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Sweden: Vasa Museum

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Vasa Museum > Sweden > Europe

[Visited: August 1989, December 2005]

The Vasa was built in the 1620s to help Sweden wage war against the Polish, and support their war efforts to strenghten their power in the Baltics. Ordered by King Gustavus Adolphus and built by Dutch shipbuilder Henrik Hybertsson, the ship was supposed to be the largest warship in the 17th century world. Novelty on the ship was the two gundecks. This was also to be the downfall of the ship, since it was impossible to carry sufficient counterweight to the guns, masts and sails. The ship capsized and sank in the harbour of Stockholm in 1628 without ever having been to open seas, under the incredulous eyes of Swedes and foreigners on the shores of Stockholms harbour.

Picture of Vasa Museum (Sweden): Vasa Museum: the ship seen from behind

For more than 330 years, the wreck remained on the seabed, only to be found in 1956. It took several years to prepare the ship for being lifted, since it had to be prepared carefully. Then, on April 24, 1961, the ship broke surface, and was brought to shore in one piece. It was a historical day in Sweden, where life stopped for a moment as the whole nation was following this event. Many finds were saved as well, and remains of the victims who died in the accident. It took the Swedes decades to make it all into a museum, which finally opened in 1990, 362 years after the Vasa started her fateful voyage. I first saw it before the official opening, in 1989, and was keen on seeing it again.

Picture of Vasa Museum (Sweden): Vasa Museum: models of ships on globe

Now, you just step into a warm museum, purposely built for it, to see the ship. While it seems dark brown, it actually was painted with bright colours after it was built. It is richly decorated with statues depicting gods, figures from Greek mythology, the Bible, and other sources. Walking around the ship (you are not allowed in), soaking in the history of it, and especially the enormous efforts to salvage the ship, makes you quiet in admiration for what man can achieve. The museum is extremely well done, and it is easy to spend hours studying the finds, models, explanations, and the ship itself of course, which can be seen from different levels.

Picture of Vasa Museum (Sweden): Vasa Museum: rear of the 17th century warship
Picture of Vasa Museum (Sweden): Vasa Museum: part of the ship seen from below
Picture of Vasa Museum (Sweden): Vasa Museum: model of the Vasa with the real size Vasa in the background
Picture of Vasa Museum (Sweden): Vasa Museum: ship seen from behind
Picture of Vasa Museum (Sweden): Vasa Museum: model showing how the Vasa was lifted from the seabed
Picture of Vasa Museum (Sweden): Rear of the Vasa seen from below, looking upwards
Picture of Vasa Museum (Sweden): Detail of bow-sprit of the Vasa in the Vasa Museum
Picture of Vasa Museum (Sweden): Figure of the Vasa in the Vasa Museum
Picture of Vasa Museum (Sweden): Soldier of the 17th century in his war dress in the Vasa Museum
Picture of Vasa Museum (Sweden): Models of 17th century war ship
Picture of Vasa Museum (Sweden): Skeleton of victim who died in the Vasa disaster in 1628

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