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Ten ships found at Smörasken

At least ten large shipwrecks have been discovered this week at the small island of Smörasken outside the naval city of Karlskrona. Six of them were previously known to exist. The ships were probably sunk at different times, including the turbulent years of 1710 and 1712. The Museum of Wreck's maritime archaeologists have been doing underwater surveys this week and hope to identify them soon.

The museum's archaeologists spent a week diving off Karlskrona, between the islands of Lindholmen and Smörasken. From previous surveys, they knew that there were several big ships at the bottom of the sea. According to writings from the late 17th century, these ships were supposed to be the foundations of a pier between the islands to protect the city from attack. The first drawing of Karlskrona shows a pier that was never built. For the first time ever, the wrecks are now being carefully examined.

“What’s exciting is that we’ve found more wrecks than we expected – at least ten,” says maritime archaeologist Jim Hansson. “Some are up to 50 metres long.”

Archaeologists examined three of the wrecks, and even got a sneak peek at a fourth one.

“We swam around the lower battery deck, so several of the wrecks are deep under the sediment,” Hansson says. “The largest wreck is over 50 metres long. It could be the Ulrika Eleonora, a large ship of the line,” he speculates.

“But first we need to get the results. Then we can hopefully understand both when they were built and when they were sunk.”

Some of the wrecks were probably sunk in 1710 and 1712, to prevent Denmark from attacking Sweden via the naval city of Karlskrona.

“We recently did a dive near sunken ships at Djupasund, further out from Karlskrona, but these ships were sunk a hundred years later.”

Maritime archaeologists have sawn samples from the ships’ crossbeams on the examined wrecks. Wood samples have now been sent to Denmark for dating. The ideal samples are ones that have distinct annual rings extending from the core out to the bark. The deck beams, which run transverse across the ship, also provide a good measurement that can then be compared with archive sources from the 1600s.

Based on measurements, as well as plenty of recent underwater photos, the maritime archaeologists create 3D images in the computer where they can study exact angles and dimensions from all sides and then reconstruct the ship in order to understand its size and construction.

“Since there’s a lot of timber to keep track of, you can come up with things later on. So we’ll have some late-night work at the hotel when we go through all the measurements,” Hansson jokes.

Now the archaeologists will be diving into the archives and comparing the measurements with archival material. Soon the identification of the ship at Smörasken will be revealed. Could it be the Ulrika Eleonora?