Jay Haavik, of Seattle, was the lead carver of the team that undertook the elaborate carvings on the prow and stern of the Oseberg replica ship, started in 2010.
At Large in Ballard: Miniature ships, grand stories
By Jennifer D. Munro
I know not much about Scandihoovia, although my great-grandmother was a full-blooded Norwegian. It’s no coincidence that this makes me at least 12.5 percent Norweirdish, since I also consider 12.5 percent to be an acceptable alcohol percentage in many beverages.
I also know not much about boats, although Great-Grandma Neilson sailed from Norway to the Sandwich Islands in the early 1880s to work the cane fields with her parents and six siblings; I doubt she was given much choice in the matter. She married the carpenter on a Kauai sugar plantation but apparently never cottoned to the work or climate because she dumped her hubbie and four kids to sail away with the captain of the four-masted Falls of Clyde.
Perhaps, then, it was my DNA that led me to attend two recent Nordic Heritage Museum lectures on ScandiNavy ships: the Vasa, which sank 15 minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628, and the thousand-year-old Viking craft Oseberg, whose 1960 full-sized replica sank in 12 minutes. The Man I Married also owned a crappy old wooden boat that looked like it would sink to the bottom of Ballard Mill Marina in seconds (there were moments when I wish it had).
Or perhaps my interest had something to do with my discovery that the museum provides wine and yummy Scandihoovish cookies during their free lectures (a small donation is requested for entry and libations). My interest in my Scandi-naughty heritage had certainly never manifested before, other than my year-round penchant for holiday glogg. When I summarized for the Man I Married yet another NHM lecture that he had peevishly declined to attend with me -— this one about the impacted migration of reindeer-herders when Norway, Sweden, and Finland defined their borders -— the Man I Married couldn’t locate the countries on a map, much less picture how they conjoined. So I held down three fingers to illustrate the three countries and how they connected at my knuckles. This threw MIM for a loop, since normally when I use hand gestures on him, it’s just the one finger pointed up.
Whatever the case, I found myself sipping wine and scarfing down Nordic treats I couldn’t name, listening to fascinating stories about ancient ships by two men who are working to preserve or re-create the relics. Master woodcarver Jay Haavik spoke about the intricate carvings on the Oseberg. Nautical archaeologist Nathaniel Howe spoke about his work on Vasa’s tackle and pulleys (rumor on Market Street is that Hollywood hopes to consult with him on the specialized “playroom” equipment for the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey adaptation starring Wallace Shawn as Christian Grey and Kathy Bates as Anastasia).
Howe also helped to build the Nordic Spirit, the dragon-prowed boat in the museum’s parking lot, against which lounged two Dragon Tattoo-like girls prior to the lecture, looking like they were cooking up ways to disembowel guest columnists who bogart the pastries. Perched on its wheeled trailer, the Nordic Spirit gets around more than my great-grandma did. For a while it was parked in the Viking Bank lot before Viking changed names to an insipidly patriotic name nearly identical to other banks in Ballard, so that I find myself putting the wrong ATM card into the wrong cash machine. This banking homogenization is yet another insidious step in outsider efforts to Blandardize Ballard.
Both the Nordic Spirit and the Oseberg, I learned, utilize clinker-construction. I didn’t need a lecture to know a thing or two about clinker building techniques; the Man I Married uses them all the time on clunker projects around the house.
If these historic ships interest you, there’s no need to battle the over a million visitors per year to see the Vasa in Stockholm or freeze your tush off to see the Oseberg (and its new, full-size replica) in Oslo. You can visit them right here in Ballard, where an exhibition of model ships from the Nordic Heritage Museum’s permanent collection is on display through June. Since the replica ships could fit in your bathtub, they might be easy to overlook, but don’t make that mistake. Imagine being able to tell the patrons at the Copper Gate that you’ve seen the Oseberg, which the bar’s prow at Copper Gate is modeled after. To the unfortunate soul perched on the stool next to you slugging aqvavit, you can go on to describe the Oseberg in minute detail, since, after all, minute detail is all you’ve seen.
Parking at the Nordic Heritage Museum, 3014 NW 67th, is free and plentiful (you can’t say that about many places in Ballard these days). The museum hosts musical performances, films, and lectures, listed at www.nordicmuseum.org. If you get bored during an event, let your attention wander to the woodcarving over the stage and ponder how birds can be the same size as whales and ships.
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