The reconstruction of Mora is intended to be as authentic as possible and forms part of an experimental archaeology project. It relies on the iconography of the Bayeux Tapestry, on the expertise of its scientific committee – specialists in Norman maritime history and maritime archaeology, naval architects and shipwrights... – and on the empirical knowledge of the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark.
Indeed, the association is relying on the work of the Danish Museum, which has rebuilt several replicas of its own since discovering 11th century wrecks in Skuldelev in 1962, thus learning to adhere to the techniques and actions used during the original build processes.
Despite the lack of original plans, the synthesis of knowledge has made it possible to sketch out the face of Mora, that of an ‘esnecca’ or longship able to be manoeuvred and seaworthy. “It’s a Viking-type warship with a very slender profile and hence quick. We’ve gone for a ship made of oak measuring 34 m long with a 5 m beam, capable of transporting a 70-strong crew including 60 oarsmen. She will also have a 150 m2 square-sail rig,”explains naval architect Marc Ronet, who drew up the initial plans of Mora. One of the special features of the ‘esnecca’ lies in her shallow draught, enabling her to head up river and ground easily on the shore.
This fascinating project also requires extensive research and a thorough understanding of 11th century construction techniques, as well as the choices made by the shipwrights at the time (see interview with Marc Ronet below). Within the context of the show site, which is set to last five years and rally together a dozen or so trained employees, the public will have a chance to discover the implementation of this build process using the actions and tools of the 11th century. The reconstruction is intended to be as authentic as possible, whilst also enabling Mora to be approved by Maritime Affairs so she can head out to sea !
In contrast to the methods typical today, the construction of the ‘esnecca’ involves fitting the planking first. We start by assembling the planks, the outer casing, before installing the frames or skeleton. This method requires very special know-how and less tooling, but it’s also a reflection of the means available in the 11th century.
The way of cutting wood, planing the planks and assembling the parts is linked to the tools of the 11th century. As such, the shipwrights used green wood which is easier to bend. After felling the oak trees, they split them with wedges and sledgehammers, then sawed up the planks to make planking. The appeal of splitting wood revolves around letting it follow the grain: ultimately the planking is more solid and less thick, and the boats are lighter.
The shipwrights will have to relearn these actions and these techniques, which are no longer in common practice today. The second challenge relates to the certification of the boat as European standards obviously don’t take into account boats from the 11th century. However, measuring 34 m in length, Mora ranks as a long-distance cruising boat! Together with Maritime Affairs, we’re trying to come up with technical solutions to satisfy modern day safety standards.