It has been lying there untouched on the bottom of the sea for 447 years. But now a group of divers has found what seems to be the Swedish Navy’s warship Mars, which sank in 1564 north of the island of Öland.
“It’s an archeological gold mine,” says Andreas Olsson at the Sjöhistoriska museet (the Maritime Museum), to Swedish daily Aftonbladet. “This ship is bigger and older than Vasa.” Mars, also called “Makalös” (Peerless) or “Jutehataren” (Danskhataren or, in English, “Hater of the Danes”).
Built in massive oak with 107 cannons, and a size of 80 meters (262 feet) and a crew of 800 men, Mars was the pearl of the Baltic and one of the Swedish Navy’s parade ships.
“It was the best you could have in 1564,” Andreas continues. “It looked very much like the Vasa ship, but it was bigger. But an untrained eye would not be able to tell them apart.” In May of 1564, the Danish-Lübeck tried to overtake the ship in a two-day long battle outside Öland’s northern tip.
“It would have meant great humiliation had they managed to take the ship,” Andreas says. “The crew fought and fought.” After 48 hours, the battle was over. Mars caught fire. Exploded. And sank. “A few survived. Among them was Jacob Bagge who spent 7 years in a Danish prison, but the majority of the 800 crew members died.” Experts (and presumably interested amateurs as well) have been searching for the ship since the 1960’s.
Anders Franzén, the man who located Vasa, spent a long time looking for Mars. “I have seen both photographs and moving images and everything points to the fact that it is Mars we have found: The size of the ship, its position, the dates… On one of the bronze cannons the divers found an emblem with the sheaf of Vasa on it. Everything fits and it is very well preserved.”
What’s next for the wreck that’s been untouched for 447 years? Well, it has to be dated (which is done by determining the age of the wood it’s made of) and a closer study has to be done of the cannons. “This is a priceless discovery,” says Andreas. “An archeological goldmine.”
See the full report and images by Ocean Recycling online at aftonbladet.se: Här hittar dykarna sjunkna Mars (in Swedish only)