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Diver next to Apollo. Photo: Jim Hansson, SMTM

Apollo and Maria - mystery with Vasa feeling

During the 17th century, the Swedish navy sunk at least 10 big warships east of Vaxholm. The reason was to prevent enemy ships from entering Stockholm. Two of the sunken ships were Apollo and Maria, which served in the Swedish navy for nearly 30 years.

They received much attention when they were first assumed to be the Vasa ship’s sister ships. Although these ships are actually 20 years younger, their history is equally exciting.

During a maritime archaeology investigation in 2019, two large wrecks were discovered outside Vaxholm. They were believed to be Vasa’s sister ships, built in the years following the sinking of the Vasa ship. The wrecks were damaged, but several wood samples were taken for age dating. The test results revealed that the trees were felled in the winter of 1646/47, about 15 years after the construction of Vasa’s sister ships.

Puzzle pieces

More samples were taken during new dives at the site. The archaeologists also took measurements that made it possible to calculate the length, width and shape of the hull. The new test results were consistent with the previous analysis. The wood had been felled in northern Germany and eastern Sweden.

In old navy lists, maritime archaeologists found two ships built in 1648: Apollo in Wismar on the German Baltic Coast and Maria on Skeppsholmen in Stockholm. The size of the ships matched well with the wrecks in Vaxholm. The origin of the wood samples, northern Germany for the smaller and eastern Sweden for the larger wreck, also fit. According to the sources, both vessels were sunk in the waters east of Vaxholm.

Both Apollo and Maria were retired in 1675/76 after barely 30 years in the service of the navy. They were used extensively and took part in several battles, including the Battle of Møn in 1657 and the defeat at the Battle of Öresund in 1658. In 1677, they were sunk for good in Vaxholm.

See where the wreck is located To the map