Radar scans have detected structures of a ship underground buried at a well-known Viking archaeological site at Gjellestad, near Halden, a town in southeastern Norway. The ship was recently discovered in the fall of 2018, and archaeologists found its Viking cemetery where it was ritually buried.

Archaeologists discovered that fungus is slowly destroying the ship, and now they must race against time to save the remains of the Viking ship from its ruthless foe. 

According to the Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, Sveinung Rotevatn, the 65-fool-long (20 meters) oak vessel is known as the Gjellestad ship, will be the first Viking ship to be excavated in Norway in 115 years if the project is successful.

He told LiveScience in an email that Norway has an exceptional responsibility in protecting the Viking Age heritage. Although the team of archaeologists was hesitant at first to excavate the ship, they are now finally going to excavate it to safeguard what remains of the vessel, and secure critical information about the Viking Age for future generations.

Gjellestad Ship: Viking Ship Covered in Fungus

According to Sigrid Mannsker Gunderson, an archaeologist with Viken County Council and his team, the Gjellestad ship was built for traveling long distances at sea between the end of the eighth century and the beginning of the 10th century.

Initially, they were unsure whether to excavate the ship when they first found it because open-air could damage wet wood, according to LiveScience. But a test excavation in 2019 changed their minds. They learned that they could lose this important discovery to decay if they will not dig up the ship soon.

Mannsåker Gundersen said in an email to LiveScience that the ship was very decomposed as seen from the narrow trench the archaeologist dug. The only part of the ship that was solid wood is the keel, and only imprints of the planks or strakes were left, together with the iron nails.

However, an analysis of the keel showed that it is covered in fungus and very brittle. The team's goal is to save the ship before it is too late and to gain knowledge about the ship and its grave, so it is very important to dig the ship as soon as possible.

Mannsåker Gundersen said. "A lot can be made out of imprints, objects, and different analyses of the soils and materials left."

Read Also: Mummified Remains of a Bejeweled Teenager Found Inside a 3,500-Year Old Coffin in Egypt

Excavation and Protection Process

The excavation will start in June, and its process shall begin with the archaeologists stripping off the topsoil and then sieving the dirt, in case it contains critical archaeological items that were tilled by farmers over the centuries.

Then, they will set up a tent to protect the remains of the ship and begin removing the soil that filled the vessel after it was buried. The archaeologists will simultaneously record every layer of the remaining wood and take 3D scans of it.

According to Løchsen Rødsrud, some of the wooden remains of the ship will have to be kept wet during excavation and will be preserved with polyethylene glycol that can give the rotten wood solidity and strength.

The archaeologists believe that the ship was built for sailing and rowing, but this will only be confirmed once the excavation begins.

Read more: Two 1,500-Year Old Bones of "Warrior Women" that may have Inspired 'Mulan' Found