1628, Stockholm, Sweden. King Gustav II Adolf from the Vasa Family, who was yet to be named by his subjects King Gustavus Adolfus the Great, ordered the construction of another warship to support the country’s power in the 30-year war that was shaking much of Europe. Most likely, the ship would have been sent against Poland. At that time, the relations between the two countries were not in their bloom, as evidenced by the following ship sculpture – a Polish prisoner of was in his rightful place.

The Swedish idea of the place of war prisoners back in the 17th century

At the end of the summer, which in these widths means the beginning of August, the king was already very dissatisfied because the ship’s construction was being delayed for nearly two months. He expressed his dissatisfaction in bright correspondence with Admiral Klas Fleming, who explained that the delay was due to the late delivery of cannons. The new vessel was supposed to test new military equipment, as well as a new design of the gun decks – higher and heavier than previous ones.

The guns of Vasa

Mr. Admiral Fleming was so stressed by the royal dissatisfaction that he neglected the ship’s tests before works finalization. As a result, the new pride of the Swedish Navy, appropriately called Vasa, ended up under the royal windows in the afternoon of August 10, loaded with up to 150 sailors, their families and senior officer staff. With an official salute, the ship left the harbour and headed for the summer base of the fleet, from where it had to fill its crew with twice more soldiers – as shown below.

A scheme of ship crew in the 17th century

Only about a kilometer and a half from the shore, there came wind. Moreover, mind it, not a hurricane wind, but – as the sailors described it – a “light breeze”. The construction of Vasa with the new decks proved to be unstable; the ship tilted to one side and the water invaded the open cannon hatches. The first voyage ended tragically at the bottom of the ocean. The numerous statues of different deities, generously included in the ship decoration, did not help.

The sculptured deities of Vasa

333 years later, a new episode of history began for Vasa. The spot of the shipwreck was located in August 1956. Attempts to lift it from the sea bottom started in the following year. It was first pulled to shallower waters where cleansing began. In 1961, the operation ended successfully and in 1962 the ship was open to the general public to visit. In 1990, the present museum was built, which is a giant concrete structure erected around the vessel, equipped with some wonderful exhibitions as well.

Personal belongings of seamen - the beer mug and the Bible

Expositions include finds from Vasa, as well as models and schemes. As usual, one can always find something interesting in any exhibition. Here, for example, in the photo above you can see some of the personal belongings of a sailor. To the left is his personal beer mug, and to the right – the personal connection with God, that is, the Bible. I will not comment on the size ratio between the mug and the Bible.

And the seamen garments in the 17th century

The sailor’s clothes in 1628 consisted of: a woolen hat, a linen shirt, a woolen jacket and knee-high breeches; 3/4 woolen socks and leather shoes. There was also a leather purse, where the sailor would keep his salary of 57 dallers (4 marks or 32 yore). FYI, the cloth for a pair of trousers costed 20 yore, a pair of shoes – 6 yore, and a pair of socks – 1 yore. The captain’s salary was 475 dallers, so you can calculate how many pairs of pants he could afford. Unfortunately, the sea was not gentle to the textiles, so the finds are in a poor condition.

Captain's pottery, Vasa ship

Ceramics have been better preserved, and especially the captain’s kitchen utilities. The superiors naturally ate better than the ordinary folk for whom the officially adopted provisions in 1628 included (per person per month): half a barrel of beer, half a barrel of bread, 8.5 kg of fish and dried meat, 16.2 kg of dried peas. You should keep in mind that half a barrel of beer equals 63 liters, which is an average of 2 liters of beer a day. I doubt it was alcohol-free, so I wonder how they were able to fulfill their work duties at all.

The faces of Vasa

The death rate of Vasa sinking was surprisingly low. The remains of only 30 people were found trapped on the lower levels. Ironically, Mr. Admiral Fleming got out alive and healthy, while Captain Hans Jonson died, trying to save the ship. The museum has commissioned the restoration of the faces of some victims, along with reliable assumptions about their age and occupation. Above you see Ivar at about 50 years old, a soldier, and behind him the helmsman Philip, a 30-year-old.

A model of Vasa in his glorious first (and only) day

And here you see what Vasa probably looked like on the first and only day of its existence back in the 17th century.