Norse Nautical Units and Distance Measurements

By Roald Morcken, published November 1968


Norsemen used celestial navigation in the Middle Ages. The latitude of Bergen and Trondheimsford were fixed by the 13c, using quadrant and declination tables. The 9c Ottar was the first navigator to provide accurate distance measurement still in use. The unit of distance was a /viku;/ one-sixth /viku/ equals today’s nautical mile. One degree of latitude was a /twelft/ (twelve /viku/). A /doegra/ was a day’s sail, 144nmi. The Viking distance tables covered the Atlantic, Mediterranean and North American coasts accurately. Gunwale timing marks and the steady pace of rowing measured distance, not mechanical logs, and /k//lepsydra/ measured time.

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Filed under: Atlantic | High Middle Ages | North Sea | Other (Early Modern) | Mediterranean
Subjects include: Science & Exploration | Ship Handling & Seamanship

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