The VASA warship in 1628
The VASA was one of the large warships built by Swedish King Gustavus II Adolphus. "Second to God, the welfare of the kingdom depends on its navy", he said, and used the ships to protect his interests in Europe. However, in the years 1625 to 1627 Sweden lost twelve major warships due to storms and a battle with the Polish fleet, and replacements had to be built.
By 10 August 1628 everything was ready for the VASA's maiden voyage. The weather was fine and the wind light. On board were around a hundred crew members, but also women and children. This was to be a great ceremonial occasion, with pomp and circumstance. When the ship left the shelter of the inner harbour of Stockholm, she approached the island of Beckholmen where she was struck by a powerful gust of wind, capsized and sank after a voyage of only 1300 meters.
Why VASA Capsized
In the treatise by Curt Borgenstam, Anders Sandstroem "Why VASA Capsized" (AB Grafisk Press, Stockholm 1995, ISBN 91-85268-60-7) the reasons are outlined, after a careful investigation of the wreckage and the historic archives. They concluded:
1. Too many design changes during building were made. The VASA was probably laid down as a "small" ship and completed as a "large" ship, with two gun decks instead of only one as originally planned.
2. The shipbuilding master Henrik Hybertsson became serously ill and died a year before the ship was completed. During his illness he had to delegate the supervision of the project to his assistant Hein Jacobsson. As a result the leadership on the shipbuilding side was very weak. Jacobsson had not even been informed that a stability test carried out in Admiral Fleming’s presence hat indicated that the VASA was unstable.
3. By far too little ballast (only about half of the weight needed, as turned out when investigating the wreckage) had been put into the ship. That was ordered by Admiral Klas Fleming, who resented more ballast, as this would have brought the lower line of gun ports too close to the water, and the military usability of the ship would have been hampered.
In the Vasa Museum in Stockholm there is a 1 : 10 scale model, being 7 m long, besides the original ship. It is a major center of attraction. If you happen to be in Stockholm the museum is absolutely worth a visit.
The VASA ship model
The model shown here is a masterpiece. It was built in 2005 - 2010 to plans of the VASA-Museum in Stockholm. The model maker was member of the Yahoo group "Swedish Warship Wasa" which was contributed to by Fred Hocker, head of research at the VASA museum in Stockholm. Colouring of the wood and the carvings was done according the latest analysis of colour fragments from the salvaged ornaments. The model's hull is made of pear, the carvings are jelutong wood, painted or covered by gold leaf. The canon are casted in resin, painted and fitted with loading gear. The flags are silk with waterproof paint.
The model of the VASA is 1 : 35 scale. Length is 182 cm, width 71 cm, height 157 cm.