The suggestion was that Robert Meade's class might build a Viking ship since their school mascot is a Viking. After careful research, Meade decided to make a knarr rather than a longboat since a knarr's hull is wider, deeper and shorter, providing more stability and making it possible to be rowed by a class of 20 students.

For two years, Meade's class, which included two girls, took great pride in the ship's construction. The ship, which the students named "Valhalla" (the mythological home of the Norse gods) is 30 feet long, weighs about 2,000 pounds and can be towed on a trailer. The total cost including the trailer was $4,200, which The Vasa Order of America Southwest District 15, the Fridtjof Nansen Lodge Sons of Norway, the school's education foundation and local merchants were quick to support financially.

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Meade said the craft is about 80 percent authentic. The planks overlap and are riveted in the traditional clinker-built method. Modern marine plywood replaced Norwegian oak and tar, and galvanized hardware and epoxy sealant were used.

The Vikings' maiden voyage
On May 20, 2016, a large crowd gathered in Huntington Harbor to toast the maiden voyage of the Valhalla with a glass of sparkling cider. Twenty students sailed their vessel for the first time for about 30 minutes, showing off the craft to their cheering fans and supporters. Everything went smoothly, though they discovered they will benefit from more practice rowing together.

The Valhalla will also be paraded at football games, but the class is looking forward to taking the ship to the ocean. They plan to sail from where the Queen Mary is harbored at Long Beach and go the 20 miles in the Pacific to Catalina Island.
For the time being, this will be a rowing vessel; next year the class will add a mast and sail. Meade envisions student team-building activities with the Valhalla, and maybe it will inspire other high schools to build a Viking ship as well. The Orange County Department of Education shared this video on the project: https://vimeo.com/150944891.

Nancy Kingston / Amanda Olson Robison

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