keulaOn May 22, 1999, a ship typical during the Viking era sailed into the consciousness of the locals, when it for the first time cut the waters of the Kallvik bay in a suburb of Helsinki. An appropriate name-giving and launching ceremony was arranged for this historical eastern route farer. The name was found in the genesis-song of the Kalevala, the Finnish national poem: SOTKA.

With the support of the Helsinki Cultural Foundation, the Viikinkiajan Laiva association built a replica of a real Viking-age ship. The ship was built by the members of the association, using traditional tools and methods. Even methods long ago fallen to disuse, such as setting the boards by using fresh planks were employed.

The idea was to build an ancient Finnish sea-sailer. The original ideology that ancient Swedes were the only “Vikings” at the eastern routes, does not hold against the evidence brought to light by archeologists during recent years. Finnish prehistorical culture was also to a great extent based upon seamanship and commerce. The eastern route (the Viking austrweg) was a cultural channel, connecting the Northern countries with Russia, the East-Roman empire and further with the Arabian world. Then, as now, the Finns actively took part in the communication market.

The model of the ship is taken from the only known Viking-age wreck found in Finnish waters. It was found in 1976 in the Lapuri-strait, in the gulf of Vironlahti, not far from the Russian border. The reconstruction works where mainly based upon reconstruction drawings made by marine archeologist Harry Alopaeus.

The Sotka has now, during the past sailing-seasons, proved to be a surprisingly seaworthy and practical vessel. The form and the characteristics of the Sotka seem to indicate that her primary use must have been cabotage along the coast, probably all the way to Aldeigjuborg , important Russian tradestation by the lake Ladoga, from where the eastern route was continued, probably with smaller vessels. When occasion was given, she lent herself with ease also to less peaceful activities.

The Sotka is owned by the Viikinkiajan Laiva association. In addition to the associations own sailing-excursions, Sotka participaties in many sea and historical events. Viikinkiajan Laiva also works in close cooperation with other Viking-age associations such as the Iron Age Village project “Sommelo” in Pukkisaari, the viking-age re-enactment group “Greywolves”, and the Rusfarers association who, with the Sotka’s “big sister” named Heimlösa Rus circumnavigated Europe.

The common strenght of these associations is a fresh and enthusiastic way of approaching the Finnish cultural heritage.

For inquiries the board can be reached at hallitus(a)viikinkiajanlaiva.fi

For VAL membership applications, see here.