The World’s Oldest Preserved Man-of-War

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On August 10, 1628, the magnificent royal warship Vasa sank on her maiden voyage in front of thousands of horrified onlookers before she even left the Stockholm harbor. Sudden gusts of wind and not enough ballast are the most popular explanation. 

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Built at vast expense to be the largest and most powerful battleship ever constructed, the 226-foot, 64-cannon man-of-war was supposed to become the pride of the Swedish war fleet. She took ytwo years to complete on the site where the Grand Hotel now stands.

Salvaged 333 years after her demise, and since then painstakingly restored, she can now be seen with her complete lower rigging at the Vasa Museum, the only maritime museum of its kind in the world. Large enough to dwarf even the wondrous museum especially built around her at enormous cost and completed in 1990, she is the oldest preserved man-of-war in the world.

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Elaborate wooden carvings cover the exterior of the boat. Of the 700 sculptures, 500 are figure sculptures, all of which had been stripped of their original paint and gilt. Almost as interesting was the ship’s cargo, which included 4,000 coins, medical equipment, and a backgammon set.

A video is shown regularly, illustrating the painstakingly five-year resurrection of the ship upon its discovery in 1961. The Vasa is the most visited museum in Scandinavia, and an immediate favorite for anyone visiting Stockholm.