Wreck of famed 450-year-old warship found

08/26/2011

Swedish officials believe they have discovered the wreck of the 16th century warship Mars, a massive vessel that was equipped with 107 cannon and was sunk barely a month after the birth of William Shakespeare.

The Mars was the head of King Erik XIV’s fleet before it sank in the Baltic Sea in 1564 during a sea battle with the Danish-Lübeckian navy. The warship was 260 feet long and manned by a crew of 800, making it one of the biggest ships of its day.

Nearly all aboard died when the vessel went down during a battle known as the Action of 30 May 1564 between the Swedish islands of Öland and Gotland.

A team of divers discovered the wreck at a depth of about 250 feet, 12 miles north of Öland, Stockholm’s maritime history museum said. The find came after several years of research, according to Agence France-Presse.

“Everything suggests that it is indeed the Mars that we have found,” Richard Lundgren, one of the divers, said in the statement. “The size and the age of the ship correspond.”

The wreckage is reportedly solid oak and the seabed is strewn with bronze cannons, according to The Local, an English-language Swedish publication.

A stack of corn, the symbol of the Swedish royal family at the time, was found engraved on a cannon, providing another strong clue, added Agence France-Presse.

The remains of the ship will be important for research, he added, particularly in comparison with other recovered finds of historical importance, including the Swedish Vasa which was sunk in 1628, and the British Mary Rose, which went down in 1545.

The Vasa sank after sailing less than a mile into its maiden voyage in August 1628. It was located in the late 1950s in a busy shipping lane just outside the Stockholm harbor and salvaged with a largely intact hull in 1961. Today, it rests in a museum in Stockholm.

The Mary Rose sank in action against the French in July 1545. It was located in 1971 and salvaged 11 years later. The surviving section of the ship and thousands of recovered artifacts are on display in Portsmouth, England.

The Mars lasted just a year after being launched. The Action of 30 May 1564 was part of the Northern Seven Years’ War.

(HT: A Blog About History)

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