We Liked The Cut Of The Vasa Museum’s Jib

The Vasa Museum in Stockholm houses the Vasa, a sunken 17th century ship.  Finished in 1628, the Vasa was top-heavy and too narrow for her depth/weight (the king dictated the measurements and no one was about to correct him).  The Vasa sank in Stockholm’s harbor, not even a mile into her maiden voyage!   Giant oops.   333 years later, in 1961, she was salvaged almost fully intact.

How the Vasa looked when she set sail

King Gustav Adolf built the Vasa for a major role in the Swedish navy.   Sweden had been at war with Poland since 1625 and embroiled in the Thirty Years’ War.   To advance its interests, Sweden needed a strong navy.  Sweden had recently lost twelve boats.  They desperately needed some new, fancy ships.  Unfortunately, the Vasa’s designer died without leaving written records, the king changed some of the specifications and the completion date was looming.  It was a rush job.

Recreation of the interior

How the ship’s interior was organized

Fanfare surrounded the Vasa’s launch.  Hundreds watched from the shore.  Crew members’ wives and children were on board for the first leg of the journey to an island with barracks just outside the bay (where soldiers would board the ship).  Small boats towed the Vasa from the dock.  After firing a farewell salute, she tilted took in water and promptly sank.  Small boats in the harbor picked up most of the 150 people on board, but about a third went down with the ship.

This diving bell was used to salvage some of the cannons in the 1600’s!

Salvaged cannon

The captain was thrown in jail and an inquest to determine the cause of the sinking was immediately undertaken.  It wasn’t long before it became clear that the king himself did much of the decision-making.  King Gustav Adolf determined the measurements, added a second gun deck and larger cannons.  The inquest instantly dropped and crucial paperwork vanished.  Hmmmm.

Today, the Vasa is the centerpiece of a colossal museum.  The real star of the museum is the Vasa itself.   The enormous strategically lighted ship is the first thing you see when you enter the colossal, dimly lit main area.   Prepare to be awed.   It is enormous and it’s intricate timber carvings are impressive.   You can view it from every angle and it is extraordinary.  Sorry, the pictures don’t do it justice.

Normally, sitting around looking at boats is not my idea of a rockin’ good time and he gets seasick.  It doesn’t matter if boats or history is your thing; it is one of the coolest time capsules ever.  Thousands of artifacts and the remains of at least fifteen passengers were recovered.  Clothing, weapons, cannons, tools, coins, games, dishes, cutlery, food, drink and sails are all on display.  The museum does an excellent job of displaying these items and giving them context.   Without lecturing or boring visitors, the museum educates them about naval warfare, shipbuilding techniques and everyday life in 17th century Sweden.

95% of the original ship survives.  There are several reasons why the Vasa is in such good condition:

  • The ship was brand new when it sunk.
  • The Baltic Sea has a Saline level of 0.4%, which prevented many of the organisms that destroy wood from living in the water.
  • It sunk in an area where neither ice nor currents damaged it.
  • The water temperature remains relatively consistent (and cold) ranging from 1-5 degrees Celsius (33.8 – 41 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • The ship was built from oak with high iron content.
  • To prevent cracking when exposed to air and sunlight, the wood was wrapped in plastic sheets as soon as it was lifted from the water.
  • It was treated with polyethylene glycol.

We weren’t the only ones interested in the Vasa.  It is Scandinavia’s most visited museum.  While we were there, we saw the King and Queen of Sweden, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles.  They actually got to go on the ship.  Lucky ducks.

 

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I Made The Queen Of Sweden Smile…And Met Camilla Parker-Bowles

We weren’t the only bigwigs in Sweden last week.  Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles (the Duchess of Cornwall) were also visiting.  I caught a glimpse of a fancy motorcade on the way to a museum.  A local told me that it was probably for Prince Charles who was in town visiting the King and Queen.

I was walking through Gamala Stan and saw him come out and sign a couple of autographs on the way from one palace building to another.

The next day, we were on the way to the Vasa Museum when a fancy motorcade sped past.   We were hoping that they weren’t headed to the same place because we didn’t want delays.  We were able to enter the museum when it opened and began touring it.  It is awesome!  So impressive.

We were asked to step back by some guards to make a path for King Carl of Sweden, Queen  Silvia of Sweden, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles to pass. We stepped back and I got the camera ready.  I was able to snap a couple of pics before they got too close (I didn’t want to blind them).  The King and Queen stood back, letting Charles and Camilla work the crowd.  I caught the Queen’s eye, smiled at her, gave her the thumbs up and whispered “great country.”  She cracked a smile.  We had a moment.

Camilla came up to me and asked me where I was from.  I told her that I was from the states, but lived in Geneva.  We chatted about the impressive ship and the well-curated museum.  She asked if I was enjoying my time in Stockholm.  I said “immensely, it’s a wonderful place, but you have a very nice country as well.  We had a fantastic time there.”  She smiled and wished me a nice trip.

Surprisingly, she did not invite me to tea later.  Perhaps it wasn’t so surprising…I’d just eaten smoked salmon and downed a couple of cups of coffee.