When the Norse went raiding they did so in some of the most phenomenal ships to ever sail the seas. The ships were clinker-built, meaning they were made from overlapping boards. This was a tough, resilient design that could take the pounding of ocean waves. They were all built with shallow draft hulls. This means they rode relatively high in the water. This design allowed them a number of advantages: great speed; the ability to navigate in as little as three feet of water; the ability to be beached and easily re-floated back into the ocean. There are different categories of longship, though. If you want to read a detailed account of them all I would suggest the site Shipfans which has a thorough article here.
The class of longship I want to mention today is the Drekar, or dragon boat. These are the ones people picture when you say Viking ship because of the carvings of menacing beasts that they carried either at the front of the boat or at front and back. This is the ship Hollywood and artists love so much because it makes such a striking visual. Ironically, the best descriptions we have of them come from the sagas like the 13th century Göngu-Hrólfs Saga, and not archaeological finds. The sagas claim the carvings were there to protect the crew by frightening off the monsters of the deep. It is also likely the Vikings understood the power of a such an image to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies. The most famous and best-preserved Viking ship of today is the Oseberg ship. It does feature some truly incredible carving, but sadly the prows of the ship are formed into a spiraling serpent and not a dragon.
My Norse-themed art for this week is what the prow of a drekar might have looked like. I created the base design with the knotwork in Adobe Illustrator and used Photoshop to add effects.