Scuba-diving archaeologists have discovered two large 17th-century warships off Vaxholm in Sweden’s Stockholm Archipelago – and believe they might have found the sister-ship of the vessel that has become a Swedish icon, the Vasa.
The 69m-long Vasa with its 64 cannon sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. Salvaged in 1961 and displayed at Stockholm’s Vasa Museum, it has become one of Sweden’s biggest tourist attractions.
Unlike that ship, however, there will be no intention of raising, conserving and displaying the new discoveries. The underwater archaeologists who found them represent Vrak, Stockholm’s forthcoming Museum of Wrecks, and believe that such wrecks are best-preserved in the brackish waters of the Baltic, and that nowadays their story can be told digitally.
Describing as “astounding” the remains of the newly found wrecks, the museum’s head marine archaeologist Jim Hansson said: “It was like swimming around on Vasa.”
The first wreck found had dimensions and design details that matched those of the Vasa and is thought to have been sunk deliberately as part of a blockade around Stockholm. The stern was found to be damaged but the bow, protruding about 5m from the seabed, was better-preserved.
The following day the divers found an adjacent shipwreck thought to be even bigger.
Their hope is that one of the two vessels is the Applet (Apple), launched a year after the Vasa. Both were built as part of a series of large, heavily armed warships commissioned from the same shipwright for King Gustaf Adolf II’s fleet, and eventually sunk as blockad- ships off Vaxholm in the second half of the century.