"Hurra, hurra, hurra, hurra!" was yelled and a lone voice in the crowd sang out a verse of what I imagine was an Old Norse song of the sea as the Draken Harald Hårfagre sailed into Chicago’s harbor at Navy Pier on July 27.

There were throngs of people there to see all the magnificent vessels in the Parade of Sails at the historic pier in the southern port of Lake Michigan, but as I dodged in and out of groups of spectators to take photos, all I heard were snippets of stories about and admiration for the Viking ship.
This Viking ship, with her distinct square, red silk sail, is part of the Tall Ships 2016 festival at Navy Pier this weekend. Though Draken Harald is small (just under 35 meters long) in comparison to the other boats of the festival, the replica Viking ship is the world’s largest such vessel of modern times, built with the goal of retracing the first transatlantic crossing and Viking discovery of the New World, more than a thousand years ago.

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Everyone waiting on land to soak up this living history lesson was clearly struck not only by the ship but also by all the crew and their Viking strength and passion. The crew remained on board for the long and elaborate routine of docking the ship and prepping it for a few days in the harbor when the public can also come on board and tour it — but only through Sunday, July 31. Get your tickets at http://navypier.com/tall-ships-chicago-2016

After Chicago? Well, the exact course of her journey is still unknown as the crew takes it day by day — if you've been following her journey, you know it all depends on fundraising — but today they announced the Draken Harald will indeed sail to Green Bay, thanks to an incredible outpouring of support and funding. And I confirmed that sooner or later she will sail to Mystic Seaport on Connecticut’s Atlantic coast, according to plan, where she will spend the winter.

For more on the expedition and fundraising, visit http://www.drakenexpeditionamerica.com

Text and photos by Amanda Robison