The long-lost sister ship of the Vasa, the 17th century warship considered one of the Swedish navy’s biggest achievement that sank soon after setting sail, has been discovered by Swedish archeologists. Learn more about the 17th-century warship discovered in Sweden.
A hulking warship called the Vasa began its highly anticipated maiden voyage in August 1628. King Gustav II Adolf had wanted the vessel to be massive at an unprecedented scale, and builders never quite landed on the correct proportions for such a task. The future crown jewel of the Swedish navy, carrying 64 cannons, containing 3 masts and over 700 hand-carved wooden sculptures and ornaments, sank before it even hit the one-mile mark outside Beckholmen, in the capital of Stockholm.
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The Apple (Äplet) was launched a year later and was built by the same shipbuilder. Äplet had better luck. Taking notes from his recent failure, master shipbuilder Hein Jakobsson tweaked the shape of the hull and widened the whole ship to better accommodate its bulk. Overall, its size wasn’t exactly a selling point: As Sweden’s Vrak – Museum of Wrecks explains, huge vessels required costlier upkeep and were also harder to sail than their smaller counterparts; thus, Äpplet likely spent a considerable portion of its naval career just sitting around.
However, it did at least stay afloat well enough to participate in the Thirty Years’ War and remain in service until 1658. After that, it’s said that the ship was intentionally sunk to help create underwater spike strips, forming a barricade in the waters off the coast of Vaxholm that could damage enemy vessels.
The precise location of Äpplet’s final resting place has been a mystery for the last few centuries. “Our pulses raced when we saw how similar the wreck was to Vasa,” said Jim Hansson, a maritime archaeologist at the museum, in a statement. “Both the construction and the powerful dimensions seemed very familiar. The hope of finding one of Vasa’s sister ships was sparked within us.”
The huge shipwreck was discovered in December 2021 in a strait off the island of Vaxholm, just outside Stockholm, according to the museum. A more thorough survey was carried out in the spring of 2022, which revealed details that had previously been seen only on Vasa.
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The search has been carried through by archaeologists from Vrak – Museum of Wrecks as part of Stockholm University’s “The Forgotten Fleet” program — an initiative that maps and studies ships from Swedish naval history.
“With Äpplet, we can add another key piece of the puzzle in the development of Swedish shipbuilding,” Hansson said, adding that this enabled researchers to study the differences between Äpplet and Vasa.
In order to preserve the wreck, there are currently no plans to remove it from its grave. Instead, archaeologists will study digital data collected underwater. A key focus of the research is to pinpoint exactly how Äpplet differed from its ill-fated predecessor.
Three other ships were ordered from the same shipwright: Äpplet, Kronan (the Crown) and Scepter, and unlike their predecessor they served in the Swedish navy and participated in naval battles.
17th-Century Warship Discovered In Sweden, written by Tor Kjolberg
Photos by Jim Hansson (except portrait photo)