Monday, December 3, 2012
Harbor History: Leif Erickson Replica Viking Boat
By: Tony Dierkins, Zenith City Online
It wasn’t easy. They faced hurricane-like winds, icebergs, and weeks of fog. But they made it to Labrador and on to Boston, covering 6,700 miles in 50 days. From Boston they sailed on to Duluth to take part in a national convention of Norwegian emigrants. By the time they arrived here they had covered roughly 10,000 miles. That they accomplished this in a 42-foot boat outfitted with only oars and a square sail is nothing short of remarkable.
In 1984 Neill Atkins and Will Borg, Emil Olson’s grandson, established Save Our Ship (S.O.S.) to renovate, preserve, and protect the vessel. They have struggled to raise fund to properly protect the boat, displaying a mixed record of stewardship. S.O.S.’s ironic initial idea was to not save the boat at all but to scrap it (the News-Tribune suggested she be burned in Lake Superior, like a Viking funeral). S.O.S. would then build a longboat-style warship to replace it, even though the boat was modeled after Viking merchant vessels built before the Norsemen became marauders.
S.O.S. has struggled since to raise money for an appropriate shelter. The will has always been there, but the funds have not always materialized. In the late 1990s Save Our Ship considered moving it to the Great Lakes Aquarium. The idea couldn’t have sat well with Borg, as he was once quoted as saying, “Leif Erikson Park without a ship is like Canal park without a lift bridge.”
In 2012 another group of developers proposed moving the boat to a retail development to be constructed at the “Lafarge” site, just west of Bayfront Park. That project has not materialized.
From Zenith City Press’s forthcoming “Pearls on a String: History of Duluth’s Parks.”