Commissioned in 1625 by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden for the war against Prussia, the Vasa (sometimes spelled Wasa in english) was designed to be the greatest warship of its time. Named after Gustav Vasa, king of Sweden in the 16th century (see the most excellent W/U by LX), it took three years for Henrik Hybertsson to complete what was to become the swedish navy's masterpiece. She had a very important artillery (64 guns on two decks) and was also well equiped for close combat with 300 soldiers on board.
Some 700 sculptures ornate the ship, mostly depicting war scenes between Sweden and Poland, turning the ship into a giant propaganda weapon.

During her maiden voyage, less than 1500 meters from the harbour, the ship capsized and sank almost immediatly, near the island of Djugården on august 10th, 1628, with almost 150 seamen on board.

The Cause of the Disaster

The King was not present at that time but when he learned the news two weeks later, he had to determine those who were responsible for this national humiliation.
The death of the shipbuilder one year before the completion of the ship only complicated the situation, and finally no one were ever found guilty. But today, several assumptions are made to explain the disaster :

  • The ballast was not heavy enough to counterweight the artillery and the rig
  • Usually, lighter guns are placed on the upper deck to stablize the ship (which was not the case here)
  • The reckonings used to build this ship were those of a one single deck warship
  • A stability test was even conducted before the maiden voyage and showed the unstability of the Wasa : 30 men had run back and forth accross the deck and had to stop to prevent the ship from capsizing. Admiral Fleming who was supervising the test commented : "If only His Majesty were at home!" The King was in Prussia and the ship was finished so he decided to ignore the results
  • It would have been wiser if the captain Söfring Hansson had had the gunports closed during the first trip.

The Rebirth

The wreck was found in 1956 by shipwreck specialist Anders Franzén. Five years of studies, hard work anf battles were needed to find the funds to salvage the ship. The ship finally broke the surface in 1961 on april 24th, after having spent 333 years on the seabed 30 meters deep.

She rests now in the Vasa Museum located in Stockholm, which was inaugurated in 1990, and is the oldest ship remaining intact (17th century), since the rig has been completely rebuilt, including masts, stays and shrouds. To prevent the ship from shrinking during the dryout, polyethylenglycol (PEG) is used to replace water in the soaked wood. But today, a serious problem rose from the sulfur deposit due to organic contamination during the centuries spent on the seabed, which may very well shorten the lifecycle of the newly restored ship : with oxygen, it turns into sulfuric acid and attacks the hull. A temporary solution consists of spraying a basic solution to reduce acidity, since the funds to find a more long-lasting solution are unfortunately missing.

Some Figures

source :

Everything Quests - The High Seas

Ian_Bailey says [...] The principal reason for it's sinking was Feature Creep. It was orginally designed to be much smaller, but it had to be the best ship ever, and coupled with multiple designers, the lack of vision contributed to its demise...