Stockholm, Sweden

  • Date
  • 25 September 1999

The Vasa Museum holds the 1628 ship that capsized on its maiden voyage headed for Poland. A persistent man found the ship in the 1950s and since then the Swedish government has saved it from the sea, restored it and now display the wooden structure in an impressive museum.

I was amazed by the beauty and intricate details of the ship. It looks more like a work of art than a ship — three artists (none Swedish) were commissioned to complete the sculpting of mythical, religious and historic creatures along the stern and other parts of the masterpiece.

The gun holes along either side of the boat open up to show lion faces. These were closed most of the time but whenever opened the enemy would see these mean faces of lions. Ongoing extensive research shows that bright primary colors and gilt were used on these faces and many of the figures on the stern of the boat. It must have been an awesome showpiece at its launch.

There were 450 people aboard when the Vasa set sail to Poland, but because it did not have enough ballast, a puny wind knocked it over. Fifty men died.

Restoration took decades and the present permanent museum opened only in 1990. Entry today cost 60 kronors (US$7.50).