Wrecks & shipfinds in Norway:
The earliest nomadic settlers arrived in Norway at the end of the Ice Age, ca 8,000 BC.
Farming was common in Neolithic time, 4th-3rd millennia BC. It is likely that prehistoric people were
- The Bingen logboat. Logboat found in 1993 at Glomma. 10 m long and made of oak. C14 dated
to 170 BC ±60. Conserved at the Norwegian Maritime Museum. Photo courtesy Norwegian Maritime Museum.
- Halsnøy boat. Parts of a
clinker-built rowing boat with stitched planks were found on land in 1896, 1½ m down in a bog. The
parts were carefully excavated but unfortunately smashed by playing children before finally investigated
in 1903. It has been C14 dated to 335±65 AD. Ref. Ellmers: Frühmittelalterliche Handelsshiffahrt in
Mittel- und Nordeuropa.
- The Kvalsund ships.
Two clinker-built ships from c 700 AD found in a bog in 1920. The larger ship was 18 m long, the smaller 9-10 m. There
is no trace of mast or mast foot, so maybe the ships never had sail. The ships had
been deliberately destroyed, maybe as an act of sacrifice. Ref. Bass: A History of Seafaring;
- Storhaug ship. Storhaug a.k.a. Gunnarshaug, Hauge on Karmøy Island near Haugesund. This grave
mound was looted already in older times. Opened and investigated in 1886, 1902 and 1970. The grave is from
late 8th century and has contained a chieftain with his horse and 23 m long ship. Only fragments remain.
There are no indications of a mast or sail, so it may have had only oars.
- Oseberg ship. From c 834 AD, 21 m long, found intact in a grave mound on land in 1904. Two women
and a four-wheel cart were buried in the ship, now
Vikingskibshuset in Oslo. The Royal ship used oars and sail. This find is the earliest
archaeological evidence of a Nordic sailing ship. Nordic ships of earlier centuries
may have had oars only.
- Gokstad ship from ca 850-900 AD, found intact in a grave mound in 1880,
naturally preserved in the clay, 23 m long, displayed in
the Vikingskibshuset museum. The burial contained a man around 60 years old, and the
ship had been using oars and sail. Two or three small boats were also found, ritually
broken to pieces.
- Tune ship.
from ca 920 AD, found in a grave mound in 1867, c 20 m long, displayed in the Vikingskibshuset museum.
The ship used oars and sail. Ref
British Museum Encyclopaedia of Underwater and Maritime Archaeology.
- Klåstad ship. Found in south Norway, c 21 m long, dated to c 980 AD.
Ref, Christensen A.E & Leiro G:: Klåstadskipet. (Vestfoldminne 1976).
- ”Greenland Knarr”. Investigating house remains in the port of Bergen in 1955, parts of a 30 m
long clinker-built merchant ship was found. The parts had been re-used in a house dated at c 1250 AD.
Perhaps this was one of the large ships going to Iceland and Greenland. Ref. Ellmers:
Frühmittelalterliche Handelsshiffahrt in Mittel- und Nordeuropa.
- Christian II's wrecks. In 1532 the Danish king Christian II tried to regain control over
Norway. He led a navy of 30 ships and 6000 soldiers from Holland. They ran in bad weather on the North
Sea. Several ships sank, two or three presumably off the Norwegian coast at Lista. They have not been
located. Ref. article by Gudmund Olsen, Aftenposten, 31 August 1997.
- The Bell Ship. According to legend a ship sank with a valuable cargo at Håstein Klokkebåene
shortly after the Lutheran reformation in 1536. The church bells from Stavanger cathedral are supposed to
have gone into the depth. It has never been located. Ref. article by Gudmund Olsen, Aftenposten, 31
- Spanish Armada. Two off-course members of the Spanish Armada may have sunk in 1588 between
Bergen and Sognefjorden. The ships are marked on a 1590 map with wreck symbols. They have not been
located. Ref. article by Gudmund Olsen, Aftenposten, 31 August 1997.
- Schleswig. Frigate that sank in 1711 at Missingene. 289 men died and only one survived. The
wreck lies at 25-30 m depth. One limited examination has been made by the Norsk Sjøfartsmuseeum. Ref.
article by Gudmund Olsen, Aftenposten, 31 August 1997.
Akerendam. Dutch VOC ship built in 1724.
Sailed from Texel heading for Java in January 1725, drifted by a storm, sank off Runde, at Sunnmøre,
on the Norwegian west coast. The ship was loaded with gold and silver.
- Het Vergulde Lam. In 1745 this Dutch ship sank at Målen between Tvedestrand and Arendal. The
cargo consisted of the slave trader Ludewig Ferdinand Rømer's fortune in gold, saved during his career in
Guinea. Has not been located. Ref. article by Gudmund Olsen, Aftenposten, 31 August 1997.
Fredensborg. Danish-Norwegian slave ship built in 1753. It was engaged in the triangular trade:
to Africa, where it was loaded with slaves and ivory, thence to the Danish West Indies, where slaves were
sold for sugar, spices, tobacco, cotton, and mahogany, and finally, returning home. In 1767 she sank off
the Norwegian south coast. Located in 1974 and investigated. Among the finds were elephant tusks. Ref.
article by Gudmund Olsen, Aftenposten, 31 August 1997 and British Museum Encyclopaedia of
Underwater and Maritime Archaeology. Painting by Ants Lepson.
- Samson af Christiansand. Merchant ship
trading with the West Indies. In December 1786 she sank at Homborsund, loaded with tea
and other goods. She was found by scuba divers in 1984.
- Blücher. German battleship sunk by
Norwegian coastal defence in April 1940 in the Oslo fjord. Two shells from the 19th century guns Moses and
Aron damaged the ship's steering. Then she was sunk by torpedoes. The sinking gave the Norwegian
government precious time to prepare before the invasion. The 210 m long ship carried 1600 crewmen and 800
soldiers. The majority survived. The wreck lies upside down, depth is about 90 m and trimix is needed for
- The Wrecks of Narvik. In 1940 several cargo ships and German warships were sunk off Narvik.
Some of these well-preserved wrecks in clear water are now open for scuba divers, bringing visitors from
all over the world. The photo shows SS Romanby. Photo by
Lennarth Högberg, Dyk & Fototeknik.
- D/S Mira & Hamburg, Norwegian ships sunk at Lofoten in 1941 by the British Navy.
- HMS Edinburgh.
British 185 m long cruiser, loaded with more than 5 tons of Soviet gold headed for the USA, as payment for
weapon delivery. Despite protection by destroyers it was sunk off northern Norway in 1942 after attacks by
U-456 and German warships. Located in 1981 by Keith
Jessop, and almost all gold was salvaged from ca 250 m depth, using saturation divers and oil-rig
equipment. The USSR received 36% of the gold and the salvors 45%. The sister ship HMS Belfast is
today a museum ship in London. Ref. Stephen Johnson: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sunken Ships and
- Scharnhorst. German 235 m
long battleship with 28 cm guns, built in 1936. Sunk in 1943, 65 nautical miles north of Nordkap. Only 36
men survived. Located in 2000 with side scan sonar on 300 m depth. Photo.
Ref. Der Spiegel 41/2000.
- Tirpitz. German battleship, bombed
by RAF, capsized and sunk in 1944, Norway. The wreck has been salvaged and very little remains.
The list is sorted chronologically. Rev by P.Å.