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The Crown’s last bronze cannons salvaged

This week, two more guns from the Swedish ship of the line Kronan (The Crown) witnessed the light of day after 344 years at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. They are most likely the last guns remaining on the wreck. Many of the guns are prizes of war which were placed on one of the most powerful ships of the Swedish Empire.

The Crown was one of the world’s largest ships of the time and had over 100 guns on board when it exploded and sank off the coast of Öland in a skirmish with the Danish–Dutch fleet in 1676. Half of the guns were salvaged almost immediately using a diving bell – remarkable considering that they weighed up to 4 tonnes each. Half of the guns were prizes of war, stolen by the enemy and placed on the ship to impress. They were not always the most modern; the oldest gun on board is from 1514.

This week, Kalmar County Museum together with divers from the Swedish Armed Forces uncovered and salvaged the two remaining bronze cannons at the wreck site of the warship. They have also taken additional wood samples from the wreck in order to do dendrochronological analysis and dating. The results will give us answers about where and when the timber for the Crown was felled.

These have been busy days for project manager Lars Einarsson at Kalmar County Museum:

“It’s happened at an incredible pace. The guns were salvaged on Tuesday and Wednesday. Yesterday we took tree-ring samples and studied the portholes. And today we unloaded the guns in Kalmar,” he says.
Now that the bronze guns are in port, the next steps are cleaning and initial preservation in the project’s conservation facility in Kalmar.

In-depth examinations

The Crown was discovered by Anders Franzén – who also discovered the Vasa ship. For the past 40 years, the wreck has been examined by Kalmar County Museum with support from the National Maritime and Transport History Museums.

“What’s thrilling about this discovery is that the guns found on board are prizes of war. The total value of the bronze guns was as much as the value of the entire ship,” Patrik Höglund says. Höglund is a maritime archaeologist at Vrak – Museum of Wrecks, part of the National Maritime and Transport History Museums.

“After defeat in this battle, Sweden couldn’t afford to cast cannons in bronze so they switched to iron. The technique of casting iron cannons had also improved by then,” he says.

In the autumn of 2019, two of the three remaining bronze guns were uncovered. One of them was a so-called Vasa type cannon (weighing 1 tonne), which was salvaged in September 2019.

Maritime archaeologists at the museum intended to document the Crown using photo documentation at the salvage this week to create a 3D image of the wreck. Because of the corona pandemic, this work has been postponed.