Day 137 1st July 2017
The Vasa museum is heralded as one of the most visited museums in Scandinavia and when deciding to visit you might question wanting to go to a museum that only has one exhibit.However on entry when you see the reconstructed galleon towering above you realise that it is going to take time to just get around to see it properly from every angle.The size is quite overwhelming, especially when you realise that this is a complete object from over 300 years ago that was considered to be the highest form of the ship builders art.It had 700 hundred sculptures individually painted, a crew of four hundred and fifty, and a thousand oak trees were used in its construction
In fact it is the only complete 17th century ship that has been salvaged anywhere in the world.
Of course there is also a story as how it survived to be on display 300 years after being built.The reason it survives is that it’s career was an outstanding failure.It’s maiden voyage was a total of 350 metres before it sank in Stockholm harbour on the 10th August 1628.But it’s failure meant that it was preserved in the mud of the harbour until it’s location was detected in 1956.It then took another 5 years before it could be raised from the harbour floor.
The reason for the sinking was essentially that it was too top heavy and narrow and when it was hit by a gust of wind it heeled to a degree where the open gun ports allowed water to rush in and over she went.An inquest into the sinking took place the very next day as the king,Gustav II Adolf had commissioned the Vasa as a potent image of Swedish sea power.Fortunately for the ship builders he was of fighting a war so everybody had time to get there story straight, also there was was a perfect scapegoat as the original had died a year before it set sail.The design flaw had actually been exposed before the ship sailed when a test was run where thirty men rushed from one side to the other and the ship had nearly sunk at the quay.However the King was not told and in the end no one was blamed as it was considered that it might prove embarrassing to the King if it was pursued.Sounds like Royal Commissions have a long and problematic history.
The museum itself is over several levels and gives great details of life in Stockholm at the time of the Vasa’s building, the characteristics of ships at that time, models and a film of how the Vasa was raised from the harbour and a scale model of what it would have looked like when it was launched.All in all a compelling exhibition with the star attraction dominating the museum but supported by excellent presentations around it.