A historic warship from the 17th century has been discovered by marine archaeologists diving in Southern Sweden. The ship named Blekinge was similar in size to the legendary Vasa warship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628, before finally being salvaged in the 1960s.
Unlike the Swedish warship Vasa, the wreckage of the newly discovered vessel resting on the seabed at Karlskrona shows the ship was deliberately sunk during Sweden’s war with Russia and its allies.
The Karlskrona naval base was one of the largest ever constructed and it remains in use today. It was built in the aftermath of a war between Sweden and neighboring Denmark – the Scanian War which took place between 1675 and 1679. King Charles XI of Sweden wanted a naval base that would have a close approach with Denmark, in case of future conflicts.
The Blekinge ship was built in 1682 and part of the fleet that went to war against the Danes and the Russians at the beginning of the 18th century, known as the Great Northern War – which eventually led to the demise of the Swedish Empire and the emergence of Russia as a dominant power.
Before being destroyed the Bleking warship was impressive and somewhat similar to the Vasa vessel.
«It was around the same size as the Vasa, about 45 meters long and with between 68-70 cannons (the Vasa had 64). It participated in, among other things, King Karl XII’s sea assault against Denmark in 1700,» Jim Hansson said.
The warship was not very reliable at sea and how and why it ended up in its current location in 1713, is not entirely clear.
One theory is that the vessel was put at the bottom of the sea in order to use its canons to defend the naval port of Karlskrona during Karl XII’s disastrous campaign against Russia, which would ultimately result in the downfall of the Swedish Empire, and the country’s ruler fleeing to the Ottoman Empire.
«My early theory is that the ship may have been sunk deliberately and used as a sort of cannon barge while construction at Karlskrona stopped during the king’s catastrophic expedition. They hadn’t built and adequate defense, so it may have solved that,» Jim Hansson explained.
The discovery is very important because the Blekinge is believed to have been the first ship constructed at the Karlskrona shipyard.
Unfortunately, the Bleking warship is not in as good condition as the Vasa warship was when it was found. Still, archaeologists hope to conduct small-scale excavations soon to uncover a whole deck level which they believe is buried below layers of sediments. If everything goes as planned, scientists will be able to properly analyze the ship’s structure to understand how warship styles evolved over the years to make way for new war tactics.