Vasa Royal Warship Museum in Stockholm
Vasa capsizes in Stockholm, 1628
The 10th of August 1628 the Swedish warship Vasa left the quay in central Stockholm for her maiden voyage. But in just a matter of minutes this gigantic warship, the largest in the whole Swedish Navy, started to tilt and eventually sank just minutes after setting off, bringing with her somewhere between 30 and 150 sailors. Sweden was at this time a super power of the Baltic Sea region and it stood clear that the Vasa incident of 1628 was an economic and political disaster for the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus II.
How could Vasa sink?
The Dutch shipwright that was brought in for the construction of Vasa had miscalculated the stability of the ship giving it a center of gravity problem. A study of the original drawings of the ship gives us that the initial calculations were more or less correct. But they were soon to be manipulated. The intention of the Swedish King, Gustavus Adolphus, was to convert Vasa into not only a fierce battle ship, but also into a symbol of the powerful Swedish Navy. He ordered the installation of more armament on upper gun deck, thus the arising stability problem. In part this was compensated with more ballast (stones) deep down in the ship, but not to a sufficient degree.
There might also have been some organizational problems during the construction. The Dutch shipwright died before the ship was finished, handing over the responsibility to his ssistant.
What happened with Vasa after 1628?
The mayority of the valuable bronze cannons were recovered soon after sinking in central Stockholm. At that time the divers used diving bells to submerge to the wreck that was resting 32 meters below.
But soon the Vasa project was forgotten. It can be pointed out that no one was ever found guilty and punished for this incident. So Vasa remained completely untouched during more than 300 years. What was left was an historic treasure in the waters of central Stockholm. During all these years the wood has remained completely intact due to the particular salt balance of the Baltic Sea, making it free of shipworm (Teredo Navalis). This makes Vasa one of the best preserved ships in the world from this period.
In the 1950´s a Swedish marine archeologist by the name of Anders Franzén started investigating the whereabouts of the Vasa ship. He located the exact spot and started a salvage project. In 1961 the ship was eventually lifted to the surface through complex constructions of lifting pontoons and then sent to a dry dock. This unusual project was covered by press teams from several countries, and was televised live.
The preservation of Vasa
Vasa remained untouched for more than 300 years which means that the study of the ship and all preserved artifacts like sails, clothing, food and liquors were extremely interesting since they gave a complete picture of the whereabouts at this period. Sealed liquor bottles were found, and some people got the chance to taste brännvin (Swedish vodka) that was more than 330 years old.
Since that moment, the conservation of the wood has been a challenge. For the first years the ship was maintained in a dock maintaining a very high humidity. After this initial preservation of the wood admitting it to acclimatize slowly and controlled, the wood was treated with polyethylene glycol which penetrates the wood just like water would do, hence giving the wood the stability that the water gave during the 330 years on the bottom of the sea.
Description of the Vasa Museum in Stockholm
The royal warship Vasa, built for King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, capsized just minutes after leaving Stockholm (The Old Town) on her maiden voyage on 10th of August 1628. More than 300 years later Vasa was removed from the water in 1961 and is on display at the Vasa Museum in central Stockholm.
The Vasa Museum provides guided tours, films and various displays of objects.
Vasa Royal Warship Museum in Stockholm at Flickr
Video of Vasa and its history
Short video showing the history of the Vasa
Another video from inside the Vasa museum.