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The search for the most famous shipwreck in the world

Anders Franzén lived for shipwrecks. As an engineer and naval warfare expert of the 16th and 17th centuries, he was particularly obsessed with the old Swedish warlords who once threatened the Baltic.

When he was not busy with his daily work, the Swedish Naval Administration spent hours in the archive looking for maps and documents in the hope that they might reveal the location of Sweden's large sunken warships. And when he learned that a wreck near his home in Stockholm could still be undiscovered, he was hungry to find it.

For five years, Franzén spent his spare time searching for the shipwreck. He was not lucky. When he ransacked the waterways around Stockholm ̵

1; as the natives call the Ström – Franz's "loot" consisted mainly of rusty ironworkers, ladies' bicycles, Christmas trees, and dead cats, "he recalls later

Franzens & # 39; iron hung out on the 25th of August 1956. And whatever it was, it was big.

Franzén carefully lowered a core sampler – a tool used by oceanographers was used to extract soil samples from waters – and brought back a dark and soggy piece of black oak. "The following month, Franzén's friend Per Edvin Fälting plunged into Ström and saw what was down there. [19659006] Fälting had to work blind, only 30 meters below the surface the brackish waters were pitch black, and the diver ran his hand over the mysterious object, trying to get a feel for what it could be.

"I can feel something great," Fälting said over a diver's phone to Franzén, "at the side of a ship. Here is a weapons port and here is another one.

There was a break.

"There are two rows," Fälting said. "It must be the Vasa ."

The Vasa was the largest warship that never went to war. Named after the Swedish royal family – the House of Vasas – the ship was commissioned in 1625 by King Gustav II Adolphus and was to serve as his naval flagship. Gustavus had great dreams for Vasa : He wanted the deadliest warship in the Baltic Sea, which was as beautiful as deadly.

For three years carpenter, sailmaker, painter, woodcarver, rope maker and hundreds of other craftsmen and Craftsmen hurried to build the king's ship The Vasa would be an elaborate masterpiece with at least 700 finely carved sculptures, figures and ornaments: angels, devils, lions, emperors, warriors, musicians, mermaids, gr lots of faces – all elaborately made of oak, pine and linden wood.

The exterior of the boat would be a tangible rainbow (gilded with gold leaf). "The hundreds of sculptures clinging and climbing around the Vasa were an orgy of naked, pink flesh, of steel-blue armor, of blood-red shades of red, poisonous green, and navy blue," writes Erling Matz in . The Vasa Catalog . As Lars-Åke Kvarning writes in Scientific American these ornaments had many purposes: "Encourage friends to intimidate enemies, assert claims, and impress the world with this image of power and fame."

The ship itself was built from 1000 oak trees and had three decks, including a stack of two gundecks that could accommodate 64 guns. The design was unprecedented in size and complexity.

King Gustavus, famous for his military skills, demanded it. At that time he controlled "Finland, Estonia and [Latvia] and he had just won the small part of Russia that touched the Gulf of Finland," writes Kvarning. "By excluding the Czar from the Baltic, he had made the sea almost a Swedish lake in 1945-90." He also juggled several wars and wanted to get a new warship in his hands, which would maintain its dominance. He urged the builders to hurry.

It was a stupid decision. At the beginning of the 17th century, the construction of a functional ship was a matter of trial and error. (And according to Matz, there were a lot of mistakes: in the 1620s, of the 15 naval ships that lost Sweden, only two sank in the heat of battle.) There were no calculations or engineering drawings. A new design was usually copied in part to its predecessors – the Vasa had none. The shipbuilders just had to look at it. Even worse, the Vasa shipwright died halfway through the construction.

Confused by the huge dimensions of the ship, the architects of Vasa could never determine for sure how much ballast the ship needed. They filled the hull with about 121 tons of stone, but believed that he needed much more. But the king, who had personally approved the dimensions of the ship, effectively prohibited any changes – and anyway, the addition of more ballast would have brought the lowest Gundeck dangerously close to the waterline.

When the nearly completed Vasa began Söfring Hansson, who was floating in the harbor, decided to test the stability of the boat. He asked a herd of 30 men to run back and forth across the deck; After only three passes, the ship began to waver precariously. Some of the ship's officers wanted to tell the king that the boat was about to capsize, but Gustavus was not in town. The problem was ignored.

On August 10, 1628, crowds gathered on the Stockholm waterfront to see the Vasa . After attending a service, the sailors boarded the boat with many women and children invited on the maiden voyage. Four of the ten sails were unrolled and the ship crashed in Stockholm Ström shortly before 16.00, led by a light breeze. The crowd cheered.

And then it started to scream.

A slight gust of wind caused the shimmering ship to tilt to the left. The Vasa sat up briefly, only to return to his awkward, harbor-side inclination. The captain immediately demanded the closure of all cannons, but it was too late – water had breached the openings. One surviving crewmember recalled, "When I had climbed up from the lower deck, the water had risen so high that the stairs had come off, and I just got off with great difficulty."

Dozens of men, women and children jumped from the ship , The Stockholm waters were peppered with helpless, beating bodies. The sailors climbed on the sinking masts of the ship. Within minutes, Vasa was under water and 30 people had died.

The meanest warship in the world had been knocked down by a slight gust of wind. It had barely traveled 4000 feet.

When Gustavus, who was in the Prussian war against Poland-Lithuania, heard that his excellent warship was under water, he demanded an investigation to find and punish those responsible. The captain and some shipbuilders were thrown into captivity and an investigation was initiated. Some investigators alleged that the cannons were not tied up and rolled to one side, causing the boat to tip over. (Not true.) Others claimed that the captain was negligent. (It was not him.)

The truth was, the Vasa was simply top-heavy: if someone deserved the blame, it was the man who demanded such awkward dimensions – the king. But an infallible man ruled by divine law implied that he implied God. Like the Vasa of 19459004 (19459005) the case sank rapidly from the public.

A secret vortex swirls around Stockholm's harbor: The water there is too brackish and too oxygen-free to carry the shipworm with the wood chuck Teredo navalis . In salty seas, this shallow little shell will indulge in wooden pillars, hulls and shipwrecks – slowly destroying all signs of human handiwork.

But not in the Baltic Sea. The shipwrecks made of wood are preserved in remarkable condition. (This is especially true of Stockholm, where, according to the Vasa Museum, "centuries of port-borne sewage have created a dead zone where even bacteria can not live.")

Days after [19459004Vasa sank, the Swedish Reichsrat sent a British to rescue the wreck, but the mission failed. In 1663, a Swede named Albrecht von Treileben crashed under the cover of a diving bell into the cool Ström and managed to recover more than 50 of the ship's expensive bronze cannons.

After that The location of Vasa was forgotten for 300 years. The closest thing to a rescue mission came closest in 1920, when two brothers requested permission from the Swedish government to find the ship and turn the ship's oak into art deco furniture. (The request was rejected.)

Franzén, on the other hand, was determined to keep the Vasa in one piece. Problem was: nobody knew how. No one had ever tried to raise such a large or old shipwreck.

Crackpot ideas swirled. "One idea was to freeze Vasa in a huge block of ice and float it to the surface," writes Matz. "The idea was to drag the iceberg to a suitable location and let it melt in the sun, after which the Vasa appeared." It was even talked about lifting the ship by filling the empty hull with ping pong balls.

Fortunately, Franzens discovery aroused so much interest in the Swedish media that the Navy offered boats and divers, while the Neptune Salvaging Company generously offered to return the ship to the surface pro bono . Divers would dig tunnels under the shipwreck with jets of water. Heavy cables would be routed through these passages, creating a basket that could lift the ship.

In 1957, the first divers fell into the Ström . Working in complete darkness, they cautiously began the dangerous work of excavating six tunnels, ignoring the fact that tons of ballast could fall on their heads at any moment. It was a deadly job. "Carriers, plans and other utensils meant that the air ducts and pipes could easily get stuck," writes Matz. "And they did it." (It did not help that the divers discovered at least 17 skeletons while digging). )

After two relatively uneventful years, the tunnels were completed. The wires were drilled through and attached to two pontoons (happily called Oden and Frigg) that gently lifted the wreck 8 feet from the seabed. From August 1959, the crews slowly moved the Vasa into shallower waters and set them back. They would repeat this movement at least 18 times – lift, move, lower. After each successful case, the crews would trim the wires to make sure the boat slid closer to the surface with the next lift.

But before the Vasa could emerge, the hull had to be made watertight. The iron bolts that had once held the ship together were rusted, and the salvage crew had to fill and fill these cavities while it was still submerged. (They also installed new watertight hatches in each port.) This underwater craft lasted two years.

Finally, on April 24, 1961, three giant bilge pumps began to pump water from the ship's interior and Vasa . was kissed again by sunshine. Within two weeks, the Vasa was not just above the surface – it floated.

The Vasa was housed for years in a foggy, cave-like warehouse. There, in Wasavarvet the ship showered heavily in preservatives.

The wood of Vasa contained about 800 tons of water – and all this had to be removed. However, the researchers could not just sit outside and allow the boat to dry, as the soaked wood would shrink and split. To prevent rupture, preservatives sprayed Vasa with a mixture of water and polyethylene glycol (25 minutes, 20 minutes) for 24 hours. This process, involving 500 automated spray nozzles, lasted 17 years.

Slowly dripped water from Vasa and chains of excess polyethylene glycol trickled off and hardened into stalactites that looked like fine white candles. After completion of the PEG shower, the humidity in the warehouse had to be gradually reduced over 10 years.

At that time, archaeologists – who had been vaccinated against exposure to diseases such as jaundice and typhoid fever – had to be vaccinated. The boat had already sifted tons of mud and mud in search of artifacts. By spraying the hoses Vasa with garden hoses, they had uncovered more than 30,000 items, including clothing, personal belongings, barrels of meat, candlesticks, coins, and a glass of 66-proof alcohol. ("I can testify from my own experience that the alcohol was good," Kvarning wrote.) Divers also combed the watery tomb of the ship to find thousands of other objects.

Of these, each wood artifact was dipped in a polyethylene tank of glycol solution. Dozens of cast iron cannonballs – so much rusted that they were now as much as polystyrene balls – were dried in hydrogen heated above 1900 ° C. Six of Vasa's crumbling sails, which could only be dipped in liquid, were dried in a mixture of alcohol and the solvent xylene. (It took them more than a decade to conserve.)

Meanwhile, the Vasa [V9] – the thoughtful perch protruding from the stern of the ship – has fallen into ruins. "[W] Orkers had to identify and locate thousands of structural elements, from heavy beams to tiny bits of wood – a gigantic puzzle to be assembled without blueprints," Kvarning writes.

The Vasa remained in excellent condition. The fine ornaments did not have bright colors, but they were still great in their details.

There is still much to be done today. In the year 2000, the humidity in Stockholm was so high that the presence of slushy museum visitors led to the formation of corrosive acids in the ship's wood. The ship is changing too. To monitor the deformation of the wood, geodetic instruments are used to image minor changes in ship shape (which is currently set at one millimeter each year) [PDF]. To counteract a potential collapse, the carpenters built a replica of the Vasa [19459004hullwhichundergoesaseriesofstressteststhatwillhopefullyimprovetheship'sstabilityforconservationistsbuthasalreadypaidoffTodaytheVasaMuseumisthemostpopularculturalinstitutioninScandinaviaThesiteishometotheworld'sonlysurviving17thcenturyshipandismorethanavitaltimecapsule-itpayshomagetoa300+yearrescuemission

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