Imagine the Nordic Vikings, sailing the north seas, crossing the Atlantic in search of new shores. The wind tossing the tiny vessel about in stormy waters as the men race from one station to another trying to tie down the sail and prepare for the worsening storm. The swells attacking and gaining purchase over the side of the ship as a crack rips across the side. The crack was only 1/8 of an inch but ran fourteen feet along the side of the vessel.
The crew had a decision to make, they could continue their journey and hope the temporary patch of burlap would hold or they could turn around and head back to New York Harbor to makes repairs. But the wind would not be with them if they returned. They would have to fight against the wind and it might just as well take as much time to return as it would to continue toward Norway.
Wait we were talking about Vikings, not sailors in North America. That’s what I said though. The vessel was not one of the robust Vikings of Norway like the Viking’s vessel that was unearthed from a burial mound near Sandeford, Norway in 1880, dating to around 800 AD. The events that I am talking about is the vessel Hjemkomst, built in mid to late 1970’s and christened on July 20, 1980.
The vessel is a copy of a real Viking ship and was built by a man with a dream. He often talked of building a ship that was just like the ones used by the Vikings. He started studying and years later he finished the dream, creating the Hjemkomst, which means homecoming in Norwegian.
Although he did not get to see the ship sail the high seas due to his death in 1981, Robert Asp’s dream was realized by members of his family and friends. They drove the ship from Hawley, Minnesota to Duluth Minnesota for it’s launching. It then sailed the great lakes and headed to the open ocean and its treacherous crossing of the North Atlantic.
The ship was on its way across the Atlantic when only 500 miles from New York it hit a storm that ended up casing the crack that ran along the side for fourteen feet. The crew decided to continue along their way, the return would be into the wind and the figured it would take just as long to continue on their journey as to turn back.
On July 19, 1982 the crew were greeted by family, friends and a cheering Nordic crowd as they landed in Bergen Norway. They had taken 72 days to travel from North America to Norway, fulfilling the dream of Robert Asp and honoring his memory.
The ship and its crew of twelve gained national attention even before their arrival in New York Harbor and the sailing around the Statue Of Liberty. The crew made its way across the Atlantic in a sailed vessel just as the Vikings had done decades earlier.
The world celebrated their successful journey and the realization of a dream of one man. The boat remained in Norway for a year and then made its journey home to Moorhead Minnesota were it remains today as a tribute and a monument to dreams fulfilled.
The Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead Minnesota is an event center, Clay County Historical Museum and Archives and museum for the ship and its voyage located on the Red River in downtown Moorhead.
The Center is easy to spot, it’s striking white roof is not hard to miss as you enter the area. The ships mast towers over the ship and in order to have the ship protected from the weather, they built the museum with a flexible roof over the ship.
The Hjemkomst Center has a variety of areas inside, the ship museum which requires an entrance fee, the Clay County Historical Museum and Archives which is free, and several event rooms and a refreshment area are available for visiting and use.
The ship museum is a fascinating visit not only to the past and the history behind the Vikings and their vessels, but an interesting tour of the ship, it’s construction and the voyage from America to Norway. There are videos, pictures and the tools used in it’s construction. The vessel was built on dry land miles from the nearest large body of water and was transported over land to the Duluth Minnesota launching.
The crew trained and kept logs and journals of their experiences on the voyage and you can read about their experiences and thoughts during the voyage. The instruments and radios used were modern, but the ship itself is an exacting replica and just as hazardous an ocean going vessel as the Vikings used so many years ago.
The vessel could have easily foundered in the storm at the onset of the voyage and their modern equipment would only have brought help, not kept the ship from sinking had it not been for the crews training and skill in sailing the ship. They had spent time to get used to the ship and its handling and made sure each knew all they could about what the voyage would entail.
The museum chronicles the voyage and shows just how difficult the Vikings had it to make voyages as they did some five hundred years before Columbus’s famous journey to the American Continent.
The Clay County Museum and Archives has the past and history of the county and has revolving displays of the counties past. There are displays and historical documents and artifacts that people can view and guided tours, slide shows and demonstrations for special events are available upon request.
The museum has revolving displays that change from time to time such as Antique toys, space flight and Red River Valley Folk Art. This exhibit changes routinely and displays various exhibits year round.
There is a new addition to the center called the Red River Valley Exhibit which chronicles the creation and history of the Red River Valley. From the 48 foot rendition carving in the carpet to the displays of ox drawn wagons and trade items of early settlers the history of the valley is splendidly displayed.
Outside the center you can visit an exact replica of a Norwegian Stave church. The 72 foot tall church is a tribute to the handiwork and carving skill of the Nordic and Christian works of art from the 1100 and 1200’s. The carving of the church was all done by Guy Paulson and the church was built using eighteen 27 foot tall pine columns. The church is covered with cedar shingles and has a Celtic Cross outside donated by Reverend Arial Molldrem and Myrtle Sellie Molldrem.
There are event rooms for rent that include the use of the kitchen if desired. There are different sized rooms for various occasions and the ship as a backdrop are a unique inclusion to a special event. The kitchen has full cooking facilities and can be rented along with the rooms.
There are special events and programs throughout the year and you can find out more about them and the center at their web site or by calling the center.
The Hjemkomst Center
202 First Avenue North
Moorhead Minnesota 56560
For room rentals