Vasa was the most powerful warship of her time. Six of her cannons were assault guns that were capable of firing deadly blasts. She also had the biggest accumulation of guns and cannons during that time. Under the orders of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, the Vasa was built. Constructing ships like Vasa, was a part of Sweden’s great military naval power. During 1611 and 1718, Sweden was a wealthy nation as a result of obtaining territory in the Baltic, and warships like her enabled Sweden to become a superpower. The Vasa was the pride of Sweden glorifying King Gustavus, who was one of the most victorious Swedish kings, and the Swedish monarchy as well as menacing enemy nations.
Since she was painted in an array of bright colors and contained figureheads as well as statues, she was work of art. She was a Renaissance ship with a Baroque display. Among the many works of art contained in this vessel, there are figures of the Old Testament and Ancient Egypt. The vessel had figures, based on legends spanning far into the human imagination, such as mermaids, wild men, sea monsters and tritons. There was even a lengthy figurehead of a lion symbolizing power. There were 500 richly painted sculptures on the ship. Painstakingly designed to perfection, artists took two years to make these sculptures.
When Vasa made her maiden voyage on August 10, 1625, she was expected to be a military ship to defend Sweden. Unfortunately, sailing less than a mile, she sank. Forty people drowned in the catastrophe. Thousands of Stockholmers, from all walks of life, witnessed the disaster. August 10, 2017 will mark the 389th anniversary of the sinking.
After the Vasa sank, the Swedish Privy Council investigated the shipwreck questioning all the survivors including Sofring Hansson who was the captain of the Vasa. After the investigation, no one was found guilty. Most people blamed Henrik Hybertsson who built the Vasa.
The reason that she sank was that she did not have enough initial stability She had too much weight in the upper structure of the hull. King Gustavus Adolphus was also negligent. In his rush to get the Vasa built, Gustavus interfered with the original design of the vessel. During those days in Sweden, the King had absolute power. Even though the suggestions of Gustavus were wrong, the shipbuilders still listened to him.
Another factor that contributed to Vasa’s sinking was a mistake that was made during her maiden voyage. The lower gun deck ports were open when she sailed. If the lower gun deck ports would have been closed, her shipwreck could have been averted.
After being under the sea for 333 years, the Vasa ship was raised on the morning of April 24, 1961. The story of the Vasa’s recovery drew large crowds and made headlines worldwide. Today the Vasa is housed in the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. Since 1961, 35 million tourists have come to see the Vasa. Even though she was meant to be a warship, her destiny was to become a time capsule of Sweden’s past. It was a time when those fine and artistic warrior ships were made with Baroque embellishments and an era that will never return.