The "Lofotr" viking ship and the smaller "femkeiping". Both recosntructions based on excavations from the Gokstad find. Credit: Geir Are Johansen/Wikipedia
A pair of researchers with ELTE Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary has run computer simulations that suggest that tales of Vikings using a sunstone to navigate in cloudy weather might be true. In their paper published in Royal Society Open Science, Dénes Száz and Gábor Horváth describe the factors that contributed to their simulations and what they found by running them.
For the time period 900 to 1200 AD, Vikings, by nearly all accounts, ruled the northern Atlantic. Their skill in building strong boats and in navigation allowed them to travel throughout the North Atlantic. Prior research has suggested the Vikings used a type of sundial to navigate, which was apparently quite accurate. But what did they do when it was cloudy or foggy? Viking tales passed down through the generations claimed it was through the use of sunstones, which allowed Viking navigators to find the sun even on cloudy days. But proving the tales true has been problematic—no sunstone has ever been found on or near a Viking shipwreck. A crystal was found on a 16th-century English shipwreck in 2002—and English sailors could have learned to use them from the Vikings—but much stronger evidence is needed.
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