HOW A VIKING LONGSHIP ENDED UP IN MOORHEAD
Updated: May 7
It involves a guidance counselor, a potato warehouse, and a long trip to Norway.
A wooden Viking longship, replete with a dragon on the stern and a weather-borne crack in the hull, calls a Moorhead museum home. Logically. No, Vikings didn’t sail it to Minnesota—it came from the inspired dream of one Minnesotan in this landlocked region. In 1971, Moorhead Junior High guidance counselor Bob Asp fell off a roof—and spent hours and weeks laid up with nothing to do but research his Norwegian ancestry. Inspired, he vowed to build a fully functional circa–800 ad longship and sail across the sea. With a little help from his friends—and the city of Hawley, which bought him an abandoned potato warehouse where he could actually construct the thing—Asp built the Hjemkomst, and his crew sailed it from Duluth to Norway years later.
The ship was completed by summer 1980, seven years after the building process began. Asp was diagnosed with leukemia partway through the build but continued to work—and even got to sail the boat around the Duluth Harbor when it was finished before he died a few months later. In his memory, four of his kids, a couple professional sailors, and a few of his friends sailed the ship from Duluth to Oslo in 1982.
After the arduous, weeks-long sail—complete with a celebration in Norway—the longship was shipped back to Moorhead, where it now sits in Viking Ship Park’s Hjemkomst Center, a Teflon-roofed building created for the ship.
Here’s a mini tour of that gigantic ship.
Hundreds of people helped build the boat, according to Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County’s communications manager, Davin Wait. “The potato warehouse was open, so people would come in and drink coffee and see it, and many were pulled in to help,” he says.
After months of research, Asp modeled the Hjemkomst after the Gokstad ship, a ninth-century Viking ship that was found in a burial mound in Norway in 1880. Longships like the Gokstad ship were built to withstand deep-sea waves and traverse shallower rivers, making it a perfect fit for the multistep journey.
It took more than 100 white oak trees to construct the boat, even though Asp originally thought it might take 15. (“Lot of trial and error,” Wait says.) The final measurements? The mast is 63 feet tall, the main sail spreads 30 feet by 40 feet, and the body measures 76 feet long by 17 feet wide.
Historians have largely left Asp’s ship in its original condition. “We had to put a new sail on it, because the sail was lost or stolen in Norway—there’s some lore about that,” Wait says. “But it’s basically the same ship that landed in Norway.”
Visitors (some 30,000 annually) flock to the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead to see it. You can stand in a gallery above the ship (and watch virtual tours) to get a glimpse inside the bare-bones interior, from the wooden bunks to the trunk the crew used as a card game table.
SOURCE: Mpls Saint Paul
Bloomquist, Madison. “How a Viking Longship Ended Up in Moorhead”. Mpls Saint Paul. Minneapolis, 22 Apr. de 2021. 24 de Apr. de 2021 <https://mspmag.com/arts-and-culture/viking-longship-moorhead/>.
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