Brad Crouch: In a Puff the Greatest Warship of Its Day Was Gone

Roundup: Talking About History

Brad Crouch, in the Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) (2-20-05):

It was the greatest weapon of mass destruction of the time, built by the leading superpower of the era. Then, in a puff of wind, it was gone.

The sinking of the Swedish supership Vasa within minutes of its launch in front of assembled dignitaries in 1628 was a monumental disaster.

In terms of Great Duds Through History, it has to rank in the top 10.

But almost 400 years after the embarrassment of seeing the pride of the fleet go under, Sweden is rejoicing in Vasa as one of its top tourist drawcards.

The Vasa was ordered by the ambitious King Gustavus II Adolphus as a show of power to intimidate his regional rivals.

The largest warship of the era stood almost 70m long and more than 50m high, with ornate carvings of gods, kings, monsters and much more to scare opponents. There were also two levels of 64 cannons.

The unprecedented amount of cannons were its undoing -- it was top-heavy, and when the wind hit as the Vasa made her way down the harbour at Stockholm, she tipped and slid straight to the bottom with the loss of about 50 lives.

In 1961, marine historian Anders Franzen succeeded in a long-held dream to raise the ship.

The 1000 oaks used in her hull were still intact and she was so well-preserved she was able to float unaided. The colossal warship now sits in a specially made museum in Stockholm drawing 850,000 visitors a year....

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