Monday, April 28, 2014

Tales from Sverige Part 6: The Vasa Museum

She would not have looked like this for long!
Mrs H had in fact beat me to the punch. She'd visited the Vasa Museum in 2013 whilst carousing around the Baltic on a cruise ship. She insisted it was a 'must see' so we walked there on a beautiful Spring morning which everyone in Stockholm told us was quite unseasonable!
depiction of the Vasa going down
Another view of the lovely model
Admission was not cheap but I could see even on the first 5 seconds through the door of the 'ship hall' that it was worth every penny.
Difficult to appreciate the size of Vasa from this angle
I know this is not by any manner of means a 1660-1720s subject but it does have a direct connection to some fairly heavyweight historical figures not the least of whom was Gustav Adolph, King of Sweden.
reconstructed and researched figures from the ship
He was the man who commissioned the mighty warship and as I found out, may well have been the man chiefly responsible for its sinking.
Vasa was a warship required in the Baltic theatre during the height of the Thirty Years War. The Swedes were in their glory phase. The stakes were high and the country was becoming a major European power. This Empire came crashing down in 1709 at Poltava but for now, the Swedes are the coming men of Europe, championing the Protestant cause but really, building up a trade income for themselves and getting pretty fat on it too.
waterline shot of the stern towering above us
The ship sank on its maiden voyage out of the yards. In a moderate sea within the archipelago on which Stockholm is built, it listed heavily, righted itself then went over again flooding from the gun ports and sinking with the loss of many people. It was effectively a sea trial come pleasure cruise which went very badly wrong.
despite the upper masts still being visible after the disaster, over time the location of the wreck was forgotten then totally lost until salvaged in the 1960s but some very brave men who drilled 6 tunnels under the hull whilst in full deep sea diving gear. They ran double six inch cables through the tunnels and cradled the ship out of the preserving silt. Very little deterioration had occurred and as the ship was literally brand new, most things survived, even many of the sails!
Model in the foregournd is 1/12th scale
The ship was not a wreck but rather an almost complete relic of 17th century warship design. Its restoration has produced a true wonder to behold. The items salvaged together with the bodies recovered tell an absolutely fascinating tale of 17th century life. They have even done facial reconstruction archaeology on several of the bodies found to give a true life picture of what 17th century Swedes looked like. I did not photograph these or the skeletons as I thought that disrespectful. I was particularly annoyed by two idiot students lying down on the glass causes containing the human remains and making those bloody stupid thumbs up gestures that idiots seem to love in photographs.
two of the ship's 50 cannon
The enquiry afterwards held at the Royal Palace focused on the actions of three men not present. The King, Fleming his Admiral and the deceased shipwright. Despite much eyewitness testimony and numerous witnesses, no one was ever held accountable. One can conclude then that the evidence against the King and Fleming was so compelling that no other individual or group could be saddled as scapegoats.
not too much detail has had to be reconstructed
The evidence points to inexperience of building heavy, tall two gun deck warships. The vessel was too narrow and not able to hold enough stone ballast to stay stable in relatively calm weather. A simple tale of bad design, pressures of war and the need to have large powerful fleets sailing in the Baltic. The King ignored advice and told the yard to get the vessel finished and commissioned. Fleming too seemed to endorse the urgency and thus a tragedy was conceived.

can you get the size?
Without these bad decisions the modern world would never have seen such a compete example of 17th century craftsmanship. Gustav left us a wonderful legacy through his mistake.

Look at the man beside the model beside the Vasa - Perspective!

I hope you enjoy these pictures. The museum is perhaps the finest I have ever visited.

3 comments:

  1. Absolutely amazing. It makes me want to visit Sweden just to see this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. visited the museum in 2008 while in Stockholm for a DBM competition
    marvelous town

    Alex

    ReplyDelete

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