The Vasa Museum
The Vasa Museum is a maritime museum located on the island of Djurgården, not far from the central core of downtown. The museum displays the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged, the 64-gun warship Vasa that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. The Vasa Museum opened in 1990 and, according to the official web site, is the most visited museum in Scandinavia.
According to information creatively displayed, described and shown at the Vasa Museum, the ship lay rigged and ready for sea just below the royal palace Tre Kronor on Sunday, the 10th of August, 1628; ballast, guns and ammunition were all on board. Over a hundred crewmen were also on board, as well as women and children (the crew had permission to take family and guests along for the first part of the passage through the Archipelago). For the first few hundred meters, Vasa was warped along the waterfront with cables from the shore. Sailors climbed the rigging to set four of Vasa’s ten sails. A salute was fired, and Vasa slowly began her maiden voyage.
Once Vasa came out from under the lee of the Södermalm cliffs the sails could catch the wind, but the ship was tender and heeled over to port, then heeled again, even farther. Water rushed in through the open gunports and the ship’s fate was decided. Vasa sank, after sailing barely 1300 meters. The crew threw themselves into the water or clung to the rigging until rescued, but not all managed to save themselves. Eyewitnesses differ on the exact numbers, but perhaps 30 of approximately 150 people on board died in the loss. After the ship was raised in 1961, the remains of at least 16 people were found.
The construction of the multi-story museum began on and around the dry dock of the old naval yard, with its inauguration ceremony held in November, 1987. Vasa was towed into the flooded dry dock under the new building in December of the following year and during the summer of 1989, when visitors were allowed onto the construction site, 228,000 people visited the half-finished museum; it officially opened in June, 1990. The main hall of the museum contains the ship itself and various exhibits related to the archaeological findings of the ships and early 17th century Sweden. Inside the museum, the ship can be seen from six levels, from her keel to the very top of the stern castle. Around the ship are numerous exhibits and models portraying the construction, sinking, location and recovery of the ship. Vasa has been fitted with the lower sections of all three masts, a new bowsprit, winter rigging, and has had certain parts that were missing or heavily damaged when it sank replaced. The replacement parts have not been treated or painted and are therefore clearly visible against the original material that has been darkened after three centuries under water.