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Danish Warship Sunk in Famous 17th Century Battle Discovered

Danish Warship Sunk in Famous 17th Century Battle Discovered

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Marine archaeologists are bringing many shipwrecks to light and changing our view of the past. In the Baltic Sea , off the coast of Denmark, divers have found the wreck of the Delmenhorst, a famous Danish battleship. This Danish warship sank in a decisive Danish naval defeat that changed the balance of power in Northern Europe almost 400 years ago.

Marine archaeologists from the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde were investigating the seabed off the coast at Rødbyhavn in south Lolland. This was the area where the Battle of the Fehmarn was fought between the Danish and Swedish-Dutch navies in 1644. Two other ships from this battle were found in 2012 during the construction of a tunnel to Germany.

The sunken Danish warship is almost completely buried in the seabed just 150 meters from the Danish coast. ( The Viking Ship Museum )

400-Year-Old Sunken Delmenhorst Warship Discovered

Last spring, divers from the Viking Ship Museum identified the sunken warship at a water depth of 3.4 meters (10 ft) just 150 meters (450 ft) from the Danish coast. It was found during an investigation before the construction of the Danish-Germany Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link, the world’s longest road and rail immersed tunnel in the Baltic Sea . Morten Johansen, who took part in the project told the Viking Ship Museum that “between rocks and algae we could see the ship's frames and inch-thick cladding planks.” This allowed the marine archaeologists to identify the 7 x 31 meter (21 x 100 ft) shipwreck. A pile of stones identified as ballast stones were also found.

The divers found several bronze cannons. According to the Viking Ship Museum , this was “strong evidence that the divers have found a warship.” This was backed-up by the discovery of cannonballs that had been fired. The team suspected that it was the long-lost warship the Delmenhorst. The Viking Ship Museum reports that “clear traces of fire also help to substantiate the presumption that it is Delmenhorst that the marine archaeologists have found.” They had found a vessel that had been lost for almost four centuries.

This multi-beam measurement of sea depths in the Baltic Sea shows the sunken Danish warship. (Femern A/S / The Viking Ship Museum )

Warship Sunk During Battle of Fehmarn

The Delmenhorst was once the pride of the Danish navy, when it dominated the Baltic Sea in the 17 th century. On the 13 th of October 1644, a Swedish-Dutch navy of 42 ships attacked some 17 Danish ships in the Fehmarn Belt strait. Initially, the Danes fought bravely against the Swedes and Dutch but were soon overwhelmed. Only two of the Danish ships escaped to fight another day.

According to the CPH Post , “realizing that the battle had been lost, the ‘Delmenhorst’ was intentionally grounded near Rødbyhavn in the final hours of the battle.” The Danes hoped that a nearby giant cannon in the harbor would defend it from the enemy. Archaeology.org reports that “the Swedes set one of their own ships on fire and sailed it into the Delmenhorst, which also caught fire and sank.” The divers were the first to see the ship since that terrible day in 1644 and they were astonished by its good condition.

The sunken Danish warship shows signs of a violent fire. Amongst the artifacts retrieved from the shipwreck, were pieces of bronze cannons (left) and a calculation coin (right). (Morten Johansen / The Viking Ship Museum )

State-of-the-Art Warship: First Ship Built to Drawings

Morten Johansen, who is leading the work on the shipwreck told the Viking Ship Museum that “it is an exciting wreck. Firstly, it is the last of the sunken ships from the battle of the Fehmarnbelt in October 1644.” It is also important because this vessel was one of the first to be built according to drawings. The Delmenhorst was a state-of-the-art vessel and its construction was an important moment in the history of marine technology. Before the mid-17 th century, shipbuilders relied on their experience and tradition, which was quite unscientific.

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The Battle of Fehmarn was part of the Torstenson War (1643-1645). The outcome of the battle meant that “ Sweden replaced Denmark as the leading power in the region,” reports Archaeology.org. It was also the last battle of the Danish King Christian IV whose long-held ambitions to become the most powerful ruler in Northern Europe were dashed by the defeat.

Reconstruction drawing of the warship FIDES, which was of approximately the same type of size as Delmenhorst. (N.M. Probst / The Viking Ship Museum )

Museum Plans 3-D Model of the Danish Warship

CPH Post states that “because the wreck is almost completely buried in the seabed, archaeologists will leave it in the hope that experts will have the technology to glean information from it in the future.” For the past five weeks, the divers have been working to secure the site so that the almost 400-century old shipwreck is preserved. Artifacts have been removed from the wreck and transferred to a local museum.

Marine archaeologists have taken some 30,000 images of the shipwreck. These will be used to create a 3-D model of the Delmenhorst. Morten Johansen, museum inspector at the Viking Ship Museum, explains that “in this way, the shipwreck can be exhibited digitally at the museum, even though it is still at the bottom of the sea.” It is hoped that the three ships from the excavations in the Fehmarn Belt will be shown at The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde in 2021, as they join the ranks of some of the most exciting underwater discoveries to be made to date.

History of the Danish navy

The history of the Danish navy began with the founding of a joint Dano-Norwegian navy on 10 August 1510, when King John appointed his vassal Henrik Krummedige to become "chief captain and head of all our captains, men and servants whom we now have appointed and ordered to be at sea". [3] [4]

The joint fleet was dissolved when Christian Fredrick established separate fleets for Denmark and Norway on 12 April 1814. These are the modern ancestors of today's Royal Danish Navy and Royal Norwegian Navy.


During the 17th century, Sweden went from being a sparsely populated, poor, and peripheral northern European kingdom of little influence to one of the major powers in continental politics. Between 1611 and 1718 it was the dominant power in the Baltic, eventually gaining territory that encompassed the Baltic on all sides. This rise to prominence in international affairs and increase in military prowess, called stormaktstiden ("age of greatness" or "great power period"), was made possible by a succession of able monarchs and the establishment of a powerful centralised government, supporting a highly efficient military organization. Swedish historians have described this as one of the more extreme examples of an early modern state using almost all of its available resources to wage war the small northern kingdom transformed itself into a fiscal-military state and one of the most militarised states in history. [6]

Gustavus Adolphus (1594–1632) has been considered one of the most successful Swedish kings in terms of success in warfare. When Vasa was built, he had been in power for more than a decade. Sweden was embroiled in a war with Poland-Lithuania, and looked apprehensively at the development of the Thirty Years' War in present-day Germany. The war had been raging since 1618 and from a Protestant perspective it was not successful. The king's plans for a Polish campaign and for securing Sweden's interests required a strong naval presence in the Baltic. [7]

The navy suffered several severe setbacks during the 1620s. In 1625, a squadron cruising in the Bay of Riga was caught in a storm and ten ships ran aground and were wrecked. In the Battle of Oliwa in 1627, a Swedish squadron was outmaneuvered and defeated by a Polish force and two large ships were lost. Tigern ("The Tiger"), which was the Swedish admiral's flagship, was captured by the Poles, and Solen ("The Sun") was blown up by her own crew when it was boarded and nearly captured. In 1628, three more large ships were lost in less than a month. Admiral Klas Fleming's flagship Kristina was wrecked in a storm in the Gulf of Danzig, Riksnyckeln ("Key of the Realm") ran aground at Viksten in the southern archipelago of Stockholm and Vasa foundered on her maiden voyage. [7] [8]

Gustavus Adolphus was engaged in naval warfare on several fronts, which further exacerbated the difficulties of the navy. In addition to battling the Polish navy, the Swedes were indirectly threatened by Imperial forces that had invaded Jutland. The Swedish king had little sympathy for the Danish king, Christian IV, and Denmark and Sweden had been bitter enemies for well over a century. However, Sweden feared a Catholic conquest of Copenhagen and Zealand. This would have granted the Catholic powers control over the strategic passages between the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, which would be disastrous for Swedish interests. [7] [8]

Until the early 17th century, the Swedish navy was composed primarily of small to medium-sized ships with a single gundeck, normally armed with 12-pounder and smaller cannons these ships were cheaper than larger ships and were well-suited for escort and patrol. They also suited the prevailing tactical thinking within the navy, which emphasised boarding as the decisive moment in a naval battle rather than gunnery. The king, who was a keen artillerist, saw the potential of ships as gun platforms, and large, heavily armed ships made a more dramatic statement in the political theater of naval power. Beginning with Vasa, he ordered a series of ships with two full gundecks, outfitted with much heavier guns. [9]

Five such ships were built after Vasa (Äpplet ("Apple" [b] ), Kronan ("Crown"), Scepter ("Sceptre") and Göta Ark ("Ark of Gothenburg")) before the Privy Council cancelled the orders for the others after the king's death in 1632. These ships, especially Kronan and Scepter, were much more successful and served as flagships in the Swedish navy until the 1660s. The second of the so-called regalskepp (usually translated as "royal ships"), [10] Äpplet was built simultaneously with Vasa. The only significant difference between the design of Vasa and her sister ship was an increase in width of about a metre (3.1 ft). [11]

Just before Vasa was ordered, Dutch-born Henrik Hybertsson ("Master Henrik") was shipwright at the Stockholm shipyard. On 16 January 1625, Master Henrik and business partner Arendt de Groote signed a contract to build four ships, two with a keel of around 135 feet (41 m) and two smaller ones of 108 feet (33 m). [12]

Master Henrik and Arendt de Groote began buying the raw materials needed for the first ships in 1625, purchasing timber from individual estates in Sweden as well as buying rough-sawn planking in Riga, Königsberg (modern Kaliningrad), and Amsterdam. As they prepared to begin the first of the new ships in the autumn of 1625, Henrik corresponded with the king through Vice Admiral Klas Fleming about which ship to build first. The loss of ten ships in the Bay of Riga led the king to propose building two ships of a new, medium size as a quick compromise, and he sent a specification for this, a ship which would be 120 feet (35.6 m) long on the keel. Henrik declined, since he had already cut the timber for a large and a small ship. He laid the keel for a larger ship in late February or early March 1626. [13] Master Henrik never saw Vasa completed he fell ill in late 1625, and by the summer of 1626 he had handed over supervision of the work in the yard to another Dutch shipwright, Henrik "Hein" Jacobsson. He died in the spring of 1627, probably about the same time as the ship was launched. [14]

After launching, work continued on finishing the upper deck, the sterncastle, the beakhead and the rigging. Sweden had still not developed a sizeable sailcloth industry, and material had to be ordered from abroad. In the contract for the maintenance of rigging, French sailcloth was specified, but the cloth for the sails of Vasa most likely came from Holland. [15] The sails were made mostly of hemp and partly of flax. The rigging was made entirely of hemp imported from Latvia through Riga. The king visited the shipyard in January 1628 and made what was probably his only visit aboard the ship. [16]

In the summer of 1628, the captain responsible for supervising construction of the ship, Söfring Hansson, arranged for the ship's stability to be demonstrated for Vice Admiral Fleming, who had recently arrived in Stockholm from Prussia. Thirty men ran back and forth across the upper deck to start the ship rolling, but the admiral stopped the test after they had made only three trips, as he feared the ship would capsize. According to testimony by the ship's master, Göran Mattson, Fleming remarked that he wished the king were at home. Gustavus Adolphus had been sending a steady stream of letters insisting that the ship put to sea as soon as possible. [17]

There has been much speculation about whether Vasa was lengthened during construction and whether an additional gun deck was added late during the build. Little evidence suggests that Vasa was substantially modified after the keel was laid. Ships contemporary to Vasa that were elongated were cut in half and new timbers spliced between the existing sections, making the addition readily identifiable, but no such addition can be identified in the hull, nor is there any evidence for any late additions of a second gundeck. The king ordered seventy-two 24-pound guns for the ship on 5 August 1626, and this was too many to fit on a single gun deck. Since the king's order was issued less than five months after construction started, it would have come early enough for the second deck to be included in the design. The French Galion du Guise, the ship used as a model for Vasa, according to Arendt de Groote, also had two gun decks. [18] Laser measurements of Vasa's structure conducted in 2007–2011 confirmed that no major changes were implemented during construction, but that the centre of gravity was too high. [19]

Vasa was an early example of a warship with two full gun decks, and was built when the theoretical principles of shipbuilding were still poorly understood. There is no evidence that Henrik Hybertsson had ever built a ship like it before, and two gundecks is a much more complicated compromise between seaworthiness and firepower than a single gundeck. Safety margins at the time were also far below anything that would be acceptable today. Combined with the fact that 17th-century warships were built with intentionally high superstructures (to be used as firing platforms), this made Vasa a risky undertaking. [20] Henrik Hybertsson died in 1627, before the ship was finished, and the contract was taken over by his widow Margareta Nilsdotter.

Armament Edit

Vasa was built during a time of transition in naval tactics, from an era when boarding was still one of the primary ways of fighting enemy ships to an era of the strictly organised ship-of-the-line and a focus on victory through superior gunnery. Vasa was armed with powerful guns and built with a high stern, which would act as a firing platform in boarding actions for some of the 300 soldiers it was supposed to carry, but the high-sided hull and narrow upper deck were not optimised for boarding. It was neither the largest ship ever built, nor the one carrying the greatest number of guns. [21]

What made her arguably the most powerful warship of the time was the combined weight of shot that could be fired from the cannon of one side: 588 pounds (267 kg), excluding stormstycken, guns used for firing anti-personnel ammunition instead of solid shot. This was the largest concentration of artillery in a single warship in the Baltic at the time, perhaps in all of northern Europe, and it was not until the 1630s that a ship with more firepower was built. This large amount of naval artillery was placed on a ship that was quite small relative to the armament carried. By comparison, USS Constitution, a frigate built by the United States 169 years after Vasa, had roughly the same firepower, but was over 700 tonnes heavier. [22]

The Constitution, however, belonged to a later era of naval warfare that employed the line of battle-tactic, where ships fought in single file (or line ahead) while the group as a whole attempted to present the batteries of one side toward the enemy. The guns would be aimed in the same direction and fire could be concentrated on a single target. In the 17th century, tactics involving organised formations of large fleets had still not been developed. Rather, ships would fight individually or in small improvised groups, and focused on boarding. Vasa, though possessing a formidable battery, was built with these tactics in mind, and therefore lacked a unified broadside with guns that were all aimed in roughly the same direction. Rather, the guns were intended to be fired independently and were arranged according to the curvature of the hull, meaning that the ship would be bristled with artillery in all directions, covering virtually all angles. [23]

Naval gunnery in the 17th century was still in its infancy. Guns were expensive and had a much longer lifespan than any warship. Guns with a lifetime of over a century were not unheard of, while most warships would be used for only 15 to 20 years. In Sweden and many other European countries, a ship would normally not "own" its guns, but would be issued armament from the armory for every campaign season. Ships were therefore usually fitted with guns of very diverse age and size. What allowed Vasa to carry so much firepower was not merely that an unusually large number of guns were crammed into a relatively small ship, but also that the 46 main 24-pounder guns were of a new and standardised lightweight design. These were cast in a single series at the state gun foundry in Stockholm, under the direction of the Swiss-born founder Medardus Gessus. [24]

Two additional 24-pounders, of a heavier and older design, were mounted in the bows, the so-called bow chasers. Four more heavy guns were intended for the stern, but the cannon foundry could not cast guns as fast as the navy yard could build ships, and Vasa waited nearly a year after construction was finished for its armament. When the ship sailed in August 1628, eight of the planned armament of 72 guns had still not been delivered. All cannons during this time had to be made from individually made moulds that could not be reused, but Vasa's guns had such uniform precision in their manufacturing that their primary dimensions varied by only a few millimetres, and their bores were almost exactly 146 mm (5.7 in). The remaining armament of Vasa consisted of eight 3-pounders, six large caliber stormstycken (similar to what the English called howitzers) for use during boarding actions, and two 1-pound falconets. Also included on board were 894 kilograms (1,970 lb) of gunpowder and over 1,000 shot of various types for the guns. [25]

Ornamentation Edit

As was the custom with warships at the time, parts of Vasa were decorated with sculptures. Residues of paint have been found on many sculptures and on other parts of the ship. The entire ornamentation was once painted in vivid colors. The sides of the beakhead (the protruding structure below the bowsprit), the bulwarks (the protective railing around the weather deck), the roofs of the quarter galleries, and the background of the transom (the flat surface at the stern of the ship) were all painted red, while the sculptures were decorated in bright colors, and the dazzling effect of these was in some places emphasised with gold leaf. [8]

Previously, it was believed that the background color had been blue and that all sculptures had been almost entirely gilded, and this is reflected in many paintings of Vasa from the 1970s to the early 1990s, such as the lively and dramatic drawings of Björn Landström or the painting by Francis Smitheman. [26] In the late 1990s, this view was revised and the colors are properly reflected in more recent reproductions of the ship's decoration by maritime painter Tim Thompson and the 1:10 scale model in the museum. Vasa is an example not so much of the heavily gilded sculptures of early Baroque art but rather "the last gasps of the medieval sculpture tradition" with its fondness for gaudy colors, in a style that today would be considered extravagant or even vulgar. [8]

The sculptures are carved out of oak, pine or linden, and many of the larger pieces, like the huge 3-metre (10 ft) long figurehead lion, consist of several parts carved individually and fitted together with bolts. Close to 500 sculptures, most of which are concentrated on the high stern and its galleries and on the beakhead, are found on the ship. [27] The figure of Hercules appears as a pair of pendants, one younger and one older, on each side of the lower stern galleries the pendants depict opposite aspects of the ancient hero, who was extremely popular during antiquity as well as in 17th-century European art. [28]

On the transom are biblical and nationalistic symbols and images. A particularly popular motif is the lion, which can be found as mascarons originally fitted on the insides of the gunport doors, grasping the royal coat of arms on either side, the figurehead, and even clinging to the top of the rudder. Each side of the beakhead originally had 20 figures (though only 19 have actually been found) that depicted Roman emperors from Tiberius to Septimius Severus. [29]

Overall, almost all heroic and positive imagery is directly or indirectly identified with the king and was originally intended to glorify him as a wise and powerful ruler. The only actual portrait of the king is located at the very top of the transom in the stern. Here he is depicted as a young boy with long, flowing hair, being crowned by two griffins representing the king's father, Charles IX. [30]

A team of at least six expert sculptors worked for a minimum of two years on the sculptures, most likely with the assistance of an unknown number of apprentices and assistants. No direct credit for any of the sculptures has been provided, but the distinct style of one of the most senior artists, Mårten Redtmer, is clearly identifiable. Other accomplished artists, like Hans Clausink, Johan Didrichson Tijsen (or Thessen in Swedish) and possibly Marcus Ledens, are known to have been employed for extensive work at the naval yards at the time Vasa was built, but their respective styles are not distinct enough to associate them directly with any specific sculptures. [31]

The artistic quality of the sculptures varies considerably, and about four distinct styles can be identified. The only artist who has been positively associated with various sculptures is Mårten Redtmer, whose style has been described as "powerful, lively and naturalistic". [32] He was responsible for a considerable number of the sculptures. These include some of the most important and prestigious pieces: the figurehead lion, the royal coat of arms, and the sculpture of the king at the top of the transom. Two of the other styles are described as "elegant . a little stereotyped and manneristic", and of a "heavy, leisurely but nevertheless rich and lively style", respectively. The fourth and last style, deemed clearly inferior to the other three, is described as "stiff and ungainly" [33] and was done by other carvers, perhaps even apprentices, of lesser skill. [34]

On 10 August 1628, Captain Söfring Hansson ordered Vasa to depart on her maiden voyage to the naval station at Älvsnabben. The day was calm, and the only wind was a light breeze from the southwest. The ship was warped (hauled by anchor) along the eastern waterfront of the city to the southern side of the harbor, where four sails were set, and the ship made way to the east. The gun ports were open, and the guns were out to fire a salute as the ship left Stockholm. [17]

Sinking Edit

As Vasa passed under the lee of the bluffs to the south (what is now Södermalm), a gust of wind filled her sails, and she heeled suddenly to port. The sheets were cast off, and the ship slowly righted herself as the gust passed. At Tegelviken, where there is a gap in the bluffs, an even stronger gust again forced the ship onto its port side, this time pushing the open lower gunports under the surface, allowing water to rush in onto the lower gundeck. The water building up on the deck quickly exceeded the ship's minimal ability to right itself, and water continued to pour in until it ran down into the hold. [35]

The ship swiftly sank to a depth of 32 m (105 ft) only 120 m (390 ft) from shore. Survivors clung to debris or the upper masts, which were still above the surface. Many nearby boats rushed to their aid, but despite these efforts and the short distance to land, 30 people reportedly perished with the ship. Vasa sank in full view of a crowd of hundreds, if not thousands, of mostly ordinary Stockholmers who had come to see the ship set sail. The crowd included foreign ambassadors, in effect spies of Gustavus Adolphus' allies and enemies, who also witnessed the catastrophe. [36]

Inquest Edit

The Council sent a letter to the king the day after the loss, telling him of the sinking, but it took over two weeks to reach him in Poland. "Imprudence and negligence" must have been the cause, he wrote angrily in his reply, demanding in no uncertain terms that the guilty parties be punished. [37] Captain Söfring Hansson, who survived the disaster, was immediately taken for questioning. Under initial interrogation, he swore that the guns had been properly secured and that the crew was sober. [37]

A full inquest before a tribunal of members of the Privy Council and Admiralty took place at the Royal Palace on 5 September 1628. Each of the surviving officers was questioned as was the supervising shipwright and a number of expert witnesses. Also present at the inquest was the Admiral of the Realm, Carl Carlsson Gyllenhielm. The object of the inquest was as much or more to find a scapegoat as to find out why the ship had sunk. Whoever the committee might find guilty for the fiasco would face a severe penalty. [37]

Surviving crew members were questioned one by one about the handling of the ship at the time of the disaster. Was it rigged properly for the wind? Was the crew sober? Was the ballast properly stowed? Were the guns properly secured? However, no one was prepared to take the blame. Crewmen and contractors formed two camps each tried to blame the other, and everyone swore he had done his duty without fault and it was during the inquest that the details of the stability demonstration were revealed. [38]

Next, attention was directed to the shipbuilders. "Why did you build the ship so narrow, so badly and without enough bottom that it capsized?" the prosecutor asked the shipwright Jacobsson. [39] Jacobsson stated that he built the ship as directed by Henrik Hybertsson (long since dead and buried), who in turn had followed the specification approved by the king. Jacobsson had in fact widened the ship by 1 foot 5 inches (c. 42 cm) after taking over responsibility for the construction, but construction of the ship was too far advanced to allow further widening. [39]

In the end, no guilty party could be found. The answer Arendt de Groote gave when asked by the court why the ship sank was "Only God knows". Gustavus Adolphus had approved all measurements and armaments, and the ship was built according to the instructions and loaded with the number of guns specified. In the end, no-one was punished or found guilty for negligence, and the blame effectively fell on Henrik Hybertsson. [40]

Less than three days after the disaster, a contract was signed for the ship to be raised. However, those efforts were unsuccessful. [41] The earliest attempts at raising Vasa by English engineer Ian Bulmer, [42] resulted in righting the ship but also got it more securely stuck in the mud and was most likely one of the biggest impediments to the earliest attempts at recovery. [41] Salvaging technology in the early 17th century was much more primitive than today, but the recovery of ships used roughly the same principles as were used to raise Vasa more than 300 years later. Two ships or hulks were placed parallel to either side above the wreck, and ropes attached to several anchors were sent down and hooked to the ship. The two hulks were filled with as much water as was safe, the ropes tightened, and the water pumped out. The sunken ship then rose with the ships on the surface and could be towed to shallower waters. The process was then repeated until the entire ship was successfully raised above water level. Even if the underwater weight of Vasa was not great, the mud in which it had settled made it sit more securely on the bottom and required considerable lifting power to overcome. [43] More than 30 years after the ship's sinking, in 1663–1665, Albreckt von Treileben and Andreas Peckell mounted an effort to recover the valuable guns. With a simple diving bell, the team of Swedish and Finnish divers retrieved more than 50 of them. [44]

Such activity waned when it became clear that the ship could not be raised by the technology of the time. However, Vasa did not fall completely into obscurity after the recovery of the guns. The ship was mentioned in several histories of Sweden and the Swedish Navy, and the location of the wreck appeared on harbor charts of Stockholm in the 19th century. In 1844, the navy officer Anton Ludwig Fahnehjelm turned in a request for salvaging rights to the ship, claiming he had located it. Fahnehjelm was an inventor who designed an early form of light diving suit and had previously been involved in other salvage operations. There were dives made on the wreck in 1895–1896, and a commercial salvage company applied for a permit to raise or salvage the wreck in 1920, but this was turned down. In 1999, a witness also claimed that his father, a petty officer in the Swedish navy, had taken part in diving exercises on Vasa in the years before World War I. [45]

Deterioration Edit

In the 333 years that Vasa lay on the bottom of Stockholm harbor (called Stockholms ström, "the Stream", in Swedish), the ship and its contents were subject to several destructive forces, first among which were decomposition and erosion. Among the first things to decompose were the thousands of iron bolts that held the beakhead and much of the sterncastle together, and this included all of the ship's wooden sculptures. Almost all of the iron on the ship rusted away within a few years of the sinking, and only large objects, such as anchors, or items made of cast iron, such as cannonballs, survived. Organic materials fared better in the anaerobic conditions, and so wood, cloth and leather are often in very good condition, but objects exposed to the currents were eroded by the sediment in the water, so that some are barely recognizable. [46] Objects which fell off the hull into the mud after the nails corroded through were well protected, so that many of the sculptures still retain areas of paint and gilding. Of the human remains, most of the soft tissue was quickly consumed by bacteria, fish and crustaceans, leaving only the bones, which were often held together only by clothing, although in one case, hair, nails and brain tissue survived. [47]

The parts of the hull held together by joinery and wooden treenails remained intact for as much as two centuries, suffering gradual erosion of surfaces exposed to the water, unless they were disturbed by outside forces. Eventually the entire sterncastle, the high, aft portion of the ship that housed the officers' quarters and held up the transom, gradually collapsed into the mud with all the decorative sculptures. The quarter galleries, which were merely nailed to the sides of the sterncastle, collapsed fairly quickly and were found lying almost directly below their original locations. [46]

Human activity was the most destructive factor, as the initial salvage efforts, the recovery of the guns, and the final salvage in the 20th century all left their marks. Peckell and Treileben broke up and removed much of the planking of the weather deck to get to the cannons on the decks below. Peckell reported that he had recovered 30 cartloads of wood from the ship these might have included not just planking and structural details but also some of the sculptures which today are missing, such as the life-size Roman warrior near the bow and the sculpture of Septimius Severus that adorned the port side of the beakhead. [48] Since Vasa lay in a busy shipping channel, ships occasionally dropped anchor over the ship, and one large anchor demolished most of the upper sterncastle, probably in the 19th century. Construction work in Stockholm harbor usually results in blasting of bedrock, and the resulting tonnes of rubble were often dumped in the harbor some of this landed on the ship, causing further damage to the stern and the upper deck. [49]

Vasa rediscovered Edit

In the early 1950s, amateur archaeologist Anders Franzén considered the possibility of recovering wrecks from the cold brackish waters of the Baltic because, he reasoned, they were free from the shipworm Teredo navalis, which usually destroys submerged wood rapidly in warmer, saltier seas. Franzén had previously been successful in locating wrecks such as Riksäpplet and Lybska Svan, and after long and tedious research he began looking for Vasa as well. He spent many years probing the waters without success around the many assumed locations of the wreckage. He did not succeed until, based on accounts of an unknown topographical anomaly just south of the Gustav V dock on Beckholmen, he narrowed his search. In 1956, with a home-made, gravity-powered coring probe, he located a large wooden object almost parallel to the mouth of dock on Beckholmen. The location of the ship received considerable attention, even if the identification of the ship could not be determined without closer investigation. Soon after the announcement of the find, planning got underway to determine how to excavate and raise Vasa. The Swedish Navy was involved from the start, as were various museums and the National Heritage board, representatives of which eventually formed the Vasa Committee, the predecessor of the Vasa Board. [50]

Recovery Edit

A number of possible recovery methods were proposed, including filling the ship with ping-pong balls and freezing it in a block of ice, but the method chosen by the Vasa Board (which succeeded the Vasa Committee) was essentially the same one attempted immediately after the sinking. Divers spent two years digging six tunnels under the ship for steel cable slings, which were taken to a pair of lifting pontoons at the surface. The work under the ship was extremely dangerous, requiring the divers to cut tunnels through the clay with high-pressure water jets and suck up the resulting slurry with a dredge, all while working in total darkness with hundreds of tonnes of mud-filled ship overhead. [51] A persisting risk was that the wreck could shift or settle deeper into the mud while a diver was working in a tunnel, trapping him underneath the wreckage. The almost vertical sections of the tunnels near the side of the hull could also potentially collapse and bury a diver inside. [52] Despite the dangerous conditions, more than 1,300 dives were made in the salvage operation without any serious accidents. [53]

Each time the pontoons were pumped full, the cables tightened and the pontoons were pumped out, the ship was brought a metre closer to the surface. In a series of 18 lifts in August and September 1959, the ship was moved from depth of 32 metres (105 ft) to 16 metres (52 ft) in the more sheltered area of Kastellholmsviken, where divers could work more safely to prepare for the final lift. [54] Over the course of a year and a half, a small team of commercial divers cleared debris and mud from the upper decks to lighten the ship, and made the hull as watertight as possible. The gun ports were closed by means of temporary lids, a temporary replacement of the collapsed sterncastle was constructed, and many of the holes from the iron bolts that had rusted away were plugged. The final lift began on 8 April 1961, and on the morning of 24 April, Vasa was ready to return to the world for the first time in 333 years. Press from all over the world, television cameras, 400 invited guests on barges and boats, and thousands of spectators on shore watched as the first timbers broke the surface. The ship was then emptied of water and mud and towed to the Gustav V dry dock on Beckholmen, where the ship was floated on its own keel onto a concrete pontoon, on which the hull still stands. [55]

From the end of 1961 to December 1988, Vasa was housed in a temporary facility called Wasavarvet ("The Vasa Shipyard"), which included exhibit space as well as the activities centred on the ship. A building was erected over the ship on its pontoon, but it was very cramped, making conservation work awkward. Visitors could view the ship from just two levels, and the maximum viewing distance was in most places only a couple of metres, which made it difficult for viewers to get an overall view of the ship. In 1981, the Swedish government decided that a permanent building was to be constructed, and a design competition was organised. The winning design, by the Swedish architects Månsson and Dahlbäck, called for a large hall over the ship in a polygonal, industrial style. Ground was broken in 1987, and Vasa was towed into the half-finished Vasa Museum in December 1988. The museum was officially opened to the public in 1990. [56]

Vasa posed an unprecedented challenge for archaeologists. Never before had a four-storey structure, with most of its original contents largely undisturbed, been available for excavation. [57] The conditions under which the team had to work added to the difficulties. The ship had to be kept wet in order that it not dry out and crack before it could be properly conserved. Digging had to be performed under a constant drizzle of water and in a sludge-covered mud that could be more than one metre deep. In order to establish find locations, the hull was divided into several sections demarcated by the many structural beams, the decking and by a line drawn along the centre of the ship from stern to bow. For the most part, the decks were excavated individually, though at times work progressed on more than one deck level simultaneously. [58]

Finds Edit

Vasa had four preserved decks: the upper and lower gun decks, the hold and the orlop. Because of the constraints of preparing the ship for conservation, the archaeologists had to work quickly, in 13-hour shifts during the first week of excavation. The upper gun deck was greatly disturbed by the various salvage projects between 1628 and 1961, and it contained not only material that had fallen down from the rigging and upper deck, but also more than three centuries of harbor refuse. [59] The decks below were progressively less disturbed. The gundecks contained not just gun carriages, the three surviving cannons, and other objects of a military nature, but were also where most of the personal possessions of the sailors had been stored at the time of the sinking. These included a wide range of loose finds, as well as chests and casks with spare clothing and shoes, tools and materials for mending, money (in the form of low-denomination copper coins), privately purchased provisions, and all of the everyday objects needed for life at sea. Most of the finds are of wood, testifying not only to the simple life on board, but to the generally unsophisticated state of Swedish material culture in the early 17th century. The lower decks were primarily used for storage, and so the hold was filled with barrels of provisions and gunpowder, coils of anchor cable, iron shot for the guns, and the personal possessions of some of the officers. On the orlop deck, a small compartment contained six of the ship's ten sails, rigging spares, and the working parts for the ship's pumps. Another compartment contained the possessions of the ship's carpenter, including a large tool chest. [60]

After the ship itself had been salvaged and excavated, the site of the loss was excavated thoroughly during 1963–1967. This produced many items of rigging tackle as well as structural timbers that had fallen off, particularly from the beakhead and sterncastle. Most of the sculptures that had decorated the exterior of the hull were also found in the mud, along with the ship's anchors and the skeletons of at least four people. The last object to be brought up was the nearly 12-metre-long longboat, called esping in Swedish, found lying parallel to the ship and believed to have been towed by Vasa when it sank. [61]

Many of the more recent objects contaminating the site were disregarded when the finds were registered, but some were the remains of the 1660s salvage efforts and others had their own stories to tell. Among the best known of these was a statue of 20th-century Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi, which was placed on the ship as a prank by students of Helsinki University of Technology (now known as Aalto University) the night before the final lift. [62] [63] The inspiration for the hack was that Sweden had forbidden Nurmi from competing in the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, United States.

Vasa sank because it had very little initial stability, which can be thought of as resistance to heeling over under the force of wind or waves acting on the hull. The reason for this is that the distribution of mass in the hull structure and the ballast, guns, provisions, and other objects loaded on board puts too much weight too high in the ship. The centre of gravity is too high, and so it takes very little force to make the ship heel over, and there is not enough righting moment, force trying to make the ship return to an upright position. The reason that the ship has such a high centre of gravity is not due to the guns. These weighed little over 60 tonnes, or about 5% of the total displacement of the loaded ship. This is relatively low weight and should be bearable in a ship this size. The problem is in the hull construction itself. The part of the hull above the waterline is too high and too heavily built in relation to the amount of hull in the water. The headroom in the decks is higher than necessary for crewmen who were, on average, only 1.67 metres (5 feet 5½ inches) tall, and thus the weight of the decks and the guns they carry is higher above the waterline than needed. In addition, the deck beams and their supporting timbers are over-dimensioned and too closely spaced for the loads they carry, so they contribute too much weight to the already tall and heavy upper works. [64]

The use of different measuring systems on either side of the vessel caused its mass to be distributed asymmetrically, heavier to port. During construction both Swedish feet and Amsterdam feet were in use by different teams. Archaeologists have found four rulers used by the workmen who built the ship. Two were calibrated in Swedish feet, which had 12 inches, while the other two measured Amsterdam feet, which had 11 inches. [65]

Although the mathematical tools for calculating or predicting stability were still more than a century in the future, and 17th-century scientific ideas about how ships behaved in water were deeply flawed, the people associated with building and sailing ships for the Swedish navy were very much aware of the forces at work and their relationships to each other. In the last part of the inquest held after the sinking, a group of master shipwrights and senior naval officers were asked for their opinions about why the ship sank. Their discussion and conclusions show very clearly that they knew what had happened, and their verdict was summed up very clearly by one of the captains, who said that the ship did not have enough "belly" to carry the heavy upperworks. [66]

Common practice of the time dictated that heavy guns were to be placed on the lower gun deck to decrease the weight on the upper gun deck and improve stability. The armament plans were changed many times during the build to either 24-pounders on the lower deck along with lighter 12-pounders on the upper deck or 24-pounders on both decks. The gun ports on the upper deck were the correct size for 12-pounders, but in the end the ship was finished with the heavy 24-pounders on both decks, and this may have contributed to poor stability. [67]

Vasa might not have sunk on 10 August 1628, if the ship had been sailed with the gunports closed. Ships with multiple tiers of gunports normally had to sail with the lowest tier closed, since the pressure of wind in the sails would usually push the hull over until the lower gunport sills were under water. For this reason, the gunport lids are made with a double lip which is designed to seal well enough to keep out most of the water. Captain Söfring Hansson had ordered the lower gundeck ports closed once the ship began to take on water, but by then it was too late. If he had done it before he sailed, Vasa might not have sunk on that day. [66]

Although Vasa was in surprisingly good condition after 333 years at the bottom of the sea, it would have quickly deteriorated if the hull had been simply allowed to dry. The large bulk of Vasa, over 600 cubic metres (21,000 cu ft) of oak timber, constituted an unprecedented conservation problem. After some debate on how to best preserve the ship, conservation was carried out by impregnation with polyethylene glycol (PEG), a method that has since become the standard treatment for large, waterlogged wooden objects, such as the 16th-century English ship Mary Rose. Vasa was sprayed with PEG for 17 years, followed by a long period of slow drying, which is not yet entirely complete. [68]

The reason that Vasa was so well-preserved was not just that the shipworm that normally devours wooden ships was absent but also that the water of Stockholms ström was heavily polluted until the late 20th century. The highly toxic and hostile environment meant that even the toughest microorganisms that break down wood had difficulty surviving. This, along with the fact that Vasa had been newly built and was undamaged when it sank, contributed to her conservation. Unfortunately, the properties of the water also had a negative effect. Chemicals present in the water around Vasa had penetrated the wood, and the timber was full of the corrosion products from the bolts and other iron objects which had disappeared. Once the ship was exposed to the air, reactions began inside the timber that produced acidic compounds. In the late 1990s, spots of white and yellow residue were noticed on Vasa and some of the associated artefacts. These turned out to be sulfate-containing salts that had formed on the surface of the wood when sulfides reacted with atmospheric oxygen. The salts on the surface of Vasa and objects found in and around it are not a threat themselves (even if the discolouring may be distracting), but if they are from inside the wood, they may expand and crack the timber from inside. As of 2002, the amount of sulfuric acid in Vasa's hull was estimated to be more than 2 tonnes, and more is continually being created. Enough sulfides are present in the ship to produce another 5,000 kilograms (11,000 lb) of acid at a rate of about 100 kilograms (220 lb) per year this might eventually destroy the ship almost entirely. [69]

While most of the scientific community considers that the destructive substance responsible for Vasa's long-term decay is sulfuric acid, Ulla Westermark, professor of wood technology at Luleå University of Technology, has proposed another mechanism with her colleague Börje Stenberg. Experiments done by Japanese researchers show that treating wood with PEG in an acidic environment can generate formic acid and eventually liquify the wood. Vasa was exposed to acidic water for more than three centuries, and therefore has a relatively low pH. Samples taken from the ship indicate that formic acid is present, and that it could be one of the multiple causes of a suddenly accelerated rate of decomposition. [70]

The museum is constantly monitoring the ship for damage caused by decay or warping of the wood. Ongoing research seeks the best way to preserve the ship for future generations and to analyze the existing material as closely as possible. A current problem is that the old oak of which the ship is built has lost a substantial amount of its original strength and the cradle that supports the ship does not match up very well with the distribution of weight and stress in the hull. "The amount of movement in the hull is worrying. If nothing is done, the ship will most likely capsize again", states Magnus Olofson from the Vasa Museum. An effort to secure Vasa for the future is under way, in cooperation with the Royal Institute of Technology and other institutions around the globe. [71]

To deal with the problem of the inevitable deterioration of the ship, the main hall of the Vasa Museum is kept at a temperature of 18–20 °C (64–68 °F) and a humidity level of 53%. To slow the destruction by acidic compounds, different methods have been tried. Small objects have been sealed in plastic containers filled with an inert atmosphere of nitrogen gas, for halting further reactions between sulfides and oxygen. The ship itself has been treated with cloth saturated in a basic liquid to neutralise the low pH, but this is only a temporary solution as acid is continuously produced. The original bolts rusted away after the ship sank but were replaced with modern ones that were galvanised and covered with epoxy resin. Despite this, the newer bolts also started to rust and were releasing iron into the wood, which accelerated the deterioration. [72]

Vasa has become a popular and widely recognised symbol for a historical narrative about the Swedish stormaktstiden ("the Great Power-period") in the 17th century, and about the early development of a European nation state. Within the disciplines of history and maritime archaeology the wrecks of large warships from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries have received particularly widespread attention as perceived symbols of a past greatness of the state of Sweden. Among these wrecks, Vasa is the single best known example, and has also become recognised internationally, not least through a deliberate use of the ship as a symbol for marketing Sweden abroad. The name Vasa has in Sweden become synonymous with sunken vessels that are considered to be of great historical importance, and these are usually described, explained and valued in relation to Vasa itself. [73] The Swedish maritime archaeologist Carl-Olof Cederlund, who has been active in the various Vasa-projects, has described the phenomenon as regalskepps-syndromet, "the royal ship syndrome" (after the term used in the 17th century for the largest warships in the Swedish navy). He associates the "syndrome" to a nationalist aspect of the history of ideas and traditional perceptions about hero-kings and glory through war. The focus of this historical theory lies on the "great periods" in "our [Swedish] history" and shares many similarities with the nationalist views of the Viking era in the Nordic countries and the praising of Greek and Roman Antiquity in the Western world in general. [74] Cederlund has stressed the ritualised aspects of the widely publicised salvage in 1961 and has compared the modern Vasa Museum with "a temple in the Classical sense of the word". The placement of the museum on Djurgården, traditional crown property, and its focus on "the King's ship" has led him to suggest a description of it as "The Temple of the Royal Ship". [75]

Literature and popular culture Edit

Vasa's unique status has drawn considerable attention and captured the imagination of more than two generations of scholars, tourists, model builders, and authors. Though historically unfounded, the popular perception of the building of the ship as a botched and disorganised affair (dubbed "the Vasa-syndrome") has been used by many authors of management literature as an educational example of how not to organise a successful business. [c] In The Tender Ship, Manhattan Project engineer Arthur Squires used the Vasa story as an opening illustration of his thesis that governments are usually incompetent managers of technology projects. [76]

The Vasa Museum has co-sponsored two versions of a documentary about the history and recovery of the ship, both by documentary filmmaker Anders Wahlgren. The second version is currently shown in the museum and has been released on VHS and DVD with narration in 16 languages. In late 2011, a third Vasa-film premiered on Swedish television, with a longer running time and a considerably larger budget (with over 7.5 million kronor provided by SVT). [77] An educational computer game, now in its second generation, has been made and is used in the museum and on its website to explain the fundamentals of 17th century ship construction and stability. Several mass-produced model kits and countless custom-built models of the ship have been made. In 1991, a 308-tonne pastiche reproduction of the ship was built in Tokyo to serve as a 650-passenger sightseeing ship. Vasa has inspired many works of art, including a gilded Disney-themed parody of the pilaster sculptures on the ship's quarter galleries. [78] Being a popular tourist attraction, Vasa is used as a motif for various souvenir products such as T-shirts, mugs, refrigerator magnets, and posters. Commercially produced replicas—such as drinking glasses, plates, spoons, and even a backgammon game—have been made from many of the objects belonging to the crew or officers found on the ship. [79]

Eerily well-preserved 17th-century ship found in the dark waters of the Baltic Sea

Divers from Finland have made an unexpected discovery while exploring the depths of the Baltic Sea, finding an incredibly well-preserved shipwreck dating back almost 400 years.

Volunteer divers from the nonprofit Badewanne team more often come across wrecked 20th-century relics sunk during the sea battles of World War I and WWII, so uncovering what appears to be a largely undamaged Dutch merchant vessel from the 17th century was a huge surprise.

The ship, an example of a Dutch 'fluit' (or fluyt), was found near the mouth of the Gulf of Finland, in the easternmost waters of the Baltic.

At a depth of about 85 meter (roughly 280 ft), the Badewanne diving team discovered this Dutch time capsule lying on the seabed, almost completely preserved and intact.

Showing only minor damage sustained from subsequent pelagic trawling with fishing nets, the vessel is otherwise frozen in a kind of 17th-century stasis, the team says, thanks to the properties of the water in this part of the sea &mdash where a combination of low levels of salinity, temperature, and light can enable sunk wrecks to survive virtually unchanged for hundreds of years.

In warmer waters, wood-boring organisms flourish, and can do untold damage to relics such as this, but here, the chemistry of the Baltic &mdash and the unknown nature of the fluit's sinking &mdash have left us with a remarkable relic for further investigation.

Even the holds of the ship are full, the divers say, still carrying its stock of provisions and wares from when Dutch cargo vessels largely dominated seaborne trade in this part of the world, thanks in part to the pioneering advancements demonstrated by the fluit itself.

These ships, which in their first iterations emerged in the 16th century, sacrificed everything for their all-important cargo. Unlike other boats of the time that were designed to switch between serving as cargo ships and war vessels, the three-masted fluit bore a cost-effective and capacious design fully intended to maximize cargo capacity.

Because of this, it could carry as much as twice the cargo of rival vessels, and advanced rigging systems ensured its deft sailing capabilities could be controlled by small crews, which also made the fluit a more profitable ship to operate.

Despite the design's success and popularity between the 16th and 18th century, relatively few fluits survive to this day. Further investigation of this particular find could reveal interesting facts about these historical treasures.

"The wreck reveals many of the characteristics of the fluit but also some unique features, not least the construction of the stern," says maritime archaeologist Niklas Eriksson from the University of Stockholm in Sweden, who will work with Finnish authorities and others to study the discovery.

"It might be that this is an early example of the design. The wreck thus offers a unique opportunity to investigate the development of a ship type that sailed all over the world and became the tool that laid the foundation for early modern globalization."

This article was originally published by ScienceAlert. Read the original article here.

17th-Century Warship Pulled From Icy Baltic Sea Is Almost Perfectly Preserved

Titanic. Lusitania. Arizona. These are the names that come to mind when we think of ships that met tragic ends, but the Swedish warship, Vasa, is not as readily available in our memories. The Vasa was a brightly painted spectacle of maritime design commissioned by the Swedish monarchy under Gustav Adolf II in the early 17th century. It was designed by the experienced ship maker Henrik Hybertsson, and was initially expected to carry 36 guns aboard the deck. However, the King of Sweden demanded aesthetic perfection at the cost of the ship&rsquos stability. When she set sail on her maiden voyage from the castle fortress at Vaxholm on August 10, 1628, Vasa was laden with heavy ornamental decoration and 64 bronze canons. What appeared to be a relatively calm sailing day would prove disastrous.

Vasa embarked on her journey between four and five o&rsquoclock to cheering crowds of family and friends, while the Swedish monarchy stood among the people in anticipation of its naval investment. Unfortunately, after teetering against one trade wind, a second gust pushed against the ship's sails and sent the massive warship careening into the water. Given the time period, Hybertsson had no ability to calculate the ship's stability under the added weight and so created a ship that was incredibly overbalanced, with her center of gravity lying too far above the water.

Archaeologists who have investigated the surprisingly intact wreckage believe that King Gustav&rsquos aesthetic choices directly contributed to the ship&rsquos sinking. Thankfully, only 30 of the ship&rsquos crew died that afternoon, but the maritime disaster would haunt the Swedish Empire for centuries. As for the ship itself, the extremely cold waters of the Baltic Sea protected the wooden ship from harmful bacteria that would otherwise deteriorate its body. When Sweden finally extracted the ship from her resting place in 1961, approximately 95% of the ship remained intact, creating an incredibly rare archaeological opportunity.

Currently, the ship resides on display in Stockholm&rsquos Vasa Museum, which boasts that the Vasa is the only fully preserved 17th-century ship in the world. In order to ready the ship for public display, the preservation team took three decades to carefully extract her from the freezing waters. Thanks to their precise work, we can see remnants of the once colorfully painted lions and crests on the ship&rsquos transom, as well as unique artifacts from the time period that survived the wreck. You can visit the Vasa Museum&rsquos website for information about its reopening and purchasing tickets.

5. Bonhomme Richard

Bonhomme Richard battling Serapis.

Few Continental Navy ships chalked up a more distinguished combat record than Bonhomme Richard. A French donation to the Patriot cause, the aging frigate set sail in 1779 under Captain John Paul Jones and proceeded to capture 16 British vessels in a matter of weeks. On September 23, it squared off against the HMS Serapis in a ferocious battle off the northeast coast of England. Brushing off an early call to surrender with the immortal words “I have not yet begun to fight,” Jones rallied his men and successfully captured Serapis after several hours of combat. Unfortunately, his victory came too late for Bonhomme Richard, which had caught fire during the exchange and taken several shots below its waterline. After spending 36 hours trying to keep it afloat, Jones and his crew reluctantly abandoned the ship and let it sink in the choppy waters of the North Sea. Its wreckage has since become the target of expeditions by everyone from British locals to professional salvage companies, the U.S. Navy and even author and adventurer Clive Cussler. A few of the teams have found wrecks matching the Bonhomme Richard’s description, but none of them has yet been positively identified as the missing ship.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

Photos: Wreck of 17th-Century Danish Warship Found in the Baltic Sea

Marine archaeologists have located the wreck of a Danish warship defeated at sea approximately 376 years ago, reports the German Press Agency (DPA).

Per a statement from the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, the Delmenhorst sank during the Battle of Fehmarn, an October 1644 maritime clash between Christian IV’s Danish forces and a joint Swedish-Dutch fleet.

Researchers using multibeam sonar spotted the Delmenhorst’s remains while surveying the Fehmarn Belt, a strait in the western part of the Baltic Sea, ahead of construction of a planned underwater tunnel connecting northern Germany to the Danish island of Lolland. The wreck had come to rest just 500 feet from Lolland’s southern shore, at a depth of some 11.5 feet.

Multibeam sonar located the ship’s distinctive outline on the sea floor. (Femern A / S)

A decisive victory for the Swedes, the Battle of Fehmarn—and the Danes’ loss of the broader Torstenson War—signaled the end of Denmark’s dominance in Scandinavia and the start of Sweden’s ascendance.

After realizing the 1644 battle’s outcome was all but assured, Danish commanders intentionally grounded the Delmenhorst near the city of Rødbyhavn’s cannon, according to the museum. Though they hoped the weapon would protect the vessel from destruction or capture, the Swedes thwarted this plan by setting one of their own ships on fire and sailing it straight into the Delmenhorst.

All told, the Swedish-Dutch fleet sank or captured 15 of the Danes’ 17 ships. Christian’s forces, comparatively, only managed to sink one enemy ship, per the DPA.

Archaeologists discovered the wreckage of two of the three sunken Danish ships in 2012, making the Delmenhorstthe only one whose location remained unknown.

A construction drawing of the warship Fides, which is thought to be roughly the same type and size as the Delmenhorst. (NM Probst)

“It’s an exciting wreck,” says Morten Johansen, an archaeologist and curator at the Viking Ship Museum, in a statement. “First, it is the last of the sunken ships from the Battle of [Fehmarn] in October 1644. Secondly, [the] Delmenhorst is special because it is one of the first ships built from drawings.”

Archaeologists have recovered an array of artifacts from the wreck, including melted pieces of bronze cannons, four different sizes of cannon balls and coins. Divers took some 30,000 photos of the site, enabling researchers to create a 3-D model of the ship’s remains and the surrounding seabed.

Once underwater surveys are complete, the vessels will be covered in sand and featured in a new beach park. In 2021, the Viking Ship Museum plans on presenting a digital exhibition featuring the 3-D photographic model of the Delmenhorst.

“The ship will remain in the environment where it has been doing well for 400 years,” Johansen explains. “Then we hope that in the future, someone will find a method that can ensure that you can get more knowledge out of such a wreck than we are able to pull out of it today.”

Vasa: A 17th Century Warship That Sank, Was Recovered And Now Sits in a Museum

In 1628, the Swedish warship Vasa set off on its maiden voyage from Stockholm harbor towards Poland, where a war was raging in the Baltic. Built by 400 craftsmen at the royal shipyard at Stockholm, the ship was richly decorated as a symbol of the king's ambitions for Sweden and himself. It was 69 meters long and was fitted with 64 cannons, and upon completion, it was of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world of that time. Unfortunately, Vasa was too top heavy and dangerously unstable. Despite the lack of stability, the king was eager to see her in battle and pushed her to sea. On the day of departure, a swelling crowd gathered at the harbor to watch the ship leave. Over a hundred crewmen along with women and children were on board as the crew was permitted to take family and guests along for the first part of the passage. After sailing just 1,300 meters, at the first strong breeze, the ship foundered, leaned over and sank. Around 30 people lost their lives.

Once the ship’s valuable bronze cannons were salvaged, Vasa was mostly forgotten, until she was located and recovered from the shallow waters in 1961. With a largely intact hull, the ship was housed in a temporary museum called Wasavarvet ("The Wasa Shipyard") until 1988 and then she was moved to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. Today, the ship is one of Sweden's most popular tourist attractions and is seen by a million visitors each year.

The news of the sinking took two weeks to reach the Swedish king, who was in Poland. He wrote angrily to the Royal Council in Stockholm demanding that the guilty parties be punished. "Imprudence and negligence" must have been the cause, he wrote. An inquiry was organized but in the end no one was found guilty of negligence and no one was punished.

Part of the blame lies on the king himself. The ship’s lack of stability was a fact - the underwater part of the hull was too small and she carried too much weight in relation to her size. A few months before the ship sailed, the captain responsible for supervising construction of the ship, showed the Vice Admiral how crank the ship was by having 30 men run back and forth across the upper deck. On their third pass, the ship was ready to capsize at the quay. The admiral was heard to say that he wished the king, who was leading the army in Poland at the time, was present for the demonstration. The king was impatient to see the ship take up her station as flagship of the Baltic fleet and insisted that the ship be put to sea as soon as possible. The king's subordinates were too timid to frankly discuss the ship's structural problems or to have the maiden voyage postponed.

Lying in a museum today, Vasa has become a popular and widely recognized symbol for a historical narrative about the Swedish stormaktstiden ("the Great Power-period") in the 17th century, and about the early development of a European nation state. It is one of the best preserved warship of this period with a four-story structure and with most of its original contents largely intact. However, despite the efforts at preserving, the ship continues to decay away.

The ship sank in waters which were heavily polluted with toxic chemicals that penetrated the wood during the 333 years it spent underwater. Once the ship was exposed to the air, reactions began inside the timber producing acidic compounds that are slowly eating away at the ship inside out. The timber in Vasa's hull contains sulphuric acid that has been estimated to be more than 2 tonnes, and more is continually being created. Enough sulfides are present in the ship to produce another 5 tonnes of acid at a rate of about 100 kilograms per year, which might eventually destroy the ship almost entirely

To prevent the inevitable deterioration of the ship, the main hall of the Vasa Museum is kept at a temperature of 18󈞀 °C and a humidity level of 53%. The ship itself has been treated with cloth saturated in a basic liquid to neutralize the acid. The original bolts rusted away after the ship sank but were replaced with galvanized ones and covered with epoxy resin. Despite this, the new bolts have also started to rust and are releasing iron into the wood, which further accelerates the deterioration.

Vasa might not last for long, but its legacy will certainly last for ever.

17th-century warship wrecks discovered off Swedish island

The wrecks of two large 17th-century warships have been discovered off a Swedish island, one of which may be linked to a famous doomed ship from that era.

Experts believe that one of the warships found off the island of Vaxholm in Stockholm's archipelago may be the Applet. The warship was the sister ship of the Vasa, a famed 17th-century Swedish warship that sank on its maiden voyage.

In a statement, Sweden’s Vrak Museum of Wrecks explained the Applet was one of several ships deliberately sunk off Vaxholm in the second half of the 17th century to protect Stockholm from naval attacks. Other historic vessels sunk with the Applet include the Kronan and Scepter. Like the Vasa, the ships were part of King Gustavus Adolphus’ ambitious upgrade of the Swedish Navy.

Divers retrieved samples of wood from the wrecks, which will be used to date and identify them.

One of the wrecks discovered off the island of Vaxholm. (Photo: Jim Hansson, SMTM)

Earlier this month, Marine Archaeologist Jim Hansson said it was "incredibly cool" to swim inside a ship resembling the Vasa, which was largely intact when raised in 1961 and now has its own museum in Stockholm.

The Vasa sank in 1628, minutes after leaving port as the pride of the Swedish navy. It keeled over, lacking the ballast to counterweight its heavy guns.

Other Swedish shipwrecks have been garnering attention. In 2014, researchers started exploring the wreckage of the Mars, a Swedish warship that sank in the Baltic during a naval battle in 1564.

The Vasa is displayed at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, on March 10, 2011 - file photo. (JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)

Scientists in the U.K. recently spotted a mysterious shipwreck in the North Sea that may be a Swedish merchant ship sunk by a U-boat during World War II.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Lost 17th-century warship found on ocean floor but will soon be buried forever

A lost warship whose sinking forever changed Scandinavian history has been found "gleaming like gold" on the ocean floor, pitting archaeologists in a race against the clock.

The Delmenhorst, a Danish warship, was sunk during the Torstenson War, in which Sweden won a decisive victory over Denmark and replaced them as the leading Nordic power.

For centuries, the ship sat unnoticed in just 3.5 metres of water, but now it&aposs finally been found - just weeks before the wreck site is buried by a land reclamation project.

Marine archaeologists from the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, must now take 30,000 photos of the wreck, digitally building a 3D model of the entire area before it&aposs buried.

"In this way, the shipwreck can be exhibited digitally at the museum, even though it is still on the seabed," said museum curator Morten Johansen.

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He continued: "The wreck is situated in a reclamation area where new land will be established. This means that the wreck will stay &aposin situ&apos under the new land areas.

"We hope that in the future someone will find a method that ensures you get more knowledge out of such a wreck than we are able to pull out of it today."

The wreck presently lies 150 metres from the Danish island of Lolland. Archaeologists say it matches the historical accounts of the Delmenhorst, which describe how the vessel was destroyed by a Swedish fire ship.

"On the very first dive, the sun shone down through the water," said Johansen.

"It made dozens of bursted and melted pieces of bronze cannons twinkle like gold between the charred wreckage.

"The wreck shows clear signs of being burned - possibly exploded. Remnants of the cannons are seen as molten bronze lumps and only a few objects have survived the fire.

"What is left is the timber structure from the bottom of the ship largely hidden under rocks from the ballast."

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For centuries, all foreign ships entering or leaving the Baltic Sea had to pay a toll, the "Sound Dues", to pass through Danish waters - or else be sunk in a hail of cannon fire.

At its prime, the toll generated up to two thirds of Denmark&aposs income, but it angered neighbouring countries and ultimately contributed to the Torstenson War.

The Delmenhorst sank during the Battle of Fehmarn in 1644, which was won by the Swedish in a critical engagement of the war.

Johansen said: "In the last hours of the naval battle, the Delmenhorst ran aground near the coast. The crew hoped to be able to defend the ship with the help of a huge cannon battery on the coast.

"But the Swedes sent a burning ship directly into the Danish warship, which then broke into flames and ended up being lost."

He added: "The war signalled the end of Denmark&aposs time as a European power. After the loss, Sweden pretty much replaced Denmark as the leading power in the Nordic region."

Part of what makes the Delmenhorst such a unique wreck is the way it was constructed.

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"The Delmenhorst is one of the first ships built according to a preserved drawing," the curator said.

"From 1624 to 1644 a total of eight ships were built according to this drawing - but only the Delmenhorst has been found."

The new land is being created in connection with a planned undersea tunnel that will connect Lolland with the German island of Fehmarn.

The land, which will extend 500 metres into the sea, will be created with material dredged from the route of the tunnel and will be kept as a natural recreational space.

The Delmenhorst was found during a feasibility scan of the area where the new land will be.

Johansen said: "We found an oval pile of stones - ship-shaped, you could say - that were densely overgrown with seaweed.

"It was quickly clear that it is ballast stone from a larger vessel, and between rocks and algae we could see the ship&aposs frames and inch-thick cladding planks."

The Delmenhorst was one of three ships sunk during the Battle of Fehmarn. The other two were the Lindormen, also from Denmark, and the Swarte Arent, a hired Dutch vessel fighting for the Swedes.

Both wrecks were found in 2012 as a result of the upcoming tunnel project.

The Danes also saw 10 of their ships captured, along with 1,000 men, and 100 lives lost. Sweden, meanwhile, suffered 59 deaths and lost no ships except the two fire ships it chose to sacrifice.

Soon after, the Danes sued for peace and were forced to exempt Sweden from the Sound Dues, as well as handing over swathes of territory.

The grand but flawed 17th century Swedish warship “Vasa” sank on her maiden voyage, but in 1961 the ship was completely recovered

Throughout history, there have been a significant number of famous ships that sank on their maiden voyage. The list includes the RMS Titanic, the RMS Olympic, the MS Georges Philippar, the SS John Morgan, and many others. The reasons for the demise of these vessels were usually a combination of human error, adverse weather conditions, and overambitious design.

Overambitious design and megalomaniac desire to display power were the causes of the unfortunate sinking of Vasa, a Swedish warship that was one of the longest and best-armed wooden ships ever constructed.

Vasa was built on the orders of Gustavus Adolphus, a Swedish king who ruled during the first half of the 17 th century. A ruler since his teenage years, Gustavus Adolphus led Sweden through arguably the most turbulent era in the history of the country.

Apart from being a great leader, an exceptional tactician, and a brave warrior, King Gustavus Adolphus was also largely responsible for turning the tide in the Thirty Years War and for saving Protestantism in Germany from annihilation.

Prior to his coronation, Sweden was nothing more than just another Baltic state that could be easily defeated by the Poles and the Russians, but it appears that everything changed dramatically after the succession of the 16-years-old Adolphus.

One of his main goals was to create a professional army that would be capable of strengthing the position of his country in the region. Adolphus’ plan worked thanks to his numerous military innovations, and Sweden soon become a regional power. In the following years, it went on to become one of the most powerful countries in Europe. It is no wonder that many military historians and strategists consider King Gustavus Adolphus one of the greatest generals in history.

Vasa’s port bow. Author: JavierKohen CC BY SA3.0

A great king such as Adolphus needed a powerful warship to aid the Swedish naval forces, so he ordered the construction of Vasa.

The ship, built in 1628, was 157 feet long and was armed with 64 customized bronze cannons it was heavily decorated to represent the power and glory of the king. However, the engineers who inspected the ship upon its completion discovered that Vasa had a dangerous structural flaw: the upper structure of its hull was simply too heavy due to the weight of the cannons and too many heavy wooden ornaments.

A 1:10 scale model of the ship on display at the Vasa Museum. The sculptures are painted in what are believed to be the original colors. Author: Peter Isotalo CC BY 3.0

Although the engineers who conducted the security survey warned officials of the Swedish court that the ship’s hull needed to be readjusted, the officials were afraid to confront the king with this critical flaw. They decided to remain silent, and the king ordered the ship to sail on August 10, 1628.

The inside of the lower gun deck looking toward the bow. Author: Peter Isotalo CC BY-SA 3.0

The ship didn’t even make it out of Stockholm harbor, sinking only minutes after leaving the dock. It traveled roughly 1,400 yards before encountering strong wind and waves that filled the hull with water. The weight of the upper structure of the hull was crucial to the ship’s demise, because it acted as a weight and quickly pushed the ship into the depths.

King Gustavus Adolphus was infuriated and immediately organized a detailed investigation into the cause of the ship’s sinking, but the investigators couldn’t find any solid evidence to form accusations and no one was ever held responsible for the fiasco.

The preserved Vasa in the main hall of Vasa Museum seen from above the bow. Author: Peter Isotalo CC BY-SA 3.0

Vasa’s cannons and metal parts were all salvaged by the beginning of the 18 th century. And in 1961, the ship was completely recovered in an effort organized by the Swedish government.

Nowadays, it can be seen in its glorious entirety in the Vasa Maritime Museum in Stockholm, where it serves as a reminder of the “great power period” of the Kingdom of Sweden.

Watch the video: Τρία πολεμικά πλοία ΗΠΑ κατευθυνονται προς Συρία;.. (August 2022).