Newspaper article MinnPost.com

From Duluth to Oslo: The Voyage of the Hjemkomst

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

From Duluth to Oslo: The Voyage of the Hjemkomst

Article excerpt

While recovering from a fall in 1971, Moorhead Junior High School guidance counselor Robert Asp read a book on Viking shipbuilding. This sparked the thought that he should build and sail his own Viking ship. After ten years of planning, building, and training, the ship named Hjemkomst sailed from Duluth, Minnesota, to Oslo, Norway.

Robert Asp dreamed of building and sailing a Viking ship as a way to connect with his Norwegian heritage. He read several books on the subject while recovering from a broken leg after a fall. Once recovered, he began working on the ship in earnest. Asp chose for his ship the name Hjemkomst, a Norwegian word that means homecoming, and set his plan to sail the Atlantic Ocean into action.

In July 1972, the first lumber was milled at Harvey Engen’s sawmill north of Viking, Minnesota. Asp personally selected each White Oak tree that was milled. He estimated that fifteen trees would be needed to build a Viking ship; ultimately, over one hundred were needed. He chose an old potato warehouse in Hawley, Minnesota, to house the ship and leased it from the city for ten dollars per year. Renovations transformed the Welter Potato Warehouse into the newly minted Hawley Shipyard.

Asp was diagnosed with leukemia in 1974 but never lost sight of finishing his dream ship. It took six years for him and his volunteers to complete. The finished ship featured the horned head of a dragon, which the crew named Igor, at the bow. Sleeping quarters, along with a stove, water, food, sea anchor, and inflatable life boat, were all outfitted on the ship. The center mast was 63 feet tall and supported a thirty-foot-by-forty-foot main sail and a ten-foot-by-thirty-foot top sail.

On July 17, 1980, the Hjemkomst made her debut and was presented to a cheering public. The ship was towed overland from Hawley to Duluth and first set sail in Duluth Harbor on August 9, 1980. Over 4,000 spectators witnessed the maiden voyage. The crew trained for weeks on Lake Superior for their journey to Norway.

Robert Asp took his last trip on his dream ship in Duluth Harbor on September 27, 1980. He died of leukemia later that year on December 27. …

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