Gdansk, Poland

What a Wreck - Baltic History on the Sea Floor

Zegrahm Contributor|February 7, 2017|Blog Post

In 1961, the 17th-century Swedish warship Vasa was recovered from the Baltic Sea. King Gustavus Adolphus had spared no expense in building what was to be one of the most powerful warships of its day, carrying more than 60 cannons on two gun decks and decorated with exquisite sculptures of mythic gods and mermaids.

Sadly, the Vasa sank on its maiden voyage not far from the Stockholm harbor. More than 300 years later, its salvagers were astonished by the pristine condition of this 225-foot-long, three-masted ship, nearly all of which was found intact. Indeed, the vessel was so well preserved, the minutest of details could still be distinguished in the artwork onboard.

The Vasa tale is just one of many that fascinates maritime archaeologists exploring the Baltic region. The semi-enclosed sea is strewn with shipwrecks: Sweden claims an estimated 900 off its shores, while nearly 1,000 lie in German waters. The majority are from the early 20th century—the haunting remnants of two World Wars—although a number of immaculately preserved wrecks hundreds of years old reveal the long battle to control these northern waters, particularly between Sweden and Denmark.

Because it is mostly landlocked, the Baltic has a low salinity (about a quarter of normal sea water); the lack of salt prohibits the growth of marine organisms that would typically erode organic materials, particularly wood. Thus, sunken ships are able to stay intact for centuries, turning the Baltic’s floor into a sort of maritime time capsule that reveals innovations in shipbuilding over the centuries, as well as important societal and economic changes.

In 2003, a crew searching the Baltic for a WWII plane accidentally came upon a near-intact 17th-century vessel that has come to be known as the “Ghost Ship.” The mystery craft is believed to be fluyt, a type of Dutch sailing cargo ship, built around 1650. Eight years later, divers finally located the 16th-century Swedish navy ship Mars, one of maritime archaeology’s greatest discoveries. The fiercest warship of its day met a fiery end in a battle with German forces in 1564, sending nearly 900 sailors to the bottom of the Baltic—along with a cargo in gold coins estimated to be worth upward of $180 million.

Related Blog Posts

  • Zegrahm Expeditions Sea to Sahara
    Blog Post

    5 UNESCO Must-Sees On Our Sea to Sahara Journey

    December 14, 2017 | Blog Post

    On our special Sea to Sahara journey, Zegrahm president Van Perry and co-founder Mike Messick lead guests to amazing discoveries across the west coast of Africa.

    Read More

    Valletta, Malta
    Field Report

    2017 Circumnavigation of Sicily Field Report

    December 6, 2017 | Field Report

    Wednesday & Thursday, September 27 & 28, 2017 - Valletta, Malta / Embark Variety Voyager

    Read More

    Taveuni, Fiji
    Blog Post

    5 Reasons Travel is Among the Best Family Gifts You Can Give

    December 5, 2017 | Blog Post

    Gift-giving is almost always challenging and rewarding in equal measure, but especially around the holidays. There’s an inherent pressure to find the perfect gift for your loved ones—one that will both show them how much we love them and how well we know them.

    Read More

  • Milford Sound, New Zealand
    Blog Post

    20 Intriguing Christmas Traditions Around the World

    November 20, 2017 | Blog Post

    Christmas has become an almost ubiquitous celebration found all around the world. Nearly every country—even those not traditionally steeped in Christianity—acknowledges the holiday in some fashion.

    Read More

    Grimsey Island
    Blog Post

    Tips for Surviving a Long Layover

    November 7, 2017 | Blog Post

    Ah, the dreaded long layover… We all love the convenience of direct flights to our destination. But there are times when long layovers are simply unavoidable, especially when you’re traveling internationally.

    Read More

    Berber Drummer, Morocco
    Blog Post

    The Importance of Cultural Geography: A Q&A with Zegrahm Expert Ron Wixman

    October 26, 2017 | Blog Post

    It’s tough to know where to start when you’re talking to a guy with a resumé like that of Zegrahm’s cultural geography expert, Ron Wixman.

    Read More

  • Bordeaux, France
    Blog Post

    5 Must-Sips in Western Europe

    September 19, 2017 | Blog Post

    Sailing aboard the newly refurbished Ocean Adventurer, guests on our upcoming Discoveries of Coastal Europe journey can drink in Western Europe’s dramatic coasts from Lisbon to London.

    Read More

    Sahara Desert
    Infographics

    Sea to Sahara [Infographic]

    September 18, 2017 | Infographics

    Take a glimpse into our brand-new itinerary, Sea to Sahara, showcasing far-flung islands and exotic ports of call, including Cape Verde, Canary Islands, and Morocco.

    Read More

    Sylt, Germany
    Field Report

    2017 Best of the Baltic Field Report

    August 29, 2017 | Field Report

    Saturday & Sunday, July 15 & 16, 2017 - London, England / Embark Island Sky

    Read More

  • La Gomera, Canary Islands
    Video

    Sea to Sahara: A Brand-New Small-Ship Cruise Expedition

    August 29, 2017 | Video

    Watch as Director of Operations Jon Nicholson and Cruise Director Kelsey Simmons, talk about our brand-new expedition, Sea to Sahara, that explores Cape Verde, the Sahara Desert, the Canary Islands, and Morocco.

     

    Read More

    European Crested Tit
    Blog Post

    European Birds: 10 Endemic Species

    August 28, 2017 | Blog Post

    The birds of Europe include around 700 different species, many of which are similar to those found in northern Asia and North America. In fact, there are only 10 endemic species of European birds that you won’t see anywhere else in the world.

    Read More

    Lanzarote Island, Canary Islands, Spain
    Blog Post

    10 Things to Do on Canary Islands Holidays

    August 7, 2017 | Blog Post

    From lush forests to daunting volcanoes, Canary Islands holidays offer unexpected variety and dramatic, dynamic landscapes.

    Read More