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On several occasions Vrak’s maritime archaeologists have collaborated with the Swedish navy to survey a strait at Vaxholm, an island outside Stockholm. In December 2021, a huge shipwreck was discovered there. Parts of the ship’s sides had fallen to the bottom of the sea, but the hull was otherwise preserved up to a lower gun deck. The fallen sides had gunports on two different levels, evidence of a warship with two gun decks.
“Our pulses spiked when we saw how similar the wreck was to Vasa,” says Jim Hansson, maritime archaeologist at Vrak. “Both the construction and the powerful dimensions seemed very familiar. The hope of finding one of Vasa’s sister ships was sparked within us.”
A second, more thorough survey was conducted in the spring of 2022. During those dives, ship details were found that had so far only been seen in Vasa, and several samples and analyses were made. It emerged that the oak for the ship’s timber was felled in 1627 in the Mälardalen area, east of Stockholm – in the same place as Vasa’s timber just a few years earlier.
“The dimensions, construction details, wood samples and archival material all pointed in the same direction – amazingly, we had found Vasa’s sister ship Äpplet,” says Patrik Höglund, another maritime archaeologist at Vrak.
Previous finds revealed to be other ships
In 2019, the Vrak’s maritime archaeologists found two shipwrecks at Vaxholm that were thought to be Äpplet. But the surveys that took place at the time revealed that the vessels were instead Apollo and Maria, two medium-sized ships from 1648. The archaeologists refused to give up, and continued their search.
New knowledge and history
The discovery of Äpplet provides important new knowledge.
“With Äpplet, we can add another key piece of the puzzle in the development of Swedish shipbuilding,” Hansson says. “And it’s only now that we can really study the differences in the constructions of Vasa and Äpplet.”
“This will help us understand how the large warships evolved, from the unstable Vasa to seaworthy behemoths that could control the Baltic Sea – a decisive factor in Sweden’s emergence as a great power in the 1600s,” Höglund adds.
“The find is also valuable for those who want to uncover a new piece of exciting history through the old ship,” Hansson says. “Äpplet is part of our cultural heritage, so we’re arranging a lecture at the museum where we tell visitors more about Äpplet.”
Vrak’s maritime archaeologists investigate warship wrecks in several locations along Sweden’s coasts. These surveys are being conducted within the framework of the research programme “The Lost Navy”, in collaboration with the CEMAS Centre for Maritime Studies at Stockholm University, Vrak/SMTM, and the Finnish Heritage Agency. The research programme is funded by the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond foundation.
There is a diving ban in the area where the wreck is located.
On Wednesday, 26 October at 6 pm, the Vrak’s maritime archaeologists will be on hand at the museum to provide visitors with more information about Äpplet. (In Swedish). The talk will also be broadcast live on our website at vrak.se.
King Gustav II Adolf signed a contract in 1625 to build two large warships – Vasa and Äpplet. Barely a year after the sinking of Vasa in 1628, Äpplet was completed. The ship was designed by Hein Jakobsson, the same shipbuilder who completed Vasa. He realized that Vasa had the wrong proportions even before she was launched, which could lead to instability. So Äpplet was built wider than Vasa, but the construction still proved to be unsuccessful. Building large warships with several gun decks was problematic.
When Sweden joined the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, Äpplet was among the ships sailing towards Germany. The ship was deemed unseaworthy in December 1658, and was sunk at Vaxholm the following year. Read more at vrak.se/en.
Working both below and above the water’s surface
Vrak’s maritime archaeologists went diving to identify Äpplet and then returned to land to study the data they collected. Here’s what they did:
Questions about the finding and results:
Jim Hansson, maritime archaeologist, Museum of Wrecks. Phone: +46 (0)8 519 549 22, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrik Höglund, maritime archaeologist, Museum of Wrecks. Phone: +46 (0)8 519 548 74, e-mail email@example.com
Questions about Vrak – Museum of Wrecks:
Odd Johansen, director, Museum of Wrecks. Phone: +46 (0)8 519 549 91, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions about the research project The Lost Navy:
Leos Müller, professor in maritime history and director of CEMAS at Stockholm University. Phone: +46 (0)8 674 71 02, e-mail email@example.com
Cecilia Eriksson, communications officer, Museum of Wrecks. Phone: +46 (0)8 519 558 43, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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