Searching for Traces of the Battle of Florvåg

Naval Vikign Ship battle Norway

About 2500 men were killed in the fierce Florvåg sea battle. (Illustration: Tor Sponga, from the book series “Det hendte i Bergen”, English: “It happened in Bergen”,)

According to the saga, about 2500 men were killed in the Battle at Florvåg in 1194 AD. The sea battle outside of the Askøy island close to Bergen, is probably the deadliest in Norwegian history. Now, the Norwegian Mapping Authority photographs the seabed using multi beam echo sounders.

– There are many unsolved mysteries and unanswered questions hiding on the ocean floor outside of Askøy, says Assistant Professor Arild Marøy Hansen at Bergen Maritime Museum to Bergens Tidende.

The seabed is photographed with advanced multi beam echo sounders, and there are discovered interesting elevations and shapes that the scientists want to take a closer look at.

Deadly Facts

The Battle of Florvåg was fought on 3 April 1194 AD and part of a devastating century-long civil war. The Birkebeiner party led by King Sverre Sigurdsson, were fighting the Øyskjegg (English: Island-men) party led by Sigurd Magnusson.

The bloodshed began with a surprise Birkebeiner night attack. Although the Øyskjeggs gained the initiative and victory seemed within reach, their ships were caught in a current during the final stages. This changed the outcome, and the Birkebeiners crushed the enemy and killed most of their leaders.

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Naval Vikign Ship battle Norway 3

How illustrator Tor Sponga imagines that the Viking ships were organized: 14 large Øyskjegg ships tied together while the Birkebeiner ships organize the attack.

The Birkebeiner fleet consisted of 20 – 21 ships while the enemy had a number of 14 larger ships. Historians have estimated both fleets to carry about 2,000 men. The Øyskjegg casualties is estimated to about 1,500 and the Birkebeiners to around 900–1,000, making the Florvåg battle possibly the deadliest naval battle fought in Norwegian history.


Locals and many Norwegians are eager to see if the scientists will find traces of the historical battle.

Assistant Professor Hansen says that they, among other findings, can see indications of ballast stone formations, but that this is not any evidence that the incident actually happened.

However, scientists are optimistic about being able to discover other interesting findings when (and if) they are given the opportunity to examine the ocean floor with a remotely operated vehicle.

– If we are realistic, we do not believe that there is much left of the battle down there, but we can hope. What is realistic, is to find ballast stones from sunken Viking ships.

Throwing Stones

Hansen also says that they have faith in finding so-called throwing stones.

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Viking Trowings Stones Weapon

Throwing stones can help to confirm the Battle of Florvåg, according to Assistant Professor Arild Marøy Hansen. (Photo: Bergens Tidende)

– We know this type of stones from the battles of King Sverre, including the Battle of Fimreite in 1184, he says to Bergens Tidende.

If there is found a ballast or throwing stone outside of Florvåg, this will help to verify that the fighting actually took place.

Lacking Money

Bergen Maritime Museum is very interested in uncovering what is hidden on the ocean floor, but according to Hansen the museum sadly is lacking financial means to continue the search.

– We have neither the money nor equipment to accomplish the task. We are fortunate that the Norwegian Mapping Authority has taken these pictures at their own expense.

Illustrator Tor Sponga from Florvåg was the initiator to search for traces of the historical battle.



Text modified by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews





Categories: Culture, History

1 reply

  1. This possibly historic battle place is just outside my window in Bergen. I can see Askøybrua and that part of Askøy shown above. I have not seen any viking ships on the sea yet 😉

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