On several occasions the museum’s maritime archaeologists have collaborated with the 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 portholes 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 the museum. “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 Mälardalen – 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 the museum.
In 2019, the museum’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.
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.”
The museum’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 Forgotten Fleet”, 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 Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.