The Vasa is one of those great ships (they are no longer called galleons, but form a part of this family born at the beginning of the last century), which bore all the royal magnificence together with a formidable dissuasion power towards Sweden's naturals foes, like Russia. In this case it was originally called the Nya Wassan, a large sailing ship of 1400 tons, with planned 1150 m2 of sail. The head of her mainmast culminated at 50 meters, for a full length of 66.50 m from the lantern of the stern table at the edge of the parrot's hune. She carried 133 crew and 300 soldiers and servants, for 64 bronze guns divided into forty-eight 24 pounders, eight 2 pounders, two one pounders, and six mortars. No less than 80 tons was disseminated on three decks, the lowest one being just 1.20 m above the waterline. She was built under personal instructions from King Gustav Adolf (who reigned from 1611 to 1632), then at war with Ferdinand II of Habsburg.

She was built and launched in 1627 in Blasieholmen Island, and completed in the spring of 1628, the ceremony having been celebrated with pomp. The king would have even said these words: "After God, it is the fleet that decides the prosperity of the Kingdom." Still, the Nya Wassan was towed to the naval artillery dock not far from the palace of the three crowns ("Tre Kronor"). There she had to be armed, receiving her artillery but also ballast and crew, basically to be prepared to join the fleet. On August 10, 1628, she began her first service voyage to join Alvsnabben (Stockholm Archipelago), where the rest of the fleet was anchored. The jubilant crowd was massed on the jetties to witness the departure of the famous and magnificent ship.

Vasa port bow

The weather was beautiful, with a radiant sun, and the ship did not unfurl its sail until after being towed to Södermalm. Crewmates lowered the foresail, brigantine, great and the little topsail. A slight south-southeast breeze was then blowing. But after barely a mile, a sudden gust of wind drowned the ship, which rolled down to the level of the lower battery, the ports of which were wide open to gun salute the King. When the gust ceased, Vasa, far from straightening up, had pitch increasing until the water penetrated to the ports. Foreseeably she completely capsize in a few moments, its sails taking water, its holds filled very quickly. She sank, for she had been heavily weighted to compensate for the weight of her artillery, in front of an incredulous public. This was nothing short of a national catastrophe: About fifty people were drowned, crew, artillerymen, But also officers and especially high-ranking officers of the Swedish Army who traveled with women and children... Since the ship cost was a whooping 100,000 Riksdaler (60 million Euros today), a commission of inquiry was convened as of the next day in order to decide on the responsibilities of each.

The boatswain, Jöran Matsson, who was the most seriously accused, defended himself with much conviction, and eventually convinced the jury that the ship had been too heavily loaded at the top and in his opinion - he was not an engineer or a naval carpenter - The hull was too narrow for her high profile. He confirmed the fact that during roll tests the ship had already behaved badly. When Hein Jacobsson, the final boatmaster of the ship, said that the final plans had been drawn on these precise specifications by the King himself... The investigation also questioned the artillery intendant Erik Jönsson, Lieutenant Gierdsson, in charge of the rigging, and eventually the audience closed without clear responsibility. The Vasa could not be recovered, so teams did their best then to dismantle her large mast, which protruded from the water, in order to clear the navigation.

Color replica model

In 1664, a salvage operation by Hans A. Von Treileben was only partially carried out by sending divers to empty the contents of the vessel, including the 50 large bronze cannons. But the story does not end there: In 1956, a maritime archaeologist managed to trace the ship, buried under tons of mud. This famous natural preservative, the Scandinavian mud, was considered acidic, antibacterial, and moreover woodworms, usual gravediggers and natural recyclers of hulls, did not support the icy waters of the Baltic. It was the miracle that made it possible to dig up valuable archaeological vestiges from the sea, such as the famous Vikings boats. Four years of hard work was needed, financed largely by the government. Finally In 1961, the Vasa was removed practically intact from its muddy cradle... Only the paintings had disappeared.

Port side

Archaeologist Anders Franzén found the trace later with pigments encrusted in the veins of the wood and a colored reconsititution was done. The Vasa hull was carefully washed and treated with polyethylene glycol. A hangar was quickly built to completely isolate her from the outside, which became the temporary museum of Djugarten in Stockholm. It is now the Vasamuseet, a large building which besides the ship, also hold nine exhibitions dedicated to the 14,000 intact wooden objects recovered in the ship and notably its extra sails, the only ones recovered from that time in the world. The Vasa is currently one of the most popular attractions in Sweden, and its visit is essential for going through Stockholm. The Vasa became invaluable for the knowledge of the techniques of the time, and many posterior reconstructions rely heavily on studies made out of her.

Some links: Wikipedia, Vasa Museum Stockholm