Going to Stockholm and skipping the Vasa Museum would be a big booboo. I’m still marveling at the glimpse of early 17th century life I saw there.
Time stopped when the Vasa sank.
The seamen’s chests were still packed with tools and clothes. Barrels of meat lay in the hold. And the admiral’s table was set for dinner.
Having taken three years to build, the huge battle ship Vasa sank on its maiden voyage on August 10, 1628 in the Stockholm harbor. Yep, it got 1500 meters away from the dock, encountered a gust of wind, listed to the side, filled with water and sank.
It took ten minutes to sink.
In 1961 the ship was pulled up from the bottom and restored, creating an amazing museum.
Why did the Vasa Sink?
Basically, the Vasa was top heavy.
It sank because it didn’t have enough ballast. The center of gravity was too high and the cannons too heavy. When the ship was hit with a gust of wind and tilted to one side, water rushed into the two rows of canon openings.
Why were they open? To celebrate the ships launch by shooting off the cannons—all 64 of them, of course.
About 145 sailers were on board. They don’t know for sure, but about 40 perished. The ship was designed to hold about 400, but the soldiers hadn’t come on board yet.
The amazing thing is that the sailing ship that was launched and sank on 1628, wasn’t destroyed during the 300 plus years that it was under water.
The reason: the low level of salt in the Baltic Sea doesn’t support the shipworms or mollusks who feed on wood submerged in water. And the high level of pollution created an environment short of oxygen also needed for deterioration.
It was beautifully preserved.
Why I loved visiting the Vasa Museum
- The whole ship is inside a massive building designed to be museum with layers of landings and spaces over 6 plus stories creating many opportunities for viewing the ship from different angles. It is the largest wooden ship in the world to be raised and conserved.
2. You can enjoy a wonderful model of the ship with the sails showing how it would have looked when it sailed majestically out of the harbor towards the Swedish King who was in Poland leading the war against Poland and waiting for its arrival.
3. I really liked the many exhibits staged around the museum showing everything from the pot the cooks prepared meals in to the cannons. We saw actual clothes and dishes and tools pulled out of the water.
4. The Museum also educates. Here’s a model showing how the sails would shift in the wind as the boat turned.
5. I was most surprised with the colorful painting on the stern of the boat. Here you can see a replica and some individual samples.
6. Here’s a model is what the Vasa looked like as it started to sink.
7. And my favorite: cutaway models of the inside of the ship, showing how the crew lived and worked while under way. This doesn’t show the officers quarters but the museum has a full size model of that space to view.
It was interesting to see a replica of the how the canons were placed in the hull of the boat and the carvings on the doors. They were added to scare the enemy.
Expect to see much more. We spent almost four hours at the museum, absorbing it all.
Tips for Visiting the Vasa Museum
Try to get there right when the Vasa Museum opens. We did and it was an stunning experience to stand near the bottom of the hull and look up at the massive structure. The Vasa Museum has 1 million visitors a year and can hold 1500 people at a time. Being the first in the door was memorable.
Also, be sure to watch the 17 minute video about raising the Vasa. It was a fascinating and well done film.
We also took a half an hour free tour in English. Well worth the time.