On the 16th January 1625 King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden signed a contract for the construction of four new ships, the first of which would, in an eerie similarity with Henry VIII's Mary Rose, sink three years later on her maiden voyage on the 10th August 1628. Having sailed barely 1300 metres, the ship heeled over to port and then heeled again even further. As water gushed in through the open gunports the Vasa's fate was sealed and the mighty warship sank to the bottom of Stockholm harbour with the loss of approximately 30 of the 150 people on board. It would not be seen on the surface again for another 333 years....
In April 1961, following 4 years of preparatory work, the Vasa once again broke the surface and she was moved to the Wasa Shipyard which only 7 months later would open to the public for them to see the incredibly well preserved warship for themselves. It wouldn't be until 1988 that the Vasa would make her final voyage to the Vasa Museum, where she continues to be admired by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
From the moment you enter the ship hall, it is impossible not to be bowled over by the sight in front of you. It's not every day you come face to face with such an incredibly well preserved 17th century warship that has spent over 300 years underwater! Naturally, the ship itself is the main attraction, but the Vasa Museum clearly aren't prepared to rest on their laurels. Not only is there an excellent film telling the story of the ship and its salvage, but there are a huge number of artefacts on display (brought up from the harbour bottom in the mid 60s).
As with the ship itself, what strikes you is just how well preserved all the artefacts are, despite having spent so long submerged in Stockholm's harbour, and it is the water itself that we have to thank - it's low salinity and temperature being two of the key factors.
I can't recommend a visit to the Vasa Museum highly enough. You'll need to allow at least a couple of hours, if not half a day to immerse yourself fully in this wonderful museum. And if you can, get there early to avoid the queues!
About The Author
Jonny Mardling is the Editor of The History Herald. He has a keen interest in Second World War and Cold War history, and with a great grandfather who was killed during the Battle of the Somme, he also has a fascination with First World War history. Read more about Jonny »