The beautifully preserved Vasa was underwater for 333 years... From the mid 1500s until the secession of large swathes of Finland to Russia in 1721, Sweden enjoyed a period of dominance in Northern Europe. In 1628, at the zenith of the nation's power, the Swedish navy's magnificent new flagship, the Vasa, set sail from Stockholm and promptly floundered and sank. The ship was far too top heavy, and one nautical mile after leaving the docks (and within clear sight of the horrified onlookers) she went down like a stone.
333 years later...
Several missions were undertaken to salvage the ship, and one - in 1664 and using a diving bell - remarkably managed to bring ashore 50 of Vasa's mighty cannons. But it was not until 333 years after she went down that the flagship once more breached the surface, following an operation that took over 2 years. This involved raising the ship to an initial level of 52 feet below sea level where running repairs and further tests were carried out before the eventual lift on to dry land in 1961, watched by crowds and television viewers around the world.
16th Century life
Now, 50 years on, the Vasa is the centrepiece of the completely compelling Vasa Museum on Djurgården island in central Stockholm. The astonishingly well-preserved ship itself obviously takes pride of place, and visitors can see the intricate detail of the hull from six different viewing platforms. Equally fascinating are the displays of artefacts found on board which historians have used to build up an immensely detailed picture of 16th century Swedish society. If this all sounds a bit swotty in a city famed for beautiful buildings, food and locals, all we can say is to go and check it out for yourself. You won't regret it.
Part of our new series 'Around the World in 80 Senses', celebrating our favourite things from our extensive travels. As with any self-respecting list, there's absolutely no scientific basis to the choices we've made. It's all shamelessly subjective, and we'll be listing this year's 80 Senses (in no particular order) between now and Christmas, so keep an eye out for new entries here on the blog and on our Twitter and Facebook pages.