Vasa Ship Museum

Birka Elderhostel Göta Canal Gothenburg Stockholm

Carl Milles Cathedral Harbor Old Town Vasa Ship Museum

Vasa Ship Museum


museum island


the museum


model of the Vasa

The beautiful Swedish galleon Vasa, built by Dutch shipwrights for the King of Sweden, sank tragically on its maiden voyage in Stockholm harbor in 1628. A wind blew Vasa onto its side, allowing water to pour through the open gun ports. The ship lay in the mud at the bottom of the harbor until the 1960s, when it was resurrected and meticulously restored. Today the Vasa is the only surviving galleon and Stockholm's most popular public exhibit.

the Baltic

A great Swedish king who ruled Scandinavia in the early 17th century had to have a fleet of warships to patrol the Baltic and ordered 4 new galleons. One was to be the royal mighty battle galleon called Vasa, greater than any ship ever built at that time. The king himself dictated the Vasa's measurements and no one dared argue against him. It was of the type we call skeleton-build.


port side of the Vasa

It had two gun decks and held 64 bronze cannons. Various woods were used but predominantly northern oak – a very sturdy wood. It is said that a total of 40 acres (16 ha) of timber was used. Timbers of the bow were steamed (to curve them) and fixed and the close-set ribs were clad with heavy timber walls – a masterpiece of triple-laminated oaken walls 18" (46 cm) thick.


model of the shipyard

A web of masts and spars rose slowly. The top gallant on the main mast soared to 190 ft (57 m). The Vasa's rudder stood over 30 feet tall.


bow carving


as attached

Carvings were made separately in workshops. Later these were attached on the bow and round the high stern castle.


stern panel


its place on the stern


the carvings



Stern ornaments (painted red, gold, blue) were carved gods, demons, kings, knights, warriors, cherubs, mermaids, weird animal shapes – all meant to scare the enemies and also symbolize power, courage and cruelty. The ship was painted in colors of Baroque style.







It took 3 steady years to build Vasa, turning her into a floating work of art and a weapon of war.




cannon carriage

Sweden had a great copper mountain, so copper was the raw material used for making bronze cannons. All in all, the king had 256 cannons made for 4 ships! As a rich, powerful and mighty monarch, "His" cannons bore the moulded letters G.A.R.S. for his Latinized name; Gustavus Adolphus Rex Sueciae. The cannons were heavily reinforced at the breech and 64 weighed approximately 100 tons. Vasa's ballast equalled 120 tons of stone. She carried additional weight of cannon balls, gunpowder, ancillary firearms, food in casks, officers and a crew of 133 sailors.


port side


gun port

Vasa began her maiden voyage August 10, 1628, as documented from the city ship quay (Skeppsbron), and there was a light breeze from the southwest. She couldn't sail out right away. Her sails were not up until Södermalm; the southern outskirts of the harbor. She had only sailed for less than a nautical mile before capsizing.


face of the steersman
(reconstructed from the bones found of him during restoration)

This is how it happened. There was a sudden squall, her gun ports were still open having just fired farewell, and when she listed heavily to port, the gun ports sank below water level and water gushed in. It took only a few moments for her to sink.


starboard side of the Vasa


upper bow


upper stern


discussing who caused the problem

(since the person making the design changes
which lead to insufficient ballast
was the King
no one was eventually convicted)

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Carl Milles Cathedral Harbor Old Town Vasa Ship Museum

Birka Elderhostel Göta Canal Gothenburg Stockholm

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