Commemoration: 40th anniversary of Hjemkomst Viking ship voyage from USA to Norway

Photo: HCSCC

In commemoration of The Hjemkomst voyage’s 40th anniversary in 2022, a major redesign of the Hjemkomst Ship Gallery at the Hjemkomst Center in Minnesota, US, is taking place. 

On Saturday, July 23, 2022, the Ship Gallery Grand Opening event celebrated the “new look” of the Ship Gallery and some of the original crew members of the Hjemkomst, along with their families, were present at the event, which was open to the public. 

The importance of the Hjemkomst voyage

In 1971, Moorhead Junior High School guidance counselor Robert Asp read a book on Viking shipbuilding. This inspired him to build and sail his own Viking ship. After years of preparing, planning, construction, and training, the ship was ready.

Named “Hjemkomst,” the Viking ship replica sailed from Duluth, Minnesota, to Norway’s capital, Oslo, in 1982.

“Looking back, the historical and cultural importance of the Hjemkomst voyage is influential to many people across the world. 

“Not only could you see his dream through the voyage in 1982, but you can see it in the people who come to see the Hjemkomst Ship today to reconnect with their heritage also,” Gabby Clavo, Communications Manager at the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, told The Viking Herald.

The Hjemkomst story

Moorhead, Minnesota, is located across the Red River of the North from Fargo, North Dakota, on Minnesota’s western border. After the Northern Pacific Railroad reached Clay County in 1871, a wave of prominently Nordic and German homesteaders ventured into the borderland and summer camping grounds of the Dakota to the West and the Ojibwe or Anishinaabe to the East over the coming decades. They brought along their stories and traditions, often drawing from the history and myths of the Vikings, in the case of Nordic homesteaders.

In 1971, one of the descendants of the Norwegian immigrants, Robert Asp, decided that he would return to the sea, following in the footsteps of his ancestors. One summer, Bob studied his Norwegian heritage and found the story of the Gokstad burial ship that had been discovered in a burial mound near Sandefjord, Norway, in 1880. He decided to build a Viking ship modeled after the Gokstad, with the goal of sailing it to Norway.

The construction of the Viking ship replica progressed slowly for the first several years as he could work on the project only on weekends and during the summer. Although he was diagnosed with leukemia in 1974, he continued his work on the Hjemkomst with the help of friends and family. The project took six more years to finalize.

On July 17, 1980, as pointed out on its website, the ship made her entrance into the sunlight to greet the public. Hannah Foldoe, Bob Asp’s mother-in-law and a Norwegian immigrant, christened the Hjemkomst on July 20, 1980. “Hjemkomst” means “homecoming” in Norwegian. Asp chose the name to honor his ancestors. The christening ceremony was part of the three-day “Viking Ship Days” celebration held in Hawley, during which roughly USD 35,000 was raised for the Hjemkomst’s voyage. 

The Hjemkomst left Hawley for Duluth, Minnesota, on August 5, 1980. The ship took her maiden voyage in Duluth Harbor on August 9, 1980. Throughout the end of that summer, Bob sailed on the ship. He took his last trip on the Hjemkomst on September 27, 1980. He died on December 27, 1980. However, his family remained committed to keeping his dream of sailing the Hjemkomst to Norway alive.

The trip from Duluth to Norway

In Norway, square-rigged sailing tradition had given rise to femborings – clinker-built wooden boats. One of the best-known femboring sailors of the time was Erik Rudstrom, who had sailed femborings from Norway to Iceland four times. Rudstrom was interested in the Hjemkomst project, so he agreed to help improve the ship’s performance before its big trip. 

A crew of twelve sailed the Hjemkomst from Duluth to Norway in 1982. A thirteenth member sailed as far as New York City. Four of Robert Asp’s children helped to sail their father’s Viking ship across the North Atlantic. 

The voyage began in May of 1982 on the Great Lakes. According to the crew, Lake Superior was the most difficult part of the voyage. Throughout the American part of the trip, the crew was honored at several receptions. They were forced to row the Hjemkomst through part of the Erie Canal. The ship arrived in New York City on June 8, 1982. The voyage around the Statue of Liberty brought nationwide attention to the project. 

As the journey continued, 500 miles out of New York, a storm hit, and the crew worked dauntlessly to ensure their own safety and that of the ship. Although only 500 miles from New York, the skipper decided the Hjemkomst should continue its voyage to Norway. Several more gales were encountered along the way. 

The crew of 12 was honored with a grand welcome by the people of Bergen, Norway, on July 19, 1982, as they arrived. On August 9, 1982, the Hjemkomst reached Oslo, her final destination.

The Hjemkomst was then stored in Oslo for one year after the voyage. After that, it was towed to Porsgrunn, its point of departure, before it was shipped to Cleveland, Ohio, in August of 1983. The ship was then towed from Cleveland to Michigan and transported by truck to Minnesota. It was donated to the City of Moorhead and placed on display at the Hjemkomst Center in Viking Ship Park.

Source: The Viking Herald / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayTravel

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1 Comment on "Commemoration: 40th anniversary of Hjemkomst Viking ship voyage from USA to Norway"

  1. Wonderful story. Norway needs a traditionally constructed replica like this as part of the Viking Ship Museum and which could stand in for the originals during their 4 YEAR restoration.
    “According to the crew, Lake Superior was the most difficult part of the voyage.”
    “Ballad of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” by Gordon Lightfoot.
    Superior is a notorious sudden killer. My new first wife, her family, and I were in a campground on Superior’s northern, Canadian shore, Summer 1972. After an adventure encountering a bear along a trail just inside the treeline along the shore – I had briefed them beforehand about what to do if that happened, but their eyes just glazed over, and when it did they panicked! 🙂 … and *I* got to face down the bear – who looked at me as if to say, “So what’s *your* problem?” and then sauntered off – we decided to go canoeing west along the shore.
    There were rocks not far below the surface, at this one rocky point, and the wind from the west started picking up noticeably. They all wanted to keep going, and I finally dug my paddle in the water and said *this* canoe wasn’t going any farther!
    There was griping – they wanted *adventure* – but both our canoes then turned back.
    By the time we reached the campground, serious waves were breaking along the beach making our landing on it … adventurous … and an hour or so later they had become towering surf breakers – we had gotten back *just* in time.

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