We had one full day in the city before our next big excursion, so we made ambitious plans to see a few museums. First on the list was the Vasa, a fully restored warship that sank on her maiden voyage in 1632 due to a design flaw. At the time, the Vasa was the largest and most powerful warship in the world. In those days, ship builders didn’t use plans and formulae. Ships were designed and built based on experience, intuition, the (sometimes unrealistic) demands of the kings and admirals, and dead reckoning. The Vasa was top-heavy, and too narrow for her height.
After firing a salute as she headed out of the harbor, the Vasa was caught by a gust of wind that heeled her over with all gunports still open. She took on water and sank. There is some speculation that her commander, who was clearly aware that his mighty new ship was not fit to sail, may have deliberately refrained from doing anything that would have kept her afloat. The “important” officials were safely ashore after the pomp and circumstance of the launching ceremonies; the Vasa was carrying a crew of about 200, but had not yet picked up the 250 soldiers that would complete her compliment. The gunports could have been closed sooner, but weren’t. The only item of significant value found by archeologists was a single gold ring. By sinking in the harbor with, no doubt, many other boats in attendance, the captain did his best to minimize casualties. As it was, 30 sailors drowned.
Vasa’s sister ship, the Äpplet, was completed a year later with only one small modification in her design: she was one meter wider. The Äpplet sailed splendidly for 30 years.
The marvel about the Vasa is that everything was almost perfectly preserved. The museum was very well done, but dimly lit, so Dr. Gizmo took the opportunity to practice using his tripod to capture images with exposure times of over 8 seconds. The exhibits were all focused on the ship, except the very last one that you pass as you exit the museum. This one caught us by surprise. It was a multi-media presentation of significant events elsewhere in the world around the time of the sinking of the Vasa. It was great to get this perspective on life, conflicts, technology, and economics in China, Persia, and Africa. I could have spent hours on that exhibit, alone. Alas! It was too much to try to absorb, and we were running out of time to see the next museum.
Fortunately, the next stop was right next door, the Nordic Museum, which focuses on Swedish folk art. We perused galleries of functional, household art, textiles, and photos. For me, the highlight was the exhibit on the Sami people, a.k.a. Laplanders, who are the aborigines of northern Sweden. Exquisite samples of ivory and bone scrimshaw were on display, along with their unique clothing and implements. In the 20th century, the Sami won the right to graze their reindeer herds on vast areas of their traditional lands, amounting to 50% of the area of Sweden. It was interesting to learn that even here, in the “Old World,” the story of indigenous people vs. “invaders” is being played out.This entry was posted in Vacation 2014: Europe