition and to donate to this worthy cause, see www.midgardexpedition.com