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Vasa Museum

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Raising the VASA

ABOVE: Raising the Vasa in 1961. Before the lift, rusted bolts were replaced and cannon ports were sealed.

Discovery and recovery

The Vasa Museum's press staff describes how the ship was found and salvaged 40 years ago:

The modern history of the Vasa all began with one boy's interest in sunken ships, an interest which continued into his adult life. was the first to realize that the Baltic Sea was an eldorado for wreck searchers. This is largely due to the fact that the shipworm, Teredo Navalis, which destroys wooden ships in the oceans of the world, does not thrive in these brackish waters. Early in the 1950s he began searching for a rather special wreck--the Vasa. By early autumn of 1956 he had located his prize.

It was Anders Franzén who woke the Vasa from her watery sleep after 333 years. Together with his colleague, the diver Per Edvin Fälting, he became something of a hero to the people of Sweden.

Singlemindedly, Anders Franzén managed to convince the authorities and private sponsors that the ship should be salvaged. At first, nobody knew just how it could be done. Should the Vasa be frozen in a block of ice, or pumped full of ping-pong balls? Finally, they decided on a more traditional method.

The salvage operation took several years to prepare. In September, 1957, divers began the difficult and dangerous task of excavating six tunnels under the ship. In complete darkness they worked their way through hard blue clay. Above them lay the ship, heavy and menacing. The thousands of iron bolts which had rusted away were replaced by new ones, and the gun ports were sealed up.

Heavy cables were drawn through the tunnels and fastened to two lift pontoons, Oden and Frigg. The most exciting development for those working on the salvage operation occured in 1959. Would the ship stay in one piece when it was pulled from the clay? It did--the oak hull remained intact, and the Vasa was moved in in several stages under the water to a more shallow position. The winter of 1960/61 was a mild one, and the divers were able to continue their work uninterrupted.

Next Page:  The final lift: from seabed to museum


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