By Håkan Altrock, Föreningen
A Viking fleet will
land in Georgia
In the beginning of the 1040s an armed force with Varjagi* i.e.
Scandinavians, came to the small place Bashi, situated by the river
Rioni in Georgia. In the old Georgian chronicle Kartlis tsovreba
it is stated that they were 3000 men and presumably they had been
rowing up the river after sailing eastwards on the Black Sea, most
likely from the estuary of the Dnjepr River.
After an agreement had been made with Bagrat,
the king of Georgia, 700 of them continued to travel further into
the country where they took part in a battle against the king's
enemies on the wooded shores of Sasirethis, a few miles west of
Despite their help, the king lost the battle
and fled. After reaching an agreement with the hostile army, the
Scandinavian force returned westwards, thereafter disappearing from
Both the geographical area, the course of
events and the time period make it probable that the story in the
Georgian chronicle is a trace of the fatal Swedish expedition by
the chieftain, Ingvar den Vittfarne (Ingvar the Far-Travelled),
mentioned on at least 26 rune stones in mid-Sweden as well as in
an imaginative saga from Iceland. Archaeologist. Mats G. Larsson,
Ph.D, maintains this theory in his book "Ett ödesdigert
vikingatåg - Ingvar den Vittfarnes resa 1036-1041" ("A
fatal Viking Raid - the journey of Ingvar the Far-Travelled 1036-1041").
How did they travel through the land that is Sweden today, in the
Viking Age? And how did they travel from here to Russia and the
Black Sea? What did the boats look like and how could they find
their way on narrow rivers, past rapids and over land between different
watercourses? The only way to get more knowledge about this is to
do practical tests with similar kind of boats. Many experiments
like this have been carried out during later years, but often with
boats that were mostly adapted to sailing and thus far too heavy
and clumsy for journeys on rivers and pulling on land.
At an archaeological information meeting about
ships, held at Vik's castle in 1994, Mats met the Viking enthusiast
Håkan Altrock. They started to talk about Mats' idea of testing
the practical prerequisites needed for a voyage in the wake of Ingvar
den Vittfarne through Transcaucasia, with a replica of a Viking
ship. Later on their conversation resulted in Håkan's decision
to build a light, flexible Viking ship for the expedition.
The keel of the ship was laid in 1998 and
it was launched in 2001. Since then it has been test sailed. In
2003 the non-profit association Vittfarne was formed, in charge
of planning for the expedition.
We in the Vittfarne association intend to
test the possible route of Ingvar den Vittfarne through Transcaucasia
with a Viking ship replica suitable for the purpose. The aim is
historical research as well as creating international contacts between
The Viking boat "Himingläva"
The Viking boat replica we plan to use is called Himingläva
and was built with this expedition in mind. The original is a boat
found in a grave mound excavated in 1880 in Gokstad, Norway. In
the mound a very well preserved, 23 metre-long ship was found.
The king buried in the mound seems to have
enjoyed being on the sea because, among his grave gifts, there were
also three smaller boats. The largest and smallest of them have
been reconstructed and are now on exhibit in the Viking Ship House
on Bygdøv in Oslo. The largest seems to fulfil the requirements
needed for a river traveller while still being able to manage sailing
in fairly close coastal waters.
The boat, that has been named "sexäringen"
("the six oars"), is 9,75 metres long and 1,86 metres
wide. It has room for 9 people on longer trips. It is driven by
six pairs of oars or a square sail of 16 square metres.
From the "Old Swedish-village"
The expedition will start in the Old Swedish-Village (Ed. note:
Swe. Gammalsvenskby, present-day Ru. Kakhovka. The old Swedish-village
is a village where the inhabitants, whose ancestors emigrated from
the Baltic Island of Dagö, still speak Swedish.) in the south
of Ukraine in spring 2004. Here the scientific expedition that brought
the Viking boat Aifur from Sigtuna, Sweden to the estuary of the
Dnjepr via river systems in the late Sovjet during the seasons of
1994 and 1996, was broken off. Our journey can be seen as a continuation
of this expedition.
The journey starts out from the Dnjepr River,
passes the Crimean peninsula and along the Russian and Abchazian
coast to the mouth of the Rioni River at the Georgian port of Poti.
Via Rioni and its tributaries we will proceed to the village of
Zuare where the traverse over the water divider will take place.
The boat will then be launched in the Kura River that flows out
into the Caspian Sea at the coast of Azerbajdzjan. The final destination
is Baku, the capital of Azerbajdzjan.
We are looking for sponsors, people with useful contacts, as well
as a crew. The crew we are looking for does not necessarily have
to be sailors or weightlifters. Rather we want physically ordinary
people who can easily mix in a group, sometimes even under difficult
psychological and physical conditions, people who are not afraid
of digging in and who have a general positive attitude. A strong
interest in history and/or boats is a merit as well as a degree
of competitive instinct. You must be more than 18 years old.
Anyone who thinks he/she is qualified is welcome
to apply, women as well as men. During the sailing season of 2003,
you will have the opportunity to test rowing, sailing and maybe
pulling the boat on land. After this season we will know how we
get along together and who will be chosen to take part in the expedition.
Preliminarily the expedition will be divided
into seven stages of 14 days each. The more stages a person can
participate in, the better.
In your application please tell us about yourself and why you want
to join. More information about the expedition's dates etc., can
be found either on the website - www.vittfarne.com - or by email.
Please send applications to firstname.lastname@example.org
or by letter to:
121 55 Johanneshov
* The word Varjagi (Varangians) is mentioned in the Russian
Nestorian Chronicle as a name of a people living beyond the Varjagic
Sea (the Baltic Sea). According to the chronicle (chapter XV) the
Varjagi included many tribes or ethnic groups, among which Rus,
Svear, Northmen, Anglians and Goths are listed.
This article was first
published in Viking Heritage Magazine 2/2003.