The Vikings Used Sunstone For Navigation, Study Shows

Posted by Ms Elly on

The Vikings Used Sunstone For Navigation, Study Shows

The Vikings were really famous for the great seafaring skills and their success of raiding by voyage. They travelled to many places around the globe not only to make a fortune but also to learn new things. But to get so impressive achievement, they must have needed a lot of help from both internal and external elements. A well-known Viking saga once told about the magical stone that helped to find the traces of sun when it was hidden behind the cloud or even at sunset. It was known by the name the Sunstone. A recent research has shown that the sunstone was real and correct.

Image of Viking sunstone Viking navigational tool

Viking sunstone was one of the most helpful ways for navigation

According to many Norse and Viking sagas, we might hear of the sólarsteinn or the Sunstone which people in the sagas used to determine the position of the sun. But we just know it as a legend because it was something out of the question. But in 2010, a unique crystal was found in the wreck of an Elizabeth ship that sank in the Channel Islands in 1592. The stone was found 1 meter (3 feet) from a pair of navigation dividers, suggesting that the stone might have been kept with other navigational tools. The research was carried out by the University of Rennes in France. 

Image of Viking voyage

The Vikings used many ways to find the way on their voyage

With some chemical experiments, the researchers found that the stone was the calcite crystal which was believed to have appeared in the Viking Saga of King Olaf. Though today, this type of stone is useless for navigation for it has been abraded by dust and sand. But in the past, it was one of the most helpful ways that people used to navigate. 

Researchers point out that the principle of the sunstone relies on its extraordinary ability of creating the double refraction of sunlight even if the sun is hidden behind the clouds or after the sunset. This means that if you use the stone to see the face of one person, you will see two faces. But if you place the stone just in the right position, two images will become one and you know that it is pointing east-west. One cool thing is the refractive power still remains even it is foggy/cloudy or even in twilight. 

Image of Viking glacier Viking sunstone from TV series "Vikings"

A scene of Viking sunstone in Vikings TV series: Ragnar showing Rollo about the sunstone

In fact, in the Viking sagas the Viking warriors thought of many ways to navigate on their voyage. For example, it was said that the Vikings carried the ravens with them on their voyage and once they didn't know where they were, they would let the ravens fly out to find the land. Another navigational tool was the Viking Sun Compass. 

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