Replica Viking Ship Sails to Ireland

After a six-week voyage from Denmark, the ship arrives to cheers in Dublin harbor and a Danish official apologizes for Viking-era raids

After an arduous six-week journey from Denmark over the open seas, a replica Viking ship has arrived in Dublin to a rapturous reception.

Spectators cheered, church bells rang and sailors blew their horns as the replica Viking ship the "Sea Stallion" arrived in Dublin's harbor Tuesday after a 1,700-kilometer (1,000-mile) journey from Denmark. According to organizers, 100,000 people had gathered at the quay to greet the 30-meter (100-foot) boat, which left Roskilde on July 1 powered by wind and oar power.

Danish Culture Minister Brian Mikkelsen was on hand to watch his compatriots arrive and took the opportunity to apologize for the Viking invasions of Ireland. "In Denmark we are certainly proud of this ship, but we are not proud of the damages to the people of Ireland that followed in the footsteps of the Vikings," Mikkelsen said, adding that the warm reception given the ship showed that "it has all been forgiven."

The voyage was intended to research Viking ship-building and navigation techniques. However, the 65-member crew did have it slightly easier than their marauding forebears during the six-week voyage -- they had a support ship, GPS navigation systems, radar, radio and other high-tech gadgets to help them survive the journey. And they also got a helping hand along the way: The ship got towed for 555 kilometers (345 miles) across the North Sea when winds did not cooperate, so that the voyage would not fall behind schedule.

The ship, which was built by craftsmen using Viking-era tools, was a replica of one which is believed to have been built in Glendalough, Ireland in 1042 and which sunk 30 years later off the Danish coast.

The crew had to brave the elements on the open deck, with just one square meter of living space per person. Some crew members were forced to spend time on the support ship because they were suffering from hypothermia or minor injuries.

But all that was forgotten Tuesday as the crew celebrated setting foot on dry land. "Of course we're happy," Capt. Poul Nygaard told the Associated Press. "Tonight we will be celebrating in an Irish pub."

For project manager Prieben Rather Sorensen, sailing the ship was enough of a drug in itself. He told Reuters he was already counting the days until he could make the return voyage to Denmark in 2008, after the ship has been displayed in Dublin's National Museum. "It is like a narcotic," he said. "You can't live without it."