Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A sort of Hjemkomst

One of my personal philosophies about travel is that you should do your best to seek out the historical and cultural flavor of where ever it is you find you've traveled to.

I think every place has something to discover. Sure, it might be an easier search in, say, Florence, Italy, than in Liberal, Kansas. But the there is there for the curious and persistent to discover.

It was this kind of thinking that had us spend a little extra time in Fargo during our Grizwaldesque Thanksgiving road trip to North Dakota.

Actually, the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center is in Moorehead, Minn. It hosts various local art and history exhibits, but the anchor tenant (pun intended) is the Viking replica ship, Hjemkomst.

The ship was the dream of Moorehead resident Robert Asp, who wanted to build a Viking ship and sail it to his ancestral home in Norway. For those of you who don't spreken Norwegian, Hjemkomst translates to "homecoming" and is pronounced (near as my non-Norwegian ear can tell) "yom-komst."

The hull of the Hjemkomst is 76 feet long and 17 feet wide. It took Asp eight years, 100 oak trees and 7,000 rivets to build.

In 1980, while I was busy trying to figure out a Rubik's Cube, Asp sailed the completed Hjemkomst on Lake Superior. Unfortunately he died of leukemia before he could attempt the voyage to Norway.

Two years after his death, four of Asp's children were part of a 12-person crew to finally attempt crossing the north Atlantic in the Hjemkomst. The 6,100 mile voyage was treacherous as the Viking ship was buffeted in a severe nor'easter.

A rogue wave hit the ship so hart that one of the hull timbers split. The crew faced sinking in the cold waters before plugging the breach with burlap sacks.

Hull breach caused by rogue wave in the North Atlantic.

The crew's quarters on the deck consisted of sleeping bags on wooden planks, just like the original Vikings used circa 890 AD (the planks, not the sleeping bags).

After more than two months at sea, the Hjemkomst pulled into the harbor at Bergen, Norway to the celebratory greetings of their cousins.

The museum plays a 30-minute documentary about the project before the tour. Admission is only $7 bucks a person for adults. The admission attendant let our 6-year-old daughter in for free. The ship exhibit allows you to get up close and touch the ship, see the water marks and get an idea of what life aboard the ship must have been like for the Americans in 1982 and for the Vikings in the ninth century.

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3 comments:

  1. If you get a chance to shoot down the highway a bit to Alexandria (MN), you might wish to take in the Runestone Museum as well.

    Fascinating stuff, to be sure.

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  2. Kickass, I like Scandinavian/Viking stuff !

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  3. You dig it the most, Nuke!

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