Bail Out of the Norse Persuasion

When a Viking ship was in danger of sinking, bailing out was probably one of the more obvious and reasonable courses of action for the crew to employ. It’s easy to imagine a crew of egalitarian, medieval Scandinavians reacting almost instantaneously to the situation by working seamlessly together in a common effort to avoid death by drowning. Which is why I find it doubtful that, when taking on water, a Norse steersman would have found it necessary to explicitly attempt to convince his companions that commencing bail was a good idea, much less with a speech that only made up for in conviction what it lacked in coherent thought and solid decision making skills.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that I find it difficult to conceive that any Norseman ever got up in front of his crew and contorted his face in a series of bizarre, simian-like expressions while saying something along the lines of: “Okay men, stop rowing. You there, I didn’t tell you to start bailing out yet. Stop. Fucking A, Olaf, I said to stop it! Okay. So, I’m thinking we should bail out this water or we’ll be in a crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen since the days when our granddaddies were nothing but young whippersnappers. Everyone remember that night in France when the king’s men caught us by surprise while we were all busy taking pleasure in the booty we had looted earlier that day? Or how about the time when those Frisians nearly defeated us in that terrible sea battle? That one went pretty damn poorly for us. Well, neither of those debacles were anything compared to the crisis we are facing now. So what we must do, what we really, really got to do is to start scooping this water out of the boat using our bare hands. Never mind how we got into this mess in the first place; we need to start this right now or else all hope is lost.” He would turn to his skipper and closest retainers. “This is a dire matter, so I urge you all to agree with me on this without hesitation.”

“But can’t we use the buckets?!?” This is what I imagine the first objection would have been in this ridiculous fantasy of incompetent Vikings. The only obvious response to this is, of course, “Well, no. I already said no buckets. I said we need to start bailing out now with our hands. There is no time to fetch the buckets. I realize this is not a perfect plan, but time is of the essence and it’s the best we can do given the circumstances. All is lost if we don’t all pitch in right now with our hands.”

Well, this would lead to all sorts of bickering and deliberating between the steersman and his retainers. All others would look on, simply ignored. Those closest to the argument would start circulating rumors, many of them inaccurate or blatantly false. The majority of the regular oarsmen would be deeply confused and wondering just how it came to be that such inept individuals were the ones making all the big decisions and that biased liars were the only ones close enough to actually hear them.

Eventually, the steersman would concede on the decision regarding the buckets, but only with a disheartening stipulation for the crew, “Fine, fine. We will fetch the buckets and use them, but we have lost too much time already, the water has been rising rapidly, and matters are only getting worse. We are now going to toss much treasure overboard to help lighten our load and gain more buoyancy. You will all return home as poor men, but this is an absolute necessity. It will allow us to continue our voyage otherwise unimpeded and we might stop off in England on the way to try and recoup our losses. We really need to pull together and unite in this cause if we are to survive the crisis and maintain our way of life.”

As you can imagine, such a proclamation would not go over well and shouts of “What the fuck?” would be heard all up and down the length of the boat. The bickering between the steersman and his retainers would resume while the boat steadily dipped further below the tide. For every inch of rising water, the steersman would contest, another bag of silver would need to be dumped. This strategy would successfully lead to a vicious cycle of stupid, ineffective bickering among the leaders with the actual sinking of the boat and drowning of everyone aboard being the only hope of its end.

But because Vikings were better people than modern politicians (or bankers and other generally irresponsible fools for that matter), they did not do things this way. This must have been very fortunate for them.



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