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Sons of Norway launch fundraiser to rescue Viking ship's Duluth appearance

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In their heyday, Viking ships sailed from their Scandinavian ports to raid unsuspecting villages with no help required.

But the largest modern-day Viking ship's much anticipated arrival in Duluth has turned into a perilous voyage – one that now depends on a quick bailout from generous donors if it's going to happen at all.

A surprise $400,000 fee

The Draken Harald Hårfagre sailed across the ocean from Norway just fine.

Its problems began this week on the Great Lakes when the non-profit group that operates the ship learned they'll have to pay a fee for a professional pilot to guide the vessel through the lakes. At $400 an hour, the total cost to sail to Duluth will come to $400,000.

That's money the group does not have because it thought – mistakenly – that the fee would be waived.

The Draken was booked at four shows on the Great Lakes during its Expedition America 2016. After getting the news about the pilotage fee, the crew continued to their first appearance at Bay City, Michigan. But they said unless they were able to get either a legal change or 400 grand, that would be as far as they went – meaning appearances in Green Bay, Chicago, and Duluth would all be canceled.

In Duluth the Viking ship has been billed as a leading attraction at the Tall Ships Festival from August 18-21.

Can the Sons of Norway sail to the rescue?

On Thursday the Minneapolis-based group Sons of Norway announced the launch of a fundraising effort that hopes to collect $430,000 for the Draken to complete its planned voyage.

Sons of Norway CEO Eivind Heiberg says the Draken has stirred the imaginations of people around the world, adding:

"Its urgent need fits with Sons of Norway’s mission to promote and to preserve the heritage and culture of Norway, and we’re pleased to help facilitate and coordinate sanctioned fundraising efforts to bring the Draken to all those who have worked and planned their summer schedules around her visit.”

Organizers of the Draken's expedition said in a statement they're overwhelmed by all of the people who have contacted them asking how they could help. While other efforts have been launched, the crew says it's chosen the Sons of Norway's "Help the Draken Sail Again" initiative as their one official fundraiser.

But time is tight for the Draken. Its stay in Michigan ends on Sunday and spokeswoman Sarah Blank told the Star Tribune that if the money is not raised by then, the crew will likely have to turn the ship back toward Norway.

Even though there's a lot of money to raise in a short time, the prospect of being rescued by their supporters in the New World has the crew of the Draken encouraged. "We are getting our hopes up to continue this expedition," Blank told the newspaper.

Here's where you can donate to "Help the Draken Sail Again." The fund passed the $10,000 mark on Thursday night.

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