60 years ago – a momentous Swedish event

On this day, 60 years ago in 1961, something amazing happened in Stockholm’s harbour. This event would cast the Swedish people back 333 years and come to change the face of tourism in Scandinavia.

In 1626, a grand battleship was commissioned by King Gustav II Adolf. He was expanding his realm into the Baltic and wanted a battleship that would be beautiful, awe inspiring and armed to the teeth. When she was completed she was richly decorated, with bronze cannons and was one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. He called the ship the Vasa, after his grandfather.

However beautiful she was, the flagship Vasa was dangerously unstable, with too much weight in the upper structure of the hull. Despite her obvious lack of stability, she was sent on her maiden voyage in 1628, and after only a couple of minutes afloat, she sank to the bottom of the harbour. The King was of course livid, and after a long process, blame fell upon the ship’s designer Henrik Hybertsson. As he had been dead for a year, he couldn’t defend himself, and instead became a historic scapegoat. King Gustav II Adolf himself died 4 years later at the Battle of Lützen.

The Vasa’s bronze canons were salvaged in the 1700’s after which she was forgotten, left to her watery grave. But then, in 1956, her exact location was identified and 5 years later, on April 25th, she was raised to the surface.

The Vasa ship is the only 1600’s galleon in the world that has been salvaged in such good condition. The cold, dark, brackish waters of the Baltic meant that the wood did not rot, and the ship’s huge hull was almost completely preserved. Today, the fully-restored ship and its other contents, are displayed in an enormous museum in central Stockholm. It is the world’s best preserved 17th century ship and Scandinavia’s most visited museum. On the roof of the museum, the masts indicate how high the ship was on its day of launch.

When traveling is allowed again, and museums are reopened, you must visit Stockholm. When you’re here, your top cultural priority should be the Vasa Museum. You will be blown away by the sheer dimension of this boat and you too will be thrown back to a time when Sweden was a great military power to be reckoned with.

For more information, go to http://www.vasamuseet.se

Stockholm A-Z: Vasa

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It’s amazing that a country like Sweden, known for its technological success and innovative thinking, is also proud owner of one of history’s most epic fails. The Vasa ship, built in the 1700’s was supposed to be the grandest, most fear-instilling vessel of its time. It included an unprecedented 64 canons and was reflective of the great warrior king Gustav Vasa.

The problem is the ship never made it to battle. In fact, it didn’t even make it out of the harbour. The Vasa ship sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 right to the bottom of the Baltic Sea. However, because of the brackish nature of the water, the Vasa didn’t rot and in the 1980’s was able to be miraculously salvaged – a case of achievement winning over failure. Today, the boat is housed in the stunning Vasa Museum on Djurgården. If you only see one museum in Stockholm, this is the one to see.

You don’t have to be a lover of maritime history to enjoy it. Just reflect over how the people of Stockholm, centuries later, overcame defeat and humiliation and restored their pride. If nothing else, the Vasa Museum is a celebration of modern innovation and tenacity as much as it medieval delusions of grandeur.