Magnet Fisherman Hauls Rare Viking Sword From English River

Any angler will tell you, you never know what you’re going to pull out of the water.

The same thing holds true in magnet fishing, where prospectors explore the depths with alloys that attract not fish — but anything metallic.

Finds in magnet fishing often amount to little, especially depending on your waters of choice. The “most shocking” catches of one team’s session in Hollywood included a short-handled screwdriver that “could have been a little shank; you don’t know.”

But one magnet fisherman recently hauled a sharp object that, in its time, would have done a heck of a lot more damage than that.

Trevor Penny was trolling the River Cherwell in Oxfordshire, England with his magnet rig in November 2023. At first, his luck seemed low. He’d spent the day pulling up nothing but scaffolding poles from the bottom, LiveScience reported.

That all changed when he reeled in a straight-edged, narrow object he couldn’t identify at first.

‘It looks like a sword!’

“I was on the side of the bridge and shouted to a friend on the other side of the bridge, ‘What is this?'” Penny reported in a post on a local magnet fishing Facebook group. “He came running over shouting, ‘It looks like a sword!'”

man holding a rusty sword

Penny with the loot. Photo: Trevor Penny


Indeed it was. Penny’s treasure turned out to be a Viking sword at least 1,000 years old — from between 850 and 975 AD.

Experts validated the weapon’s age after Penny poked around the internet enough to sharpen his friend’s suspicions. It may not take an expert to look at the metal shard and guess it’s a sword — but the find is also unlikely enough to prompt skepticism for a magnet fisherman.

The provincial officer responsible for recording public archaeological discoveries said it’s “archaeologically rare to find whole swords and treasure of historical importance still intact,” according to the Oxford Mail.

Part of the problem could be that some waterway managers don’t permit magnet fishing. The Mail also reported the River Cherwell authorities only let Penny off the hook because he later turned the sword over to a museum.

Vikings often raided parts of England between the eighth and tenth centuries AD. Though their initial forays were isolated, the Scandinavian warriors eventually started campaigning en masse. They held many territories until an Anglo-Saxon king drove them out in the 11th century.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.