Archaeologia Maris Baltici et Septentrionalis

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In King Valdemar’s wake? Sailing expedition in the Stockholm archipelago


Moored in Ekholmen, on the itinerary’s inner route (Photo: Tobias Zwick)

Since the first Baltic Workshop for PhD Researchers in Maritime Archaeology brought me to Sweden, I had decided to prolong my stay in Sweden privately and brought up my smakke with me. After the workshop, I picked up the crew — my younger brother Tobias and Alexis, an old friend from Southampton — and we launched the boat in Nynäshamn to follow a section of the route described in ‘King Valdemar’s itinerary’, a route description from the early 13th-century. The expedition was carried out under quite authentic conditions, with my smakke (a traditional Danish clinker-boat with a Viking ancestry) with neither electronic aids nor a motor. Only a GPS data logger was switched on but never used to determine a position. The vessel was propulsed by means of  sails or oars. The only “modern” concession was the use of a nautical chart as the only navigational aid. In the 13th-century there were no maps in the geographical sense, but routes were described by a sequence of place-names, mostly orally. A full account of the trip is given here, and some of the obervations entered my case study on the itinerary. Having seen and sailed through the landscape of the archipelago proved very inspirational and changes the way one thinks about the navigational circumstances in a different — arguably more authentic — way than could ever be achieved with an armchair approach. Speaking of armchairs, that would have been more confortable than the hard rocks, but one can’t have everything!


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