7 Ways the Vikings Navigated the World

 

The Vikings are generally known for their destructive behavior in European history and their fantastic navigation skills despite living in an era where maritime technology hadn’t peaked yet. If you’re curious to know the different ways these incredible sailors attained great sailing feats despite no modern aids (satellite navigation, radios or echo sounders, etc.)  then keep reading this article. 


Viking Sea Navigation Ways              

1. Sunstones

It has been proven by a research study conducted by a University in France (headed by Guy Ropars) that Viking sailors back in the day utilized sunstones to help them in their sea voyages. They used sunstones specifically “calcite” by rotating it in a way that the top surface spot of this mineral matched each other’s light saturation. Using this technique made it easier for them to pinpoint their next location and smoothly navigate in the waters because of the similarity in the saturation.

2. Utilized the position of the Sun, Moon & Stars

Due to the lack of tools at that time, the Vikings had to rely on their experiences of living in the wild to help them navigate their way to their next destination. Aside from knowing how to pinpoint the north, south, east and west sides, they relied heavily on the sun’s position to truly determine their current location during the day. After the sun went down, the Vikings utilized the position of celestial bodies to find out what direction they were heading in at night.

3. Static objects 

There were times when the weather was very cloudy and foggy so Vikings had to rely on static objects on land to know where they were going. The invisibility of the sun, moon and stars didn’t deter these courageous warriors from wanting to continue their long sea voyages. This is the reason why they tried to look for cliff tops or different unusual rocks to help them avoid the possibility of going off route and missing an entire continent.

4. Rudimentary maps

In order to utilize a variety of navigation aids from nature, they also drew rudimentary maps so they could remember and take a look at all the landmarks they encountered which they knew would be very useful for future sea travels and explorations.  

5. Chanting/Singing

Long sea voyages could sometimes take its toll on Nordic sailors so they resorted to chanting/singing. They did this back in the day not just as a form of entertainment. It was also a way for them to pass on important information and keep a steady rhythm during onboard activities such as anchor raising, sail setting, etc. Chants, songs and rhymes were valuable for Vikings since they couldn't rely on nautical maps and charts to accurately find their way around at that time. 

6. Animals 

Another technique that helped the Vikings navigate the world were wildlife such as whales and birds. These animals were integral to their expeditions and served as navigational aids. Birds were more useful to them since some of them were only common and could be found in particular places, while others would only fly a certain distance from where they came from. On the other hand, whales follow a predictable path so once Vikings spotted or saw either one of these animals then they could breathe a huge sigh of relief because they treaded the right path and possibly not too far away from the next land that they intended to raid and pillage.  

7. Senses

Viking sailors also utilized their keen senses and gut instincts. They wouldn’t hesitate to delay their sea journey for weeks or even months if they felt that the sailing conditions were not optimal and risky. They knew how to sense danger and could predict if the weather was going to turn bad using the touch of wind. They could also determine how close they were to land by gauging fog thickness, listening to sea waves crashing onto nearby rocks and even picking up tree or fire scents.


There you have it. These are 7 ways the Vikings navigated the world. They lived in a scary era when the odds of making it out alive weren’t high compared to today. It goes to show that where there’s a will, there’s definitely a way and that being intelligent, observant and patient can go a long way.    


References: 

https://www.marineinsight.com/maritime-history/how-vikings-used-sunstones-for-navigation-at-sea/

https://nice-festival.com/how-vikings-navigated-around-the-world-part-1/

https://nice-festival.com/how-vikings-navigated-around-the-world-part-2/ 

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