According to Swedish Naval Articles in place when the Vasa set sail, “He who carries a light in the ship and carelessly starts a fire causing the ship to burn, shall be thrown into the selfsame fire.” One is reminded by the strict Naval Articles posted about the Vasa Museum that the Swedes are descendants of some very disciplined Vikings.
In the late 1600s, the Vasa set sail and then sank a mile away. The ship, painstakingly restored, is displayed in a warship-like space designed to house its tall masts and wide hull (although when it sank it wasn't wide enough to support the top-heavy construction). The excavation was an archaeological feat: The ship and its holdings were surprisingly preserved as the hypoxic waters kept the shipworms, which would have normally eaten the wood, at bay. There are exhibits showcasing the deliberate archaeological effort.
While the ship must be seen, I was more interested in the reconstructed details the museum provides about each of the passengers: forensic details of the medical afflictions each might have had; reconstructed accounts as to why each traveler may have been on board.
The Naval Articles further notes, “No man may use an idle or impertinent tongue against the Admiral, his Captain or the Quartermaster. He who does so shall be hauled once, twice or thrice under the keel, as befits the nature of the offense.” Given the focus on accountability, it seems somewhat odd that nobody was ever held accountable for the Vasa incident.
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The Greatest Museum in Scandinavia
The Vasa Museum is the most visited museum in Sweden. The it is located on Stockholm's island of Djurgarden. We had gone on a rainy day, and expected to spend a couple of hours. In fact, we spent over 5 hours including lunch in their delightful cafe.
The 1600's were a period of continuous warfare between Sweden and Denmark. King Gustav II Adolf felt that a mighty warship would give Sweden the edge in controlling the sea lanes of the Baltic. After hiring a master shipwright, construction started in 1626. The Vasa, named for Sweden's first King, was finally launched on the 10th of August, 1628. But, after sailing just 1300 meters, the Vasa heeled over and sank in Stockholm harbor. Except for the raising of the cannons, the Vasa remained on the seabed for the next 300+ years. In 1956 the Vasa was located, and was finally raised 5 years later.
The Vasa was moved to its museum home in 1988. You see the Vasa on 4 different levels, giving visitors an up close look at the carvings, the rigging (using the original masts), cannon ports, etc. This massive ship is almost overwhelming in its size and pristine condition. And while the Vasa is the star, many additional displays explain
its construction, salvaging, and much about the crew.
So, if you are planning a trip to Sweden, don't miss this incredible museum.