From about A.D. 800 the Norse sailors raided the coasts of northwest Europe, and the craft they used were the broad and shallow ‘longships’. The Vikings, as the Norsemen are commonly called today, set out from their creeks or fiords in Scandinavia and Denmark in early spring and late summer, and sailed away on long, bold searches for plunder. These explorers were merchants and colonizers as well as warriors. We know they reached places on the coast of North America, but these have not been precisely identified. Monks of the Scottish islands felt their might; they chanted: ‘From the fury of the Northmen deliver us, O Lord!’
Some of the Viking ships have been preserved because of their habit of burying a dead chief in his longship, and covering it with earth in a burial mound. One such ship, found at Gokstad in Norway, dates from about A.D. 900. She is built of oak, and is 24 m long, and 5 m broad. The longship has sixteen oars a side. From the end of her keel the stem and stern posts rise in beautiful curves.