Wreck of famed 17th century warship found off Swedish coast

One of the gun ports on Äpplet, a 17th century Swedish warship whose wreck was recently discovered on the seabed just outside Stockholm (Photo: Vrak)

Maritime archaeologists from Vrak, the Swedish museum of shipwrecks, have discovered the wreck of a warship from the 17th century.

Launched in 1629, Applet (“The Apple”) was built by the same shipbuilder as the famed warship Vasa one year earlier.

Applet was sunk off Vaxholm in 1659 to become part of an underwater barrier to prevent an invasion of Stockholm from the sea.

Vrak said measurement data, the ship’s technical details, wood samples, and archival data confirm that it is indeed Applet, Vasa’s sister ship.

On several occasions, the museum’s maritime archaeologists have collaborated with the Swedish Royal Navy to survey a strait at Vaxholm, an island outside Stockholm. In December 2021, a large shipwreck was discovered there.

Parts of the ship’s sides had fallen to the bottom of the sea, though the hull was otherwise preserved up to a lower gun deck. The fallen sides had portholes on two different levels, which Vrak said is evidence of a warship with two gun decks.

A second more thorough survey was conducted in the spring of 2022.

During those dives, ship details were found that had so far only been seen in Vasa, and several samples and analyses were made. It emerged that the oak for the ship’s timber was felled in 1627 in Malardalen – in the same place as Vasa’s timber just a few years prior.

Patrik Hoglund, an archaeologist with Vrak, said the dimensions, construction details, wood samples, and archival material all confirmed the wreck to be that of Applet.

Archaeologist Jim Hansson explained that the discovery of Applet will help in the understanding of how Sweden’s large warships evolved from the unstable Vasa to the more seaworthy vessels that operated in the Baltic Sea. Hansson said this evolution is believed to be “a decisive factor” in Sweden’s emergence as a maritime power in the 1600s.

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