The Vasa, a Floating Palace

In 1628 the Vasa sailed out into the Stockholm Archipelago.  Four stories high and covered in more than 200 sculptures it looked like a floating palace. Finally, after many years in a shipyard the Vasa would be tested on water. It was launched on a test run with 100 people on board.

The ship caught a little breeze, and started to slant to one side after just a few minutes. That was all it took. The ship capsized, taking 30 men to the murky bottom of the Stockholm Archipelago. The mud preserved most of the ship for 333 years. Many had searched for it, but finally one man went out in a small boat and let down a small tool on a chain to where he thought the Vasa laid. When a scrap of old oak came up with the tool, that was the start of a preservation job. The biggest preservation ever to be done.

Bringing the ship up out of the water was a big task, but not too big. The way it was done was to pull steel cords underneath the ship and attach those to pontoons. This would slow bring the ship up to the surface. It was agonizingly slow, and all of Stockholm held their breath to see the ship that had been lost for centuries.

Along with the ship more dives found more artifacts. Hundreds of them. There were items on the ship as well. Despite finding all this, only one item made of gold was found. A ring. Who it belonged to, we will never truly know. Perhaps it came off one of one of the officers’ hands while he desperately tried to save himself. We know many things about the Vasa, but not everything.

The Vasa stands proudly in a museum in Stockholm today. While not every detail is original. 98% of what you can see today was what it was almost 400 years ago. We will not have the Vasa forever, but we will preserve it for as long as we can. Just think, if that ship had floated well we would not have it today.



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