Vikingaheimar is the home of the Viking Ship Íslendingur (the Icelander). Built in 1996, Icelander is an exact replica of the famous Gokstad ship, a remarkable archaeological find of an almost completely intact Viking ship, excavated in Norway in 1882.
Captain Gunnar Marel Eggertsson was inspired to build a replica of this beautiful ship based on his own background as shipbuilder and sailor. He copied the original nail for nail. In the year 2000, with a grant from the Leifur Eiríksson Commission of Iceland, he sailed from Iceland to New York, a journey of 4200 nautical miles. His voyage brought world-wide attention to Leif Eiriksson's and Bjarni Herjólfsson's discovery of America, dated, according to the Icelandic sagas, to exactly 1000 A.D.
Building Icelander was an extraordinary achievement; at 23 metres long, 5.25 meters wide and with a holding capacity of 80 tons (by modern standards), it took 2 years of effort. The sail is 130 square meters and the mast is 18 meters in length. Made from pine and oak, scholars believe this was the most common type of ship in use during the Viking Age.
Vikingaheimar is also a home a portion of the Viking millennium exhibition produced by the Smithsonian Institution. Launched by King Harald V of Norway during the summer of 2000, and with a State Dinner at the White House, Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga then traveled to 6 other cities throughout North America. This exhibition, like the sailing of Icelander, celebrated the 1000 year anniversary of the Viking discovery of North America, shedding light on the latest scholarly research into the Norse settlement and explorations of unknown lands.
Gunnar Marel and his crew of 8 left Iceland on Icelandic Independence day, the 17th of June, with a send off from the Prime Minister of Iceland. When it finally arrived in New York on October 5th-where it was greeted by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mayor Rudolf Guiliani--the ship had made stops at 22 harbors. In addition to the festivities with kings, queens, presidents and mayors, when the ship arrived, visitors also streamed to see it while it was docked at each location, all told about 450,000 people came on board.
These two fine projects, both celebrating Iceland's central role in the discovery of North America 1000 years ago by the Norse Vikings, have now found a permanent home in Vikinga Aldan (Viking Wave), the central building on the Vikingaheimar grounds. A spectacular modern building, it also offers beautiful views of the surrounding bay, Faxaflói.