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Stockholm Vasa Museum

The Vasa was a majestic European sail battleship. It is the highlight and focal point of the Vasa Museum located on the Stockholm Djurgården museum island. You might remember our last visit there when we checked out the Skansen open-air museum.

The mighty Vasa warship which takes center stage in the Vasa museum. It is a huge behemoth
The mighty Vasa warship which takes center stage in the Vasa museum. It is a huge behemoth.

In a nutshell, the mighty Vasa warship was an ancient cannon battleship. Possibly the world’s best preserved 17th-century battleship, salvaged from the seabed after it tragically sank after capsizing in Stockholm on 1628.

Map of Stockholm Djurgården museum island, it is home to the Vasa museum and many others
Map of Stockholm Djurgården museum island, it is home to the Vasa museum and many others.

Moreover, the Stockhom museum island is a family-focused one. It has many large open parks, spaces, cafes great for a family and kids day out.

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Island entrance
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On the island!
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Ship!

Also, the Swedish are very fond of their maritime history, as like the Vikings as conquerors in the early ages. Going on the maritime theme, there are several other notable marine mini exhibits you can find here.

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Inside
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Dive bells
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Dive museum

A cavernous enclosure of the museum

Moreover, entry to the Stockholm Vasa Museum costs SEK 170 for adults, with free entry for under 18. Also, I would recommend going in the morning with smaller crowds and queues, and to enjoy the museum without much distractions.

The Vasa with restored sails and masts. The museum is built around it
The Vasa with restored sails and masts. The museum is built around it.

Furthermore, the maritime museum is a large and cavernous one. Also, the museum building completely encases the entire Vasa ship indoors in a dimly-lit climate controlled environment. I can guess this is to ensure that the historical artifact is well-preserved and protected from future degradation.

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Museum built around the ship
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Body detail
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Bow assembly

A flagship of bad design

Upon completion, the Vasa was one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. She has 5 decks with 4 decks under the main deck, comprising of gun, storage and crew decks. Also the ship was crowning glory of the Swedish navy, much to its rich decoration as a symbol of the king’s ambitions for Sweden and himself.

The bow of the Vasa
The bow of the Vasa.

The sinking of the Vasa was much an embarrassment as she was not lost during battle, but rather an accident due to bad design. This was due to bad hull design, where too much of the ship sits above the waterline. Hence, she was dangerously unstable, with too much weight in the upper structure of the hull.

The lower hull section of the Vasa, which was designed too be too shallow to take the top heavy ship
The lower hull section of the Vasa, which was designed too be too shallow to take the top heavy ship.

History has it that the Vasa sank as it had very little initial stability. A strong wind gust during her maiden voyage out of the Stockholm harbour on 1628 forced the ship onto her port side. This pushed her open lower gun-ports under the water surface.

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Cannons on side
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Reconstructed sails
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Got cannon?

It was unrecoverable as she started taking in water onto the lower gundeck, quickly exceeding the ship’s minimal ability to right itself. Water kept continuing to pour in until it ran down into the hold.

A well-preserved piece of history

Since the accident, the Vasa lay rested for over three centuries. A total of 333 years in fact on the sea bed near the Stockholm harbour. Also, she was located again in the late 1950s after a search, discovered on the inlet of a busy shipping area in Stockholm harbour. Moving on, on 1961, the feat to raise, salvage and restore her largely intact hull from the seabed started.

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How she was raised
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Recovered items
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Fleets

Notably, almost all of the iron on the ship rusted away within a few years of the sinking and she was filled with seabed marine mud. But much of the ship and wood remains largely intact. Also, large objects, such as anchors, or items made of cast iron, such as cannonballs, survived.

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Rear art piece
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Schematics
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Early naval warfare

Additionally, the near-intact resurrection of the Vasa, with plenty of her artifacts and the ship herself intact was much to the delight of historians. Also. it provided invaluable insights, allowing a peek into the early way of life of the early Swedish maritime life. Going into details of naval warfare, shipbuilding techniques and everyday life in early 17th-century Sweden.

Exploring the museum and micro-exhibits

Minor museum section showcasing various artifacts and featuring life on-board
Minor museum section showcasing various artifacts and featuring life on-board.

Moreover, here, a combination of elevators and nicely placed stairs served various vantage and viewing points though out the building. Also, exhibits ranges from viewing decks to micro-exhibits with mock-ups of under deck rooms and enclosures.

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Life under deck
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Cut through views
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Artifact displays

This is done through a mix of scale models, behind glass displays and showing the way on life on-board the ship then.

The early ship ports and life into Stockholm's early 17th century
The early ship ports and life into Stockholm’s early 17th century.

Additionally covered are also extracts of the Swedish fleets, marine formations, craftsmanship to the way of life below the decks. Also, the ship is large and menacing in person, especially up close. Also, her sides are lined with rows of opened canon doors revealing a battle arsenal seen in flagships during its time.

The port side, showing the large array of cannons in Stockholm Vasa Museum
The port side, showing the large array of cannons.

Notably, despite the large number (and weight) of bronze cannons, the ship’s instability was not due to the high placement of the canons, which took up 5% of the entire ship displacement. Interestingly, these canons were forged and casted in Stockholm specifically for the Vasa.

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Her cannons
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Exhibits
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Museum grounds overview

Moreover, organic materials fared better in the undersea anaerobic conditions, including wood, cloth and leather. Also, these were extracted in very good condition. Additional items savaged includes weapons, cannons, tools, coins, cutlery, food, drink and six of the ten of the ship’s sails.

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Yep maritime stuff
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Ships displays
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Segway polo?

All in all, despite its embarrassing history, the Stockholm Vasa Museum is a must-visit for its historical significance and one of the best preserved pieces of 17th century maritime history. Great for a half day out exploring the random ship musing on Stockholm museum island, or maybe a game of Segway polo?

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