The mightiest 16th-century Vasa was beyond a Royal carriage. It was a warship meant to create historic glory. Something I figured, only after, the fascinating exploration tour I took at this Swedish Ship Museum. The visit uncovered many attributes of this military expansion, however, what peculiarly captured my attention was its 500 recovered artefacts. It’s even more intriguing as these artefacts stayed underwater for over 300 years. Then one day, the ship mysteriously appeared on the Swedish shoreline, and that too quite intact. Vasa was the most powerful warship of its line and era. Not the largest though!
However, when you rover around the ship, is when you will notice the voluminous intensity of this vessel. It was loaded with heavy artillery on either side, weighing up to 550Kg. Much of the recovered artillery is now a part of the artefacts collection. Other items give insight into the remarkable lifestyle of the Swedish Royals. Here’s a summary of all the archaeological finds, I caught a glimpse of, in the Main Hall. This entire collection was rescued by the Swedish marine archaeologists in 1961.
Skulls and Skeletons
Nearly 17 skeletons of ancient mariners were uncovered from around Vasa’s hull. These external frameworks of bones, gave me an insight, into how the sailors must have looked back then. Studies of these remnants suggest that people who died onboard included 3 women and a child. Rest were all men. The women and the child were perhaps the royalty or the guests. Back then, the Swedish sailors were allowed to travel with their wives and children. The bones have been studied in detail to determine the medical history, age and other details of the people who sank with the ship.
One skeleton, was in fact, rescued with fingernails, hair, and a complete brain. Another interesting fact about this section is that the osteologist assigned to these bones refused to name them as letters. That is how skeleton A became Adam, and so forth. Sculptor Oscar Nilsson, an artist and an archaeologist, has been able to make real reconstructions of 6 people on board. Namely, Adam, Beata, Filip, Gustav, Ivar and Johan.
Artillery, Weapons, and Cannons
When it set sail, Vasa was the world’s most high-tech warship. One of the reasons quoted for Vasa to sink on its maiden voyage is that it’s gun deck was too heavy. As a matter of fact, the museum has arranged the 64 cannons on the gundeck as it must have been during the sail. This gives a real perspective of the actual situation. Other artillery, of this well-armed ship, has been arranged in a different section of the museum.
The coin display at Vasa Ship Museum in Sweden includes silver, copper and alloy currency, some of which are stamped Swedish. One of the silver coins stamped Stockholm Vasa 1628 has now become a national token. Each coin features inscriptions that either mark Finnish, Swedish or Polish era.
Sails, Winter Rigging Equipment and Bowspirits
A walk around the ship throws light on the shipbuilding techniques and early life of Sweden. Especially the sails, that remind of you an early shipping era. When Vasa Ship was recovered, some of its parts were found to be damaged. The museum authorities have replaced those parts. They, however, have not treated the new parts with chemicals or any artificial paint. Only a slight colour difference marks the dissimilarity. This includes a new bowsprit along with, winter rigging instruments.
Towards the far end of the ship, I noticed Hercules pendants hanging down the lower galleries. The Hercules figure is, on display, as a pair of pendants. Each hanging on either side of the lower stern galleries. One of these figures is young, while other older. These pendants depict opposite aspects of Hercules, the ancient hero.
During antiquity, Hercules was extremely popular and thus the inscriptions. You will notice biblical and nationalistic symbols on the transom. These pendants are surrounded by pine, oak and linden carvings. Amongst all the pieces that surround these pendants, the most fascinating one is the 10ft long lion motif, fitted together with bolts. You will find similar lion designs all through the gunport doors and on either side of the royal coat. This symbol is said to represent the Roman emperors as King Gustav was highly influenced by them.
Amongst other findings are a variety of tools, clothing, letters and utensils recovered with Vasa. Even small quantities of food. Great display by the National Maritime Museum who have put in their best efforts to sustain this heritage landmark in Stockholm. I’d say, all in all, a heroic portrayal of glorified power!