Thursday, December 31, 2015


In the early 17th Century, Sweden was at war with Poland. King of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus, decided to build a ship that was to be a game changer. Very few ships at this time had two decks of guns. He wanted that. He wanted a heavily armed ship that was fast. As you can tell by trying to push your hand through water palm-first or to the side with all fingers following in a line, a narrower ship is going to be easier to move through the water faster.

He also envisioned a beautiful ship that would inspire awe in his admirers and fear in his enemies. The effect was quite the opposite.

After two years of construction, she was launched on August 10, 1628. After about 25 minutes, the wind caught her sails and flipped her on her side. Since the cannon had ben run out to fire a salute, all the cannon ports were open. Glug, glug...down she went in 32 m of water, 1300 m from shore.

This ship is enormous: 69 m long and 52 m high. In the museum, the (ground) floor is placed at water level to give a notion of what she would have looked like afloat.  The wood is 95% original, preserved in the cold relatively fresh water of the Baltic (only 0.4% saline), which contained no oxygen. Visiting the restored ship at the Vasa Museum is indeed a treat. It is huge and well cared for.

To give a sense of scale, above is a view of the ship from the rear taken from the ground (water level) floor). It doesn't quite all fit in from this distance. Four stories tall, intricately carved, and most impressive.

Consider the small portion shown below. From careful study of the wood, it was found that all this, if fact much of the boat, was painted.

And the colors were bright indeed. Below is a reconstruction of the center of the above with all the correct colors added.

The ship certainly looked very different when she set sail!

After taking in the glory that is this wonderful ship, we headed back at the end of a long day. The Vasa Museum is located on a separate island, Djurg√•rden, just adjacent to city. It is a park with many museums (including the ABBA Museum!). We walked back cross the bridge (the Vasa Museum is close to the bridge) with the intention of catching a bus, but decided instead to walk to the central underground station, T-Centralen. (The underground is called the Tunnelbana.)

The city is all lit and in the crips cold air, it was delightful to walk in the bustle. And just to document the time of day, take note of the clock below.