The Crew of the Hjemkomst: Where Are They Now?
How were their lives affected by that voyage?
BY MARIJO VIK
In 1982, a full-size replica of a Viking ship sailed from Minnesota to Norway crewed by 11 young men and women plus a seasoned Norwegian sea captain. The ship was the dream of Robert Asp, a teacher from Hawley, Minnesota, who started building the vessel in 1972 in a potato warehouse in his hometown.
Asp began by cutting the white oak required for the ship, which took over 100 trees and 11,000 feet of lumber.
He could only work on weekends and during the school’s summer vacations. During the build, Asp was diagnosed with cancer but he continued through it all to create his dream. The ship was finally removed from the warehouse in July, 1980, and transported by truck to Duluth. Robert Asp got to sail the Hjemkomst on the Great Lakes before he passed away. The crew he had helped assemble finished his dream.
The crew was composed of: Erik Rudstrom, skipper; Roger Asp, shipmaster; Mark Hilde, first mate; Dennis Morken, boatswain mate; Myron Anderson, medical officer; Jeff Solum, radio operator; Paul Hesse, navigator; Tom Asp, project coordinator; and crew members: Deb Asp, Doug Asp, Vergard Heide, Bjorn Holtet, and Lynn Halmrast.
The ship now rests at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, Minnesota.
Three of those crew members, Mark Hilde, Myron Anderson and Jeff Solum, agreed to share their experience of that voyage and the life lessons learned.
Mark Hilde, first mate
Mark Hilde, who was living in Fargo at the time of this recording, was the first mate and this is his interview.
Mark Hilde – 01: What year did the Hjemkomst sail from New York to Norway?
Mark Hilde – 02: What year was the ship first launched?
Mark Hilde – 03: What were the dimensions of the Hjemkomst?
Mark Hilde – 04: How did you get selected to be one of the crew members?
Mark Hilde – 05: How was the captain selected?
Mark Hilde – 06: How were the other crew positions determined?
Mark Hilde – 07: What do you think was the most important decision made by the captain?
Mark Hilde – 08: How was the crack repaired?
Mark Hilde – 09: Was it frightening?
Mark Hilde – 10: What other scary situations did you have?
Mark Hilde – 11: What did the crew do to get out of this situation?
Mark Hilde -12: Was there any more damage to the ship and what caused it?
Mark Hilde -13: What were the other crew members doing when this happened?
Mark Hilde -14: Why didn’t Robert Asp want a crew that could swim?
Mark Hilde -15: Please tell me about the fire you had on board.
Mark Hilde -16: Who did the cooking and what did you eat?
Mark Hilde -17: What tools were used for navigation?
Mark Hilde -18: How did the Vikings navigate?
Mark Hilde -19: What route did the Vikings use to sail from Norway to the West?
Mark Hilde -20: How did the Vikings use ocean currents to sail?
Mark Hilde – 21: Based on what you’ve learned about sailing, do you think the Vikings could have come to Minnesota?
Mark Hilde – 22: What kind of welcome did the Hjemkomst crew receive when you arrived in Norway?
Mark Hilde – 23: Please tell me more about those first few days and hours on shore.
Mark Hilde – 24: How long did you stay in Bergen and then what did you do?
Mark Hilde – 25: What did the crew do next?
Mark Hilde – 26: After you flew home, what happened to the Hjemkomst?
Mark Hilde – 27: What did you do after the Hjemkomst adventure?
Mark Hilde – 28: What life lesson have you learned from the voyage that you still use today?
Mark Hilde – 29: Do you still sail?
Myron Anderson, medical officer
Myron Anderson, who was attending the North Dakota State University, was designated as the medical officer. His interview was conducted over the phone and is audio only.
Jeff Solum, radio operator
The third crew member who agreed to be interviewed was Jeff Solum, radio operator, who was in Australia at the time. Timing was an issue for the interview so Jeff answered questions by email.
Q: How old were you at the time of the voyage in 1982?
Q: What were you doing before you became a crew member?
A: I was a student at NDSU and working part time to pay for school.
Q: Where are you originally from and where were you living at the time?
A: I am from Moorhead. I was living on campus in Fargo at the time of the voyage.
Q: How did you hear about the Hjemkomst?
A: I went to junior high and high school with Deb Asp so I knew it was being built by her father. I was racing scows at that time at Pelican lake. So a friend of mine and I used to tease her a bit about her dad building this crazy boat when he really didn’t know how to sail. All in good fun. We knew Deb could take a joke. She was always a good sport about it.
Q: Why were you interested in joining the crew?
A: I had a love for sailing and also a love for adventure. My parents were always great about letting me do things on my own or with other friends. I was more or less the Huckleberry Finn of the neighborhood. I was always building rafts or forts or go carts and taking them on adventures. I did a lot of camping and exploring the rivers and lakes around Pelican. My parents let me travel to sailing regattas on my own or with friends from the moment I got my drivers license. The first time I experienced the Hjemkomst was when I was in high school and headed to a sailing regatta with the family E scow. I just deviated the trip and pulled the whole rig up to Duluth to help set up the ship.
Q: How did you get selected to be one of the crew members?
A: We more or less selected ourselves. Folks came and went during the summer of ‘81. I was there sort of as camp director to show the “experts” who were trying out for the crew how to sail the thing. It was only after that summer that I realized that I was probably more qualified than the others who were trying out. So in the late summer Tom Asp asked me if I wanted a spot on the ship. That is how it went with most crew members. The folks that worked well together and put in the time ended up making up the crew along with family members who had obviously sacrificed a lot while their father devoted the remainder of his life to the project.
Q: I understand that you were named as the Radio Operator. Why was that position a “fit” for you?
A: I had been interested in Amateur radio in my youth. I was also a student of electrical engineering and a member of the NDSU Ham club at the time. So it was a natural fit. I volunteered to handle all the communications from ship to shore. Both long range and short range. I also procured all of the equipment needed for the voyage involving communication.
Q: What equipment did you have available to send and receive messages?
A: Several things:
- HF radio “Ham” radios from Ten-Tec
- VHF radio “marine band” from President
- VHF radio “amateur 2 meter band” from Kenwood
- UHF EIRPB “emergency radio beacon” for satellite emergency locator
- LORAN C: HF navigation system
Q: How does that compare to equipment you might use on a sea voyage today?
A: I would still use the ham radio since it is direct communication and someone is always listening. I would make sure the HF radio could also work on marine single sideband frequencies something I could have had back then but just did not know it. Satellite radio for directly making phone calls is now available to mariners. Inmarsat for global internet communications for email service would now be available. Of course GPS is now available for worldwide navigation. Back then the LORAN was only good for coastal navigation.
Q: As Radio Operator, what are some of your strongest memories?
A: Talking to all the great network operators who were there twice a day every day for 96 days of the voyage. The network stayed active for almost a decade after the voyage, meeting once or twice a week just to meet and remember the voyage.
Q: Please tell me about the fire you had on board.
A: I missed that adventure. We were in New York at the South Street Seaport Museum, and I was actually at a radio shop in downtown Manhattan getting some more equipment for the voyage. So all I saw was the aftermath. A few of the guys mainly Roger covered in the stuff from the fire extinguisher. He looked like a ghost.
Q: Please describe any particularly scary or frightening situations.
A: Not to the point of being really scared. The storm was intense but I felt relatively safe. We handled the situation pretty well. I went off watch during the most intense wind. Even during the next day when the waves got extremely large, I felt relatively safe. The crew was working well together and the sun was out helped keep everyone calm.
Q: What do you think was the most important decision made by Erik Rudstrom, the captain?
A: To continue the voyage after suffering the damage to the hull after the storm. There was a 5 meter long crack in the hull. A lot of captains would have abandoned the attempt to complete the voyage. But his experience told him otherwise.
Q: Did the crew ever feel like staging a mutiny?
A: Never. We sometimes had our differences with Erik. Usually when he was upset about something like a decision about navigation or communication or weather reports.
Q: What have you been doing for the past 36 years after the Hjemkomst?
A: I have been working as an electrical engineer. My first job was designing high frequency radios. Later I worked for a telecommunications company on wireless communication for cellular radio systems. I now work on the Bluetooth Standards for wireless communication on behalf of Starkey Hearing aid company.
Q: What life lessons learned from the voyage do you still use?
A: My sense of adventure is still a big part of my life. I am quite an adrenaline junkie, racing sailboats, and ice boats. Still hoping for some other big adventures. I hope to sail around the world someday once my working days are over.
Q: Do you still sail, and why or why not?
A: Yes, I am as active as ever. Racing sailboats mostly inland boats but some offshore as well. Iceboats in the winter, scows and keel boats in the summer. If I was not working full time, I would definitely be sailing most of the time.
(Marijo Vik is a 72-year-old senior at MSUM who hopes to graduate in May with a multimedia journalism major. MSUM will award a degree posthumously if she ends up in the ground before a gown. She has been a reporter for the Twin Valley Times, Twin Valley, Minnesota, since 2009 and will use her education to be a better reporter and editor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)