Shipwreck Reveals Mythical Navigational Tool of the Vikings

By MarEx 2013-03-07 10:09:00

Photo: Iceland spar, possibly the Icelandic medieval sunstone used to locate the sun in the sky when obstructed from view.

While examining an ancient shipwreck, scientists believe to have found a sunstone-like crystal. These mythical objects are thought to have aided Viking mariners with navigation.

The clear crystal was theorized to be able to locate the Sun, regardless of clouds or other hindering weather conditions. Many attribute this tool to the Vikings’ ability to navigate across large stretches of sea before the invention of the magnetic compass. However, a number of academics treat the sunstone theory with skepticism, reports BBC News.

A scientific team from the France’s University of Rennes located the crystal while exploring the wreck of a British ship sunk off the island of Alderney - in the English Channel - in 1592. The oblong stone was next to a pair of dividers, suggesting its use as navigational equipment.

According to BBC News, the sunstone has now been proven to be of Iceland spar - a type of calcite known for its property of bending light into two separate rays. After testing, scientists proved that by rotation it was possible to find the point where the two beams meet - showing the direction of the Sun.