The Fabled Viking Sunstone
(also known as Viking Compass)
Essay Published 2008

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The Fabled Viking Sunstone
Note: after a run of nearly 10 years, most of the original Fabled Viking Sunstone website has been taken down for house-cleaning and to finally update its old HTML 4 handcoded pages to modern device-friendly webpages. Have patience and it will all be back!

Meanwhile, parts have this story have been published in hardcopy and are available as PDFs online through the publisher's websites (see links below); several more sections of the story are going to print soon, so stay tuned! The story of the sunstones and their use by the Vikings is also covered in my presentation The Fabled Viking Sunstone which is given throughout the year (for more information, see the author's Current Presentation Offerings)



The Fabled Viking Sunstone Presentation

AGA Conference, Tucson, Arizona

Upcoming: Scotland!



The Fabled Viking Sunstone by Elise A. Skalwold

Featured on The Science Channel
Mysteries of the Missing
September 2017 Episode 5: Viking Sunstone
Series Overview

Sunstone photo credits: Elise A. Skalwold, published 2016
(Terry OQuinn photo credit: The Science Channel,
provided by episode producers at Wall to Wall)



The Fabled Viking Sunstone Presentation

Demonstrating the Sunstones on The Science Channel
Mysteries of the Missing
September 2017 Episode 5: Viking Sunstone
Series Overview

With excerpts from: The Fabled Viking Sunstone (E.A. Skalwold,2008)

(Photo credit: The Science Channel,
provided by episode producers at Wall to Wall)

Double Trouble: Navigating Birefringence.

[12/26/15: For a update to the following 2008 essay "The Fabled Viking Sunstone," as well as an in-depth look at the optical properties of calcite which makes it suitable as the Viking Sunstone, see Skalwold, E.A. and W.A. Bassett. (2015) Double Trouble: Navigating Birefringence. Chantilly, VA: Mineralogical Society of America. 20 pages. ISBN 978-0-939950-02-7 (now available from the MSA as premium quality hardcopy booklets here or as PDFs here).

See also an in-depth look at the optical properties of iolite and pleochroism which make it suitable as the Viking Sunstone as well: Skalwold, E.A. and W.A. Bassett. (2016) Blue Minerals: Exploring Cause & Effect. Rocks & Minerals, Vol.91, No.1, pages 61-75 (abstract).]


Blue Color Blue Color

Understanding Iolite, the "Viking Compass" (or "Viking Sunstone")

From Blue Minerals: Exploring Cause & Effect (Skalwold & Bassett, 2016, Rocks & Minerals, Vol.91, No.1, page 66):

"With this overview of light and pleochroism and with the tools with which to explore, the intrepid traveler in the world of blue minerals is well on the way to understanding its mysteries. And as for iolite, long before the science of optical crystallography was born and advanced to its modern-day form of highly sophisticated instrumentation, this strongly pleochroic blue mineral may well have been an ancient Viking navigatorís most treasured and closely guarded secret with which to guide his captainís longboat across the treacherous North Atlantic - a theory this author (EAS) uses as a teaching model to illustrate the optical properties of pleochroism and birefringence in minerals (see The Fabled Viking Sunstone, Skalwold, 2008 http://www.nordskip.com/vikingcompass.html)."

Excerpted from Skalwold, E.A. and W.A. Bassett. (2016) Blue Minerals: Exploring Cause & Effect. Rocks & Minerals, Vol.91, No.1, pages 61-75.

Learn what makes different minerals and gems blue! The full story is published in the special Tucson issue of Rocks & Minerals magazine: "Shades of Blue Minerals" abstract

covers

Of the above titles, award-winning author/gemologist Richard W. Hughes writes:
"...It is really great to see papers of this sort making their way into both the gemological and mineralogical literature.
Wonderfully written and with high-quality illustrations, they bring esoteric subjects down to the level of us commoners in a way that is so rarely seen..."


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The Fabled Viking Sunstone
Copyright 2008, Elise A. Skalwold