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20 August 2008

Vasa Museum, Stockholm

After visiting the Palace we left the tour and made our way to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was commissioned by the King of Sweden in 1626. It was to be a ship like no other at the time with two gun decks instead of one. It was launched on 10th august 1628 from her ship yard in Stockholm and sank after the first mile. seems she was top heavy. She sank into the mud and although attempts were made to try and raise her at the time that is where she stayed until 1961 when a recovery team successfully refloated her and set about her restoration. She is the most complete ship of her time with over 90% of her original timbers intact. Apart from the rigging here what you see here is all original.
This is a scale model showing the Vasa in her original colours and discovered from tiny paint fragments still surviving on the wood.
As the ship set sail on it's maiden voyage it only had half it's sails set. Despite this as it caught the wind it keeled over too far. The water rushed in through the gun ports and it sank like a stone. Archaeologists have studied the ship and discovered the area where the ballast was placed was not big enough and so even though it was full it was not heavy enough to hold the ship upright under sail.
Waxwork of a seaman from the Vasa. Many of those who would have been on the deck survived the sinking but those trapped below decks had no time to escape. This waxwork was reconstructed from studying the bone structure of one of those who died and clothing fragments found on the ship. They do not know who he was.
Apart from the fact that the Vasa settled in the soft mud where there was little oxygen to start the rotting process the other main reason why she is in such good condition is because she sank in brackish water rather than the salt water of the sea. Most wooden wrecks are eaten away by something called ship worms which live in salt water. The brackish water around the Vasa could not support these worms so her timbers remained intact. As I said, 90% of the ship original timbers were recovered more of less in one piece. In the restoration missing timbers have been replaced but these have been polished smooth and left light in colour so you can clearly see what is original. In this shot you can see the bowsprit is new is the rail and some of the treads on the steps on the star port side. All the rigging and ropes are obviously also new.Here you can see most of the top deck. The boards here have all largely been replaced, you might notice they are paler and very smooth.
When they recovered the ship her hull was in such good condition that by simply plugging the gun ports with pieces of wood they were able to pump the water out of her hull and float her into dock. OK, it was all far more complicated than that but in essence, that is what they did.

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