How far can you throw a stone, shoot an arrow, walk in the course of a day, walk before you want to stop for a breather, or row a boat before you take a break? These activities laid the basis for the old measures of length ‘a stone’s throw’, ‘an arrow shot’, ‘a day’s journey’, a halt and ‘a change of rowers’. In the course of this spring Magnhild Øen Nordahl has been studying old measures of length and part of the exercise has been to test these units.
A ‘change of rowers’ was in use as a measure of length in Norway from perhaps as long ago as the sixth century and up to the 1700s. In the Middle Ages they called the measure of length Vika Sjóvar and the concept was probably related to a practice for sailing in boats where you took turns rowing after a given distance.
In the project Vika Sjóvar the artist Magnhild Øen Nordahl invites the public to participate in her investigations and test the length of a ‘change of rowers’ on Puddefjorden in a wooden boat. How far can you row before you want to take a break? What is your ‘change of rowers’?