The statue of Icelandic explorer Thorfinn Karlsefni was knocked into the Schuylkill River.

Mike Dougherty | KYW Newsradio

Toppled statue near Boathouse Row is pulled from Schuylkill River

The sculpture of Icelandic explorer Thorfinn Karlsefni was knocked off its plinth.

October 02, 2018 - 7:26 am
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The century-old, bronze Viking statue that was toppled into the Schuylkill River sometime overnight Monday has been plucked from the water.

Police are still investigating who did it and why.

A crane pulled the bronze Viking statue of Thorfinn Karlsefni out of the water Tuesday evening, and it was loaded on to a flatbed truck in two pieces.

"As soon as I go in, I found the head. The head came detached, so Plan A is out the window," explained police diver Roberto Luciano. He said the rest of the body of the statue was tangled in some branches at the bottom of the river. 

He worked to clear the area first in order to make it safe for him to maneuver down there, then tied it up.

"We tried to go as simple as possible. We had a hoist strap provided by the crane and just went around the leg twice. Very easy, easy stuff," he added.

The sculpture of the 11th-century Icelandic explorer, created by sculptor Einar Jónsson in 1918, has been a fixture near Boathouse Row.

Rowers say they use the Viking statue as a landmark so they know when to turn their shell around. Runners on Kelly Drive were stunned Tuesday morning to learn that the 7-foot-4-inch statue they pass each day was vandalized, but it is no stranger to controversy. 

Conservationist Douglas Martensen, who has worked on the city-owned statue in the past, said he has his hands full.

“It’s several thousand pounds. It’s really not an easy feat for us to deal with,” Martensen said.

Martensen said it was vandalized with paint a year ago. 

It has also become a symbol for a small group of white nationalists. Karlsefni is believed to have fathered the first white baby born in North America.

So, on Leif Erickson Day in October each year, the group holds a rally around the statue. Last year’s rally was particularly tense, because counter-protesters showed up.

But the Philadelphia Police Department's Central Detectives Unit have a lot of work to do to determine a motive and how the heavy statue was toppled. 

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KYW Newsradio's Tim Jimenez and Mike Dougherty contributed to this report.