Stockholm, Sweden – The Vasa Museum

I think our good weather streak ran out by the time we reached Stockholm, the next leg on our Scandinavian adventure.  For our entire stay, it drizzled or poured rain, so we spent most of our time exploring the Vasa Museum (although we did take a quick jaunt through “Old Town”).  The Vasa Museum is the home to Vasa, an enormous viking ship that sank on her maiden voyage.  The ship was built in Stockholm in 1626 and set sail for the first time in 1628.  However, after only 1300 meters, Vasa tipped over, took on water, and sank in Stockholm’s harbor.  Attempts to raise the ship soon afterwards were fruitless.  In 1961, Sweden’s Navy, the National Maritime Museum, and a salvage company banned together to bring Vasa to the surface, some 333 years after it first sank.  The Navy moved the ship to its current location (in the museum) in 1988 and the Vasa Museum opened two years later.

Although other ships from this era have been found, none of them have been preserved in equivalent conditions.  The ship survived with minimal damage for two reasons.  First, the brackish water of the bay slowed the erosion of the wood.  Second, construction in the harbor covered the hull in a layer of mud, effectively creating a “tomb,” which would later be opened.  The fact that no other ship from this period has ever been salvaged on this scale left a large hole in shipbuilding history.  The finding and salvaging of the Vasa shed light on 17th century ship design, technologies, and paint schemes.

View of Stockholm’s harbor on a rainy day

The King of Sweden commissioned the Vasa with hopes that it would become the Navy’s “great new ship.”  (Oops!)  The work on Vasa was led by a Dutchman, Henrik Hybertsson, an experienced shipwright. In this period, Dutch ships were not built from drawings; instead, the shipwright was given the overall dimensions and used proportions and rules of thumb based on his own experience to produce a ship with good sailing qualities.  Unfortunately, Hybertsson passed away during the design phase and the ship was passed on to his assistant, Henrik “Hein” Jakobsson.  Approximately 300 men built the hull of the ship from over a thousand Swedish and Polish oak trees and it had masts that rose over 50 meters high (nearly 15 stories!).  The Navy placed 64 cannons aboard Vasa for defense purposes. Craftsmen also created hundreds of painted and gilded sculptures to adorn the boat.

1:10 model of Vasa

Model detail of what the original paint job looked like

The Vasa is incredibly difficult to photograph in its entirety because it is so long (69 meters or about 226 feet).

View from the front of the ship

View of the deck from the top

The first of three parts that constitute the 50+ meter masts

Originally, Vasa had 10 sails, of which 6 survived.  There is a pretty interesting exhibit in the museum showing portions of the sails the divers found underwater.  The Navy built the ship to hold 450 members (300 soldiers + 150 crew), but when Vasa sank, only 150 were on board, thank goodness.  It is estimated that 30 of those men died with the ship.

The stern of the ship with original carvings

Graphic showing what the stern would have been painted like; research is still ongoing to determine the complete paint scheme

Cannon door carving

View of the port side; this is about as much of the ship I can capture in one frame

Me standing on a replica of the crow’s nest overlooking Vasa

As I said before, the weather in Stockholm was not on our side.  I didn’t feel like taking the camera out in the rain, so we don’t have much to show for the city itself.  We did, however, see a “Texas Longhorn” restaurant, which lifted my spirits!

Old Town Stockholm


Stockholm Parliament Building – notice the three crowns, the symbol of Sweden

Not sure about this lady, but she has killer shoes!


  1. Carolyn Campbell says:

    I really like your info about antiquity; I am a National Geographic fan. All that work gone in a flash! How surprised they would be to think it would rise again.


  1. […] immigrants because of its similarities to their native countries.  When we visited Norway, Sweden and Denmark, Bobby often commented that he felt more at home there than anywhere else in Europe, so […]