Viking Ship Forced To Call Canada For Help Radio Proves Crucial In Faltering Bid To Reenact Leif Ericsson’s Voyage

The crew of a Viking ship trying to recreate Leif Ericsson’s voyage from Greenland to Canada has asked the Canadian Coast Guard for a tow back to land.

Canadian rescue officials said Saturday the 54-foot Snorri experienced rudder problems and will be towed back to Nuuk, Greenland, where the boat last set sail Aug. 8.

“There’s no immediate danger at the present time,” said Christine Gaillard, a marine controller at the Halifax Rescue Coordination Center.

The oar- and sail-powered Snorri was built in Phippsburg, Maine, and is a replica of a 1,000-year-old merchant ship. Although the ship was kept as authentic as possible, the crew did take a radio, a global positioning satellite system and rubber immersion suits for emergencies.

A ham radio operator in Ontario passed a message from the ship on to the Coast Guard late Friday night that the Snorri was experiencing problems. Gaillard said rescue officials were now in direct contact with the ship, which was 210 miles off the Greenland coast.

The expedition’s leader is West Virginia writer W. Hodding Carter.

The trip, which was to have taken six to eight weeks, has been bedeviled by problems from the start. A previous rudder problem postponed sea trials last May.

It was not immediately clear if the latest development meant the trip was canceled, but the 12-man crew had wanted to finish before the end of August to avoid hurricanes.

Spokeswoman Marian Rivman said the ship had gotten nearly half way across the Davis Strait between Greenland and Canada.

The journey began July 16, more than a week late because of problems lining up a cargo ship to ferry the Snorri to its departure point on Greenland’s western coast.

Unfavorable wind conditions kept the Snorri from making much progress after it left. A little over a week ago, the crew decided to scale back the trip by crossing the strait directly from Nuuk, rather than continuing north 200 miles along the Greenland coast before cutting across.

The trip’s destination is L’Anse aux Meadows, at the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland, the site of the only known Viking settlement in North America.

The cost of the trip, estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars, is being underwritten by Lands’ End, a mail-order retailer in Wisconsin.

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