The Viking I was perhaps the most revolutionary and significant of all the 1960s car ferries to operate from the UK. Along with Townsend's Free Enterprise class along the coast at Dover, Otto Thoresen's three Scandinavian-style ferries brought drive-through modernity to the Western English Channel opening their twin routes from Southampton to Cherbourg and Le Havre in 1964. The first to be delivered, from the Tonsberg yard in Thoresen's home country of Norway, the Viking I was Britain's first drive-through car ferry (beating Townsend's Free Enterprise II by almost exactly a year) and represented perhaps the ultimate and most refined evolution of the Knud E Hansen car ferry designs of the 1960s, masterminded by naval architect Tage Wandborg.

The ship entered service on 11 May on the Cherbourg link, being joined by twin sister
Viking II on 19 July at which stage the Southampton-Le Havre route was opened with Viking I making the first trip on 20 July. Both sisters in the early parts of their careers actually bore a 'Car Ferry' prefix to their names to satisfy the Norwegian Board of Trade who had interevened due to there already being ships with the chosen names on the Norwegian register. The ships were immediately successful and before the first had been in service for two months, an order was placed for the similar Viking III. Despite the popularity of Thoresen's new operation however, there was not enough demand to justify placing two, yet alone three, ferries on the routes in the winter. Consequently, throughout the ship's Thoresen career, she was regularly out on charter with operators including ASN, Silja, TT Line, Lion Ferry, Stena Line, GT Ruten and Sealink.

The merger of Townsend and Thoresen in 1968 did not directly affect the operation of the
Viking I although from then on it was not unusual to see the Viking ships operating on former Townsend routes and vice-versa. The delivery in January 1975 of the first of Portsmouth's 'Super Vikings' (named Viking Venturer) from the Aalborg yard in Denmark, followed a year later by the arrival in Southampton of the Viking Valiant was perhaps more significant however and with this the original trio of ships were relegated to secondary duties. Whilst the Viking II was sold to Sealink, the Viking I was deployed on a new route for 1976 operating out of the new Portsmouth international ferry port to her regular haunt of Cherbourg. For this role, the ship was renamed Viking Victory, to commemorate HMS Victory, one of Portsmouth's most famous attractions which lies at the Naval dockyard. The Portsmouth operation was immediately popular, with the quite significantly reduced crossing time to the continent. As time passed, more and more sailings were transferred there from Southampton, until in 1983 passenger sailings from Thoresen's original UK port ceased entirely.

Just prior to this however the Viking Victory was sold, her new owners being a Cypriot company called Euphoria Navigation. Renamed
Sun Boat, the ship was put on a route linking Piraeus, Greece, with Latakia in Syria, stopping en route at Rhodes, Cyprus and Beirut. This ended after two years and the ship was subsequently deployed on a bewildering array of services in the Mediterranean under the succesive names Caravan (1985), Vasmed (1986), Sunny Boat (1986) and European Glory (1990). As Sunny Boat, she returned to a Piraeus-Latakia service before making a debut in 1990 at the port with which she would become most associated in the latter part of her career: Brindisi in southern Italy. Running for European Seaways to Patras she lasted one more season before finally returning to something like a reputable operator when being chartered to Hellenic Mediterannean Lines for the same service, becoming their Neptunia in 1991. HML must have liked what they saw, as in the following year she was purchased and renamed Media II. A happy decade followed, transporting HML's mainly backpacker clientele over to Greece, on occasion being the only ferry in operation for the famous old company which, although it never quite ceased entirely, had most definitely fallen on hard times. In 2002 the ship was sold to Palmier Ferries, slightly renamed Media V, and embarked initially on Brindisi-Igoumenitsa sailings. For 2003, she transferred to the expanding Albanian market, becoming the most popular vessel (of a selection of antiquated tonnage) on the Brindisi-Vlore run. In 2004 the arrival of relatively respectable Agoudimos Lines and their even older Kapetan Alexandros A (ex-Doric Ferry of 1962) pushed Palmier Ferries down the rankings somewhat and it proved hard to find any agencies selling tickets for the Media V (or, indeed for Skenderbeg Line's Europa I) that summer. In May 2005, the ship was arrested and moved up the coast to Durres where she lay with her crew claiming they had not been paid for several months. There she lay until unexpectedly appearing in Igoumenitsa in September 2006; she was promptly arrested by the authorities.
TOP: In her English Channel heyday as Thoresen's premier ship - the revolutionary Viking I.
BELOW: General arrangement of the Thoresen Vikings, showing the minor differences between the original pair and the Viking III.
BELOW: Media II in her HML heyday. Along with the addition of awnings aft, the main structural alteration compared to her as built condition, are the extra passenger cabins located just aft of the bridge, which were installed in 1967. (Picture courtesy Richard Seville collection)
BELOW: Media II at Patras in August 1999.
BELOW: Media II at Brindisi in August 1999.
ABOVE & BELOW: Up-close on the Media II in 1999, showing the scars of a 35 years of service.
Above: The original Viking name can be seen painted over on the Media II's bows (the 'I' was presumably obliterated when the ship was renamed Viking Victory upon the commencement of operations at Portsmouth in 1978).
Below: The stern of Media II at Patras. The now-sealed but original (albeit little used) side-loading door can be clearly seen on the left.
BELOW: A view over Media II's forecastle, approaching one of the mid-Adriatic stops between Patras and Brindisi.
ABOVE & BELOW: Media V arriving at Brindisi in July 2004 in the colours of Palmier Ferries.
ABOVE: The Viking I after the merger of Townsend and Thoresen in 1968.
Click for larger image
Click above for a full Viking I general arrangement plan
ABOVE: The cover of a commemorative brochure produced by the ship's builders.
BELOW: A rather bedraggled-looking Media V at Igoumenitsa in September 2006. (Picture courtesy Nikos Thrylos)