IELTS READING LEVEL 7.5 – The Secrets of Viking Ships

The Secrets of Viking Ships

by ReadWorks

 

 

Today, the Vikings are mostly known as violent pirates and raiders. And it is true that Vikings did raid and destroy many towns and villages along coastlines, all the way from what is now northern Russia to Morocco. But the Vikings were also traders and merchants and didn’t simply destroy things. They also built towns and markets of their own, including Hedeby, which in the 10th century had a population of 1,500, making it the largest trading town in northern Europe. At their height, the Vikings attacked, settled or traded on four continents. They were active all the way from Canada (they became the first Europeans to travel to the Americas) to present day Istanbul.

All of their travel, trade and warfare were made possible by Viking ships, which were far more advanced than anything else sailing around Europe at the time. The most famous, and most feared, was the drekar, or longship. At sea, these ships could move quickly thanks to their large sails. The hulls of the ships were shallow and fat, which made them ride high in the water. This meant they could be driven right onto beaches, where the soldiers would jump over the side to attack and plunder villages and cities. The ships were also light enough that they could be carried from one body of water to another over short sections of land called portages. This greatly extended their range.

Several such drekar ships were found off the coast of Roskilde, formerly the capital of Denmark, between 1957 and 1962. The longest drekar measured 119 feet long with a crew of 100 men and space for 72 oars. With its gigantic sail, shallow hull and so many oarsmen, the ship must have been incredibly fast and highly maneuverable.

But Viking ships weren’t just built for warfare. Another type, called theknarr or ocean-going ship, had cargo holds built into the bow and stern. One such cargo ship discovered near Roskilde was capable of carrying 24 tons, or 48,000 pounds. The knarrs would have looked similar to the drekars except they were longer, fatter and taller, and the space dedicated to cargo left less room for oarsmen. These were the backbones of the Viking empire, which they used to carry everything from gold coins to timber, spices and fine fabrics.

Both the drekar and the knarr were built using the same method called the clinker method. Traditionally, oceangoing ships have used a keel, shaped like the fin of a fish. The keel sinks into the water below the hull. It helps the ship maintain a straight line through the water and counters the force of the wind against the sail, which otherwise might blow the ship over. Traditional ships are also built with ribs which function just like the ribs on a human being, starting at the spine and growing out in a curve to protect the space inside.

Using the clinker system, Viking ships had no deep keel. Instead they were built fat enough to carry lots of soldiers or pieces of cargo whose weight helped keep the ship planted in the water. The construction process started with a heavy piece of wood at the bottom. From there, oak tree trunks were split into long, thin planks. Two planks were fastened to the bottom piece, and then each plank was fastened to the one before it like overlapping shingles on the roof of a house. A massive beam was laid across the bottom to strengthen it and also to support the mast. Finally, crossbeams were laid inside to create a deck and benches for oarsmen to sit. The result was sturdy, fast and light.

Viking ships were so advanced for their time they often were the biggest, tallest and most striking ships many people had ever seen. The Vikings made them even more intimidating using bright colors and intricate designs. A monk at the St. Omer Monastery, in France, wrote this description of a royal Viking ship in 1013:

“On one side lions molded in gold were to be seen on the ships, on the other birds on the tops of the masts indicated by their movements the winds as they blew, or dragons of various kinds poured fire from their nostrils….”

The description makes clear that Vikings were not simple marauders. They built a wealthy empire through trade as well as plunder and used their wealth to continuously improve their ships.


Vocabulary

 

backbone       back ·bone

Advanced Definition

noun

  1. the series of bones that run along the center of the back; spinal column; vertebrae.
  2. anything similar to a backbone in location, function, support, or appearance.

She was the backbone of our project.

  1. strength or firmness of character.

She showed real backbone in standing up to the government.

These are some examples of how the word or forms of the word are used:

  1. Today our subway is the backbone of New York.
  2. The cave dwellers are all invertebrates, or animals without backbones.
  3. There was usually a backbone of truth, but Jim liked to flesh out his tales with embellishments.
  4. In the early- to mid-1800s, large farms called plantations were the backbone of the Southern economy.
  5. Frogs are also amphibians, which are animals with backbones that spend part of their lives in water and part on land.
  6. In the 1970s the area began to be called “Silicon Valley,” after the mineral that was the backbone of the semiconductor.
  7. These were the backbones of the Viking empire, which they used to carry everything from gold coins to timber, spices and fine fabrics.
  8. The car that hit Summers seriously injured the lower part of his spinal cord-the column of nervous tissue that runs through the backbone.

 

maneuver       ma ·neu ·ver

Advanced Definition

noun

  1. a planned military movement, as of troops, ships, or tanks.

The maneuver was carried out according to plan.

  1. (pl.) a series of such movements used as a military training exercise.

The army is conducting maneuvers in the area.

  1. a movement or change in direction requiring skill and dexterity.

An adroit maneuver brought the boat safely past the reef.

  1. a skillful or crafty procedure or manipulation.

The lawyer used a clever maneuver to force a mistrial.

transitive verb

  1. to skillfully move (something) to a desired position or goal, or to manage using strategy and cleverness; manipulate.

The captain maneuvered the ship into the narrow harbor.

He maneuvered himself so that he was close to the leader and could gain his trust.

  1. to make a tactical change in the placement of (troops or military vehicles).

intransitive verb

  1. to change position, location, or approach for tactical advantage or as part of a plan.
  2. to carry out a military maneuver or series of maneuvers.

Spanish cognate

maniobrar: The Spanish word maniobrar means maneuver.

These are some examples of how the word or forms of the word are used:

1. The barges, called trajineras, are sturdy and festive, painted brightly in yellow, blue, and red. But they’re difficult tomaneuver, clumsy in the water.

  1. Abrupt changes in depth, such as those caused by underwater reefs or sandbars, give rise to steep plunging waves. They’re the kind of waves a surfer needs to launch aerialmaneuvers.
  2. She maneuvers the food to her mouth and tries to breathe deeply and calmly, like her doctors have taught her. But calming her face long enough to take a bite is an almost impossible task.
  3. The longest drekar measured 119 feet long with a crew of 100 men and space for 72 oars. With its gigantic sail, shallow hull and so many oarsmen, the ship must have been incredibly fast and highly maneuverable.
  4. There was only one group that succeeded in maneuvering around the stage with complete accuracy. They had used a mechanical arm, but their robot also had to cart the material to the side, making their finish time later.
  5. Instead, EDL engineers designed a maneuver that would allow the entry capsule to turn sharply and activate powerful rockets to finish the job. Once this maneuver was complete, the capsule could attempt a vertical landing.
  6. No one was allowed on the roof, but the girls of St. Hildegard’s boarding school knew how to maneuver themselves in such a way, at a certain spot where the walls were close together, that they could clamber up and onto the roof.
  7. Doctors remove the appendix through small incisions in the belly. Some doctors use an “open” procedure: They create one opening and remove the appendix through that hole. Others use a minimally invasive laparoscopic approach, where they maneuver a small camera into the patient’s body for a better view.

 

plunder       plun ·der

Advanced Definition

transitive verb

  1. to steal (goods), esp. by force.

The soldiers plundered food and valuables.

  1. to steal goods from.

The thieves plundered the tiny village.

intransitive verb

  1. to take goods by force.

noun

  1. the wrong or unlawful taking of goods.
  2. stolen goods.

These are some examples of how the word or forms of the word are used:

  1. The rich trove of artifacts at Cumwhitton suggests that Vikings were wealthy settlers rather than plunderers.
  2. The Amber Room was a room made entirely of amber and gold. It was part of a Russian palace that was plundered by the Nazis.
  3. This meant they could be driven right onto beaches, where the soldiers would jump over the side to attack and plunder villages and cities.
  4. He accuses the king of “waging War against us,” saying that “he has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of the people.”

Name: ___________________________________ Date: _______________
Comprehension Questions
1. What is a drekar?
A. a Viking town
B. a merchant ship
C. a longship
D. an ocean-going ship
2. The author tries to persuade the reader of what?
A. Vikings were only violent pirates and raiders.
B. There was no connection between the Vikings’ success and their ships.
C. Viking ships were more advanced than ships today.
D. Vikings were not simply pirates and raiders.
3. The Vikings considered speed an important quality in a ship. What evidence from the passage supports this conclusion?
A. The hulls of the drekar were shallow and fat so the ships rode high in the water
B. The drekar had very large sails and space for many oarsmen.
C. Thedrekar were light enough to be carried from one body of water to another.
D. Thedrekar could be driven right onto beaches to allow soldiers to jump over the side.
4. Read the following description of the knarr: “The knarrs would have looked similar to the drekars except they were longer, fatter and taller, and the space dedicated to cargo left less room for oarsmen. These were the backbones of the Viking empire, which they used to carry everything from gold coins to timber, spices and fine fabrics.”
What can you infer about the knarrs?
A. They were not designed for warfare.
B. They were faster than the drekars.
C. They were designed to carry soldiers.
D. They were used for the same purpose as drekars.
5. What is this passage mostly about?
A. why Vikings are known as violent pirates
B. the different kinds of Viking ships
C. how Vikings decorated their ships
D. the two methods used to build Viking ships
6. Read the following sentences: “Viking ships were so advanced for their time they often were the biggest, tallest and most striking ships many people had ever seen. The Vikings made them even more intimidating using bright colors and intricate designs.”
What does “striking” mean in this sentence?
A. violent
B. dangerous
C. impressive
D. delightful
7. Choose the answer that best completes the sentence below.
Vikings designed and used their ships for multiple purposes, _______ warfare, trade,
and travel.
A. finally
B. although
C. ultimately
D. including
8. Describe the knarr.
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
9. Describe the differences between Viking ships and other ships at the time.
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
10. Explain whether Vikings should be known mostly as pirates and raiders. Support your argument using details from the passage.
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________

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