Yesterday I shared photos of the Vasa, a technologically advanced warship that was built to serve as a symbol of Sweden’s status as one of Europe’s dominant military powers of the time. Within 20 minutes of being launched on her maiden voyage in 1638, the Vasa sank in Stockholm harbor in front of thousands of onlookers including Sweden’s King Gustav II.

Vasa as it would have appeared under sail.

But the Vasa wasn’t finished. For 333 years she sat on the bottom of the harbor. Cold temperatures and low oxygen levels the waters around Stockholm preserved and protected the wood from bacteria and shipworms, which attack sunken vessels in warmer climates. About 95% of the ship’s wooden body remained when Vasa was rediscovered and successfully raised in 1961.

Raising the Vasa was a monumental task, but it was only the start of a decades-long effort to study the ship, develop plans to preserve it, and prepare it for public display. In 1990, the Vasa was finally presented to the public with the opening of the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. I visited in October 2014.

The Vasa Museum is the most visited museum in Sweden. The shear number of visitors, now more than 1,000,000 annually, created its own problems. Human respiration and other factors affected the climate in the museum. In 2004, a new climate-control system was installed to maintain the museum at the optimum humidity and temperature. The Vasa Museum is essentially a giant display case.

Vasa is the only preserved 17th-century warship in existence. You can read more about the fascinating story of the Vasa here and its raising and restoration here and here.

Side Note

My visit to Stockholm in October 2014 coincided with another fascinating event that unfolded in the waters of the Stockholm Archipelago. A submarine, believed to be Russian, was spotted in Swedish territorial waters near Stockholm. Sweden also reported intercepting two radio transmissions, one in Russian and the other encrypted. The transmissions were between a location near Stockholm and the Russian naval base at Kaliningrad. Sweden launched a search but failed to locate the sub.

I don’t think this is the Loch Ness Monster.

An amateur photo released by Swedish Defence shows a dark object in a white wake. Photograph: Swedish Defence/AFP/Getty Images

I was astounded. A foreign warship in another country’s territorial waters without permission is an act of war. If the sub had been located, Sweden was within its rights to sink it without warning or force it to the surface for boarding. That this situation failed to create a huge international incident leads me to think perhaps navies of other countries also engage in similar activities in various parts of the world.

Final Thoughts

The Vasa has a long and remarkable story that this post barely touches on. I recommend taking a look at the articles referenced, and if visiting Stockholm, a trip to the Vasa Museum is a must. Thanks for stopping by today.

Have you seen the Vasa or heard about the incident in October 2014?