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Before the Titanic, there was the Vasa

The Vasa, Stockholm, Sweden

The RMS Titanic is perhaps the most famous shipwreck in modern times—having hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage from England on April 15, 1912. The Titanic was the largest ship ever built at the time and employed design technology that made the ship “impossible to sink” according to promotions by the owners, the White Star Line. But of course such hubris ended with the death of 2,224 passengers and crew when the Titanic sank. The wreck was discovered in 1985, and many artifacts recovered from it have been displayed by Premier Exhibitions.

Nearly 300 years before the Titanic sank into the North Atlantic, the Swedish warship Vasa met a similar fate. The warship was constructed from 1626 to 1628 and, armed with heavy bronze cannon, was the most powerfully armed warship in the world at that time. But as impressive as the ship was, its design proved to have a fatal flaw, and the ship sank on its maiden voyage. (Photo of the port side of the Vasa by OneHungLow, shared here under CA BY-SA 3.0). Because it sank in front of a large crowd, the location was never in doubt, although numerous attempts to raise the ship failed. The shipwreck was rediscovered in the early 1950s, and the ship’s hull and artifacts are available for public view at the Vasa Museum.


The Bizarre Story of ‘Vasa,’ the Ship That Keeps On Giving

By Kat Eschner

Smithsonian Magazine

August 10, 2017

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