Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Artifact: Vasa

The Vasa at Vasamuseet, Stockholm

In 1628, Sweden's nautical power was at it's prime. Sweden had joined the devastating Thirty Years War with Denmark and had an interest in controlling the upper part of the Germanic territories bordering the Baltic Sea while all the confusion was going on below. It was a pretty good tactic, to jump in while whole regions of lower Europe were being devastated and everyone was in disarrary, much like the shrewd character who sneakily sidles over and pockets the crown-jewels while the other thieves are rolling around in a discordant dust cloud.

King Gustavus Adolphus (a stunningly original name for a Swedish monarch. By the by, if you ever have to guess the name of a Swedish King, Gustav is a fair bet) was one of the most successful Swedish monarchs in terms of military victory having ruled throughout the entire war, and decided near the end of the fiasco to comission a military vessel - another warship as grand in its scale as his percieved victory.

He would not be there when his ship was launched however. The king was abroad when the beautiful and mighty vessel 'Vasa' left the harbour, and whilst upon it's maiden voyage out of Stockholm foundered less than a mile from its fanfare-surrounded point of origin and sank.

The extremely detailed stern and aftcastle of the Vasa

Due to faults in design from rushed planning, an insufficient and cricial lack of ballast, and a rather strong wind straight off the bat, the great ship was doomed to founder and after its precious bronze cannons were retrieved in the 17th century, was forgotten, lying on the ocean floor until discovered again by chance in the mid 1900's.

Luckily the freezing waters (and thus lack of woodworm) preserved the ship remarkably well, and today it sits in a museum for all to see, Stockholm's Vasamuseet. It's a definite to-do if you're visiting the city.


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