Viking Stabilization Update

It is with great joy that it can be reported that the main stabilization work on Viking is finished!  With the visit to our ship by our primary consultant Gunnar Eldjarn in August, 2016–first to evaluate the work that had been done and then make recommendations for how to proceed–we made our final plans and carried out their implementation.  It was especially gratifying to hear Gunnar as he inspected the new “pillows” providing a cushion between the metal support jacks and the ship, proclaiming them either “very good” or “excellent.”  Gunnar agreed that we could use the screwjack idea for both the bow and stern supports, though the bow jack could be less robust to minimize its visual impact, and said that where the jack touches the keel there needs only to be four inches of material to provide adequate support. Gunnar also agreed that getting the mast off the ground and on display supported by the ships cradle made good sense and thought that having the yard alongside the mast would be helpful.   He commented on our two tone color scheme of gray below and black above and how it complements the ship, and was pleased to hear that we would be soon completing what remained unpainted.

Gunnar Eldjarn, master builder of “Draken Harald Hårfagre,” inspecting “Viking” and providing recommendations.

Starting in late September and continuing into mid-November, Bruce Andresen worked with Neil Anderson, Dave Barrows, Dave Nordin, and Perry Straw at the ship to remove old parts, modify existing parts and add new parts to accomplish these goals and to prepare for winter.   On October  15th we were joined by Roar Broch, Andrew Woods, Jeff Rydin, Jamie Larson, and Dan Snyder of “Mast Movers LLC” (also the caretaker of Good Templar Park), who all helped to move the mast to its new home atop the cradle outriggers.  Thanks to the aid of Dan’s tractor, moving the 52-foot-long mast was less of a back-breaking effort than anticipated, but we now all have a healthy respect for the strength of the Vikings of old who could raise and lower it with the limited tools and technology they had available to them!

After the mast move, work continued through early November to finish the projects for this year.  Here is a summary of what has been accomplished:

  • Added bow and stern jacks per directions from Gunnar Eldjarn
  • Moved the mast and yard to their permanent location on the starboard outriggers
  • Lined the starboard side of the shelter with plywood to cut down on dust, wind and snow
  • Removed the cables inside the ship as they are no longer needed and compromised the view of the ship
  • Removed part or all of the original ship supports on the starboard side
  • Corrected the bow tent support
  • Removed the tent support at the mast to be corrected in the spring
  • Painted all bare metal that was added to the cradle
  • The shelter cover was replaced with a temporary (till mid next year) cover, thanks to Peter Orum.
The new stern jack in place.

Many thanks go out to all who have contributed their time, sweat and energy to helping us stabilize Viking’s condition and provide her with the best structural support she’s had since she left the water!

Viking Has A Guardian Angel!

This angel doesn’t have wings and even smokes cigars!

Ever since the Viking arrived in Geneva, Illinois, Peter Orum of Midwest Ground Covers (“MGC”), based in Saint Charles, Illinois, has been “watching” over our ship by supplying protection from the elements in the form of the greenhouse-type shelter. He literally puts and maintains a roof over our head!

Peter Orum talks with Perry and Lorraine

Greenhouse covers (an integral part of Peter’s business) are made of white plastic with fiberglass reinforcing strings stretched over a stout metal frame. These covers protect Viking from the elements; sun, rain and wind; but these same forces of nature eventually cause the fabric to fail and the covers need to be replaced from time to time. The covering over Viking is no exception. Covering the ship requires a lot of material and at 48’ x 100’ it takes over a month to receive the cover. In December 2015, our “angel” provided a crew and new cover for the ship. After the cover was in place, it was discovered that there was a flaw in the center seam of the fabric near the stern. It appeared as two bright spots on the inside of the shelter, and it could be seen that the seam was not straight. The head of the installation crew, Robert Adolph, told FOVS chief of maintenance Bruce Andresen that they had inspected the cover closely and did not think that there was a hole in the fabric, but if we encountered any problems with the integrity of the fabric, any leaking of water, to contact him and Peter and he would resolve the problem.

Everything seemed fine until September 2016 when it was discovered that at least one of the two flaws was leaking water onto our ship. Bruce immediately contacted Peter Orum and Robert Adolph, and a new cover was ordered for the shelter. On October 27th a crew arrived with the cover, a bucket truck, and supplies.

It is a fascinating process to watch. The bucket lift is used to reach the high edges of the shelter at each end. The cover is held in place by springs fitted into a slot which runs the entire length of the shelter on each side and at the top of the shelter ends. It is further dressed with a vinyl strip stapled to the wood surrounding the edges of the shelter. Once the old cover is freed it is removed, folded up and then rolled up. Last year the wind caused the loosened cover to act like a sail and fly up, spectacularly, to twice the shelter’s height along the entire length of the enclosure.

After the new cover was rolled out for installation it was discovered that the new cover was cut too short to span the shelter. The fabric is always supplied with sufficient additional material to allow it to be pulled taut over the ribs and trimmed to fit. Co-Chief Perry Straw was taking movies of the work and noted that there was a problem and commented “I hope this guy is a Boy Scout!” referring to the resourcefulness of Robert Adolph. This proved to be the case, as this capable leader sent a part of the crew to Lisle where “MGC” was constructing some new greenhouses to obtain a substitute cover. While not made with as durable a material, the substitute cover will provide sufficient protection for more than a year and has the advantage of being seamless.

Installing the fabric over Viking

After the substitute cover arrived and work resumed, Peter came on-site to review the progress. He had not been aware of the problem with the replacement cover material, but after being briefed of the trouble and the solution, he approved of Robert’s actions. The cover was pulled over the shelter by bunching the fabric and attaching a rope to each bunch. The ropes were then thrown over the shelter at each bunch to start the process. Some of the crew remained on one side to hold the fabric, the rest were stationed on the other side, pulling the ropes to pull the fabric over the ribs of the shelter frame. Because even a slight breeze can produce spectacular billowing in the fabric, it’s a critical time in the process. Installers have been seen lifted completely off the ground while struggling to hang on to the fabric. There have to be enough workers for each side, plus extra hands, to begin the process of securing the fabric in place.

The FOVS board is pleased to say that the ship is now safe and secure against the wind, snow and rain of the winter and coming spring. Sometime after our first open day in 2017, probably in June or July, a crew from “MGC” will return to install a more durable version of the cover over the shelter.

Mr. Orum continues to be a magnificent benefactor. Many ship visitors hear this story during their ship introduction and it can be said that not only are there Viking angels but there is an angel for the Viking!

Progress. Viking is Supported Better than Ever!

Members of the Friends of the Viking Ship Stabilization Committee have been working hard, and their efforts have resulted in an adequate support system for Viking. To be properly supported, the ship needed to be supported entirely on the steel cradle—with no reference to the ground—and supported in many more places—including the lower hull. This has finally been accomplished!

The Stabilization Committee followed the advice and diagrams provided by Norwegian Viking ship builder, Gunnar Eldjarn. The committee contracted Methods & Materials to weld the inner and outer supports onto Viking’s steel cradle, and to fabricate the adjustable screwjacks and “shoes”. Crosspiece supports had already been installed in October 2014. The crosspieces support the keel at every other rib along the ship’s length.

The support jacks and “shoes” were installed in March 2015. The inner (lower) jacks that provide support for the lower hull were welded to the crosspieces. The outer (upper) jacks that provide support for the upper hull were welded to the “I” beam out-riggers.

Over the summer, volunteers continued to paint the steel cradle. On August 10, Cantigny employees Andrew Woods and Dave Blake used their Service Days to help sand and paint. On October 10, seven others volunteered to work at the ship.

This autumn, temporary “pillows” were created. Every wood “pillow” is a different shape. They were cut to conform to the specific strakes they support, at the rib they support. The “pillows” provide the cushion interface between the metal “shoes” and the ship. Viking’s keel and hull are now sufficiently supported.

Temporary wood “pillows” provide cushion between the shoe and strakes

Assessment of the Viking

On November 10, 2007 the Viking ship was professionally examined and evaluated inside and out, from stem to stern.

Howard Wellman, a conservator of archaeological materials who has done shipwreck archaeology, and Robert Fink, a boat builder, examined the ship. Their entire day was spent skillfully measuring, carefully probing, busily photographing and, copiously taking notes. Mr. Wellman’s report provided recommendations for arresting any deterioration and for the repair and preservation of this historic ship.

Roger Machin of Methods and Materials assessed the current situation and made recommendations for improving both the shelter and support of the Viking.

A committee of local and Chicago-area citizens banded together to launch this rescue mission for the ship, to stabilize the structure and to preserve it for future generations. In the short term, a substantial contribution from the Kane County Community Development Block Grant funds was used to complete this professional evaluation of the condition of the ship. Preservation Partners of the Fox Valley and the Norwegian National League also helped to finance this assessment, which resulted in detailed recommendations for the stabilization phase of the rescue project.

Howard Wellman
Bob Fink
Roger Machin

These recommendations were implemented in June 2008.

Read MORE.

Viking ship from 1893 Chicago world’s fair begins much-needed voyage to restoration

the June 26, 2008 article by Chicago Tribune reporter Gerry Smith

Built in Norway in 1892, the ship was modeled after a vessel called the Gokstad that had been excavated from a Viking warrior’s grave two years earlier and was estimated to have been built around 890. The replica, made of black oak, left Norway in April 1893 and made stops in Newfoundland and New York before arriving in Chicago in mid-July. Although it attracted much fanfare at the exhibition, the boat moored in Jackson Park Lagoon later fell into disrepair.

In 1920, the Chicago Park District took possession of the ship from a women’s group that raised $20,000 to repair it and move it to Lincoln Park Zoo, where it sat for decades in an open-sided shed, attracting few visitors and becoming layered with pigeon droppings.

This week, under a white tent in Geneva’s Good Templar Park, a crew of craftsmen tried to erase years of neglect to the ship, which last year was named one of the state’s 10 most endangered historic objects by Landmarks Illinois, a non-profit historic preservation group.

“You can see where things have gone south dramatically,” said Bob Fink, a maritime restorer who oversaw the work.

The boat’s wooden planks have started to rot and splinter after rain and snow leaked through holes in the protective tarp. In addition, the hull is sagging, the result of inadequate supports, said Fink, 51, of Queenstown, Md.

While Fink and another carpenter added support frames to strengthen the boat’s interior, a pair of workers from Chicago-based Methods and Materials cut steel beams to brace the ship from underneath.

Finally, Fink began installing a system of cables to pull the ship’s sagging frame back to its original form. “Once the cables are in place, she’ll be good to go for another couple decades,” Fink said.

In 1994, the Park District sold co-ownership rights for $1 to another group, the American-Scandinavian Council, which promised to restore the vessel and find a suitable home but made little progress. The ship was later moved to a warehouse in West Chicago. Then, the International Order of Good Templars, a temperance group that started in Sweden, offered to house the ship in its park in Geneva.