In 1881, the ship was built by the Nylands Shipyard at Christiania, Norway. Viking was a vessel of 310 gross tons and equipped with a 90 horsepower auxiliary engine. She was launched in 1882 from the Nylands Shipyard.
In 1904, Viking was purchased by Bowring Brothers of St. John’s for the sealing industry. She was placed under the command of Captain William Bartlett, who remained her master until 1923. SS Viking was the smallest of the Bowring Brothers’ fleet, but was capable of carrying 276 men.
Viking sailed for a number of years hunting the saddleback seal off the coast of Greenland. In 1882, Norwegian explorer, scientist and diplomat Fridtj of Nansen used her for his first Arctic expedition.
In 1930 and 1931, Viking was chartered by film producer Varick Frissell and Alexander Gustavus Penrod to make a film of the annual seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland. She was commanded by Captain Bob Bartlett, son of William Bartlett, and was featured in the final production. Before the film was released the producers decided that the film required more sensational footage, so both Frissell and Penrod returned to the ice fields the following spring aboard Viking, this time with Captain Abram Kean.
On March 15, 1931, about eight miles off Horse Islands, while stuck in the ice, Viking was rocked by an explosion that blew the stern off the vessel. Dynamite loaded on the vessel to add to the spectacle of giant explosions of icebergs had somehow been set off, killing 28 of the 141 on board. The deaths included Frissell and Penrod. It’s the largest loss of life of a film production crew in film history.
Viking caught fire and sank. Some of the survivors made the over-ice trek to the Horse Islands, while others were rescued by vessels dispatched to the area. The film was still released to audiences.