I'm trying to determine the feasibility of Euron's plan to build a thousand ships to take to Daenerys to get her and her army to Westeros.

Ignoring the fact that there are no trees on Pyke (I mean, "We do not sow" covers that I guess), are there enough Ironborn to crew one thousand ships, even with only a skeleton crew?

With my admittedly zero seafaring knowledge, I've guesstimated it would take ~15 people to crew a ship of a size worth taking for the purpose of military transport (I think that's a very conservative estimate too, but please correct me if you think otherwise), which would mean they would need 15,000 Ironborn to get to Meereen to pick Dany and her army up in the first place.

Is there any evidence to show that the Ironborn have these kinds of numbers? I was always under the impression that there were relatively few of them, or they would be taken more seriously.

  • I don't see how we can adopt an answer and take it as granted when we have to guess on what we know so far. What we know so far is that we don't have the data to gather a true, acceptable answer . Your question is good, what bugs me is that none of the answer can be good.
    – Alexandre
    Jun 23 '16 at 17:08

Regarding the number of people:

According to a semi-canon source the isles can raise approximately twenty thousand men.

Granted this would be fighting men. So it depends how much a total population would we to be able to raise 20,000. If we look at the United States, the total active and reserve military is roughly 1.5 million currently, but peaked during WWII at 12 million. In 1945 the population was around 139 million. So this gives roughly 10% of the population.

Using this number, which I feel is conservative, gives a population of 200,000 for the Iron Islands.

Regarding the number of ships:

So Spake Martin:

In brief, though... the Iron Islands can float a lot more than a hundred ships. Each of the major lords probably commands that any.

However, it is important to remember that the longships are smaller and simpler than the fleets that Joffrey and Stannis warred with on the Blackwater. The former are Viking longboats, more or less; for the latter, think Venetian/Byzantine dromonds of war.


Theon's ship, the Sea Bitch,

was hundred feet long, had a single mast and fifty oars. It has a deck large enough to hold a hundred men and an iron ram.

50 oars = 50 men and I will give leniency to the Sea Bitch and say she was average to large sized for the Iron Fleet.

So even if the 1000 ships Euron wants to build are half the size of the Sea Bitch, he is mostly likely going to need more men.

  • 4
    One issue is with the assumption that the ratio of fighting men/total population in the US can be used to extrapolate the total population of the Iron Islands. Remember, this is a Viking like culture where pretty much every man is a fighting man in a time period where people don't necessarily consistently live to old age. This is a lot different from WW2 for the US, where the army was primarily drawn from young men, in a time period where people did live to old age. My guess would be that the population is a lot smaller based on 20,000 fighting men.
    – kuhl
    Jun 23 '16 at 15:02
  • @kuhl yes that part is just a guess, but the smaller the population the worse the chances are for Euron to fill 1000 ships...
    – Skooba
    Jun 23 '16 at 15:07
  • I did upvote. Agreed with everything but the total population, which I would guess to be much lower due to the reasons I mentioned above.
    – kuhl
    Jun 23 '16 at 16:02
  • I don't recall seeing oars on any of the ships in the TV show. In any case, you don't need to man all of them. You can sail there (no oars) - it might take longer but so what?
    – ventsyv
    Jun 23 '16 at 16:06
  • 1
    @kuhl - Also, someone who is a crap fighter can probably still pull an oar or man a sail. Aug 22 '17 at 16:28

I suspect the 1000 ships was just a hyperbole to inspire the Ironborn. It S6E9, we learn that

The fleet stolen by Theon and Yara, which is slightly over 100 ships, and the remnants of the slavers fleet of maybe similar size, would be just about enough to ferry Danny to Westeros.

Columbus' ships were handled by 20 - 30 men each. The Pinta for example was crewed by 26 men. More modern ships can sail with 10, and as low as 5 or 6 without any problems. So even if we take the 1000 ships at face value, since the Ironborn are highly experienced sailors, it's reasonable to expect that 5000 to 6000 men will be enough to crew them.

I think it's reasonable to expect that they do have that kind of numbers.

  • Where are you getting that spoiler from? S6E10 hasn't aired yet, so you'll need to justify that answer a little more.
    – kuhl
    Jun 23 '16 at 15:37
  • Sorry, wrong episode number. S6E9 when they are negotiating, Danny asks Tyrion if it will be enough and he says yes.
    – ventsyv
    Jun 23 '16 at 15:55
  • See Skooba's answer. The largest ships in the fleet require a crew of 50+ plus potentially 100 more fighting men, I don't think 5 per ship is a reasonable average... and the tech level of the iron born is going to be Christopher Columbus level at best, so modern numbers don't help.
    – kuhl
    Jun 23 '16 at 15:58
  • All they need is a skeleton crew to get there. They don't need fighting man, nor people to man the oars.
    – ventsyv
    Jun 23 '16 at 16:08
  • 1
    Take a look at the map. The Iron Islands are on the West Central coast of Westeros, Meereen is to the East of Westeros. You would need to sail around the continent before even getting to the Narrow Sea. And after crossing the Narrow Sea, you'd need to sail along half of Essos before reaching Meereen.
    – kuhl
    Jun 23 '16 at 18:34

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