This Ship Has a Story to Tell
Click icon to view map. Detailed directions and parking instructions in Stockholm can be found here.
We would like to thank one of our readers, Melissa, for sending us photos of the Vasa from her recent trip to Sweden. We enjoy hearing from our readers, and welcome you to send us your travel stories through our Share Your Travels page. Your contributions help make UndiscoveredWanderings possible. We would also like to thank the Vasa Museum (Vasamuseet) of Stockholm for assisting UndiscoveredWanderings with this article.
The Vasa, a sunken ship raised from its watery grave centuries after it met its untimely demise, is one of the most popular attractions in Scandinavia, but virtually unknown in America. We certainly weren’t aware of it until we received this postcard from our friend, Melissa, addressed to UWanderings’s Founder/Editor:
Intrigued, We Set Out to Learn More
The year is 1628. The Vasa was a grand spectacle, complete with two decks of cannons, 10 sails, and beautiful artwork and carvings. The pride of the Swedish Navy; the might of Scandinavia. The ship was a force to be reckoned with. At least it would have been if it ever made it to sea. The ship, it turned out, was top-heavy and very much overloaded. There were plenty of warning signs to indicate design flaws during its construction 400 years ago—including the yet-to-be-completed ship’s dangerous rocking—but political pressure of the day demanded the biggest and most intimidating ship, so such concerns were overruled or simply ignored.
On its maiden voyage, less than a mile out of dock in Stockholm Harbor, the Vasa keeled over and sank. It was a complete disaster that was keenly visible to the watchful public that day, plus a major diplomatic embarrassment. King Gustav II Adolf was not pleased, even though he approved the ship’s design in the first place. Investigations ensued, but no one officially took the blame once concluded. Perhaps the powers that be would rather have forgotten this whole failure altogether.
And so the Vasa sat, beneath the murky, cold Swedish waters for over three centuries, until a major salvage operation in 1961 brought the world’s attention to this relic of the past, reintroducing it to a brand new, welcoming public. The cold waters actually helped to preserve its hull, but its journey was far from over. Preserving the Vasa’s waterlogged wood required constant spraying of polyethylene glycol; otherwise the wood would quickly dry out and fall apart.
Archival footage of Vasa’s 1961 salvage operation, courtesy Vasamuseet YouTube channel.
Vasa was moved to its current home, the Vasa Museum (or Vasamuseet, in the original Swedish) in 1990, the story of which is an interesting read. The Vasa is still under restoration since the polyethylene glycol continues to slowly dry, and will for many years to come. We hope to have the opportunity to visit the Vasa someday ourselves; it’s truly remarkable. Here’s a complete visual timeline of the Vasa’s journey. For more information on the other exhibitions at the Vasa Museum, click here.