Thursday, January 28, 2010


Vasa was a Swedish warship that was built from 1626 to 1628. The ship foundered and sank after sailing less than a nautical mile (ca 2 km) into her maiden voyage on 10 August 1628. Vasa fell into obscurity after most of her valuable bronze cannons were salvaged in the 17th century. She was located again in the late 1950s, in a busy shipping lane just outside the Stockholm harbor. She was salvaged with a largely intact hull on 24 April 1961. She was housed in a temporary museum called Wasavarvet ("The Wasa Shipyard") until 1987, and was then moved to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. The ship is one of Sweden's most popular tourist attractions and, as of 2007, has attracted more than 25 million visitors.

Vasa was built top-heavy and had insufficient ballast. Despite an obvious lack of stability in port, she was allowed to set sail and foundered a few minutes later when she first encountered a wind stronger than a breeze. The impulsive move to set sail resulted from a combination of factors. Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus, who was abroad on the date of her maiden voyage, was impatient to see Vasa join the Baltic fleet in the Thirty Years' War. At the same time, the king's subordinates lacked the political courage to discuss the ship's structural problems frankly or to have the maiden voyage postponed. An inquiry was organized by the privy council to find someone responsible for the disaster, but no sentences were handed out.

During the 1961 recovery, thousands of artifacts and the remains of at least 15 people were found in and around the hull of the Vasa by marine archaeologists. Among the many items found were clothing, weapons, cannons, tools, coins, cutlery, food, drink and six of the ten sails. The artifacts and the ship itself have provided historians with invaluable insight into details of naval warfare, shipbuilding techniques and everyday life in early 17th-century Sweden. No expense was spared in decorating and equipping the Vasa, one of the largest and most heavily armed warships of her time, adorned with hundreds of sculptures, all of them painted in vivid colors. She was intended to express the expansionist aspirations of Sweden and the glory of king Gustavus Adolphus.

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