Swedish maritime archaeologists have discovered the wreck of ship Äpplet (The Apple), the long-lost sister ship of the 17th-century warship Vasa, which sank on its maiden voyage, the Swedish Museum of Wrecks has said.
Launched in 1629, Applet (Apple) was built by the same shipbuilder as the famed 69-metre Vasa, which was carrying 64 cannons when it went down in a strait off the island of Vaxholm, just outside the capital, Stockholm. Vasa was meant to serve as a symbol of Sweden’s military might at the time but capsized after sailing just over 1,000 metres. It was salvaged in 1961 and is on display at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, one of Sweden’s most popular tourist spots.
On several occasions, the museum’s maritime archaeologists have collaborated with the navy to survey a strait at Vaxholm, an island outside Stockholm. In December 2021, a huge shipwreck was discovered there. Parts of the ship’s sides had fallen to the bottom of the sea, but the hull was otherwise preserved up to a lower gun deck. The fallen sides had portholes on two different levels, evidence of a warship with two gun decks.
Measurement data, the ship’s technical details, wood samples and archival data confirm that it is indeed Äpplet, Vasa’s sister ship. “Our pulses spiked when we saw how similar the wreck was to Vasa,” says Jim Hansson, a maritime archaeologist at the museum.
The discovery of Äpplet provides important new knowledge.
“With Äpplet, we can add another key piece of the puzzle in the development of Swedish shipbuilding,” Hansson says. “And it’s only now that we can really study the differences in the constructions of Vasa and Äpplet.”
“This will help us understand how the large warships evolved, from the unstable Vasa to seaworthy behemoths that could control the Baltic Sea—a decisive factor in Sweden’s emergence as a great power in the 1600s,” says Patrik Höglund, another maritime archaeologist at the museum.
Äpplet was completed in 1629 by the shipbuilder Hein Jacobsson. He had completed Vasa the year before and suspected, even before the ship was launched, that Vasa had been built too narrow and was therefore likely to be unstable. So Äpplet was built wider, with a slightly different hull shape.
When Sweden joined the Thirty Years' War, Äpplet was among the ships sailing towards Germany. She had about 1,000 men on board, of which 900 were soldiers. Following the war, the ship was in active service until 1658. She was probably idle most of the time—larger ships were rarely used because they were expensive to maintain, inferior as sailing vessels and more difficult to manoeuvre than smaller ships.
Äpplet was inspected in 1658 and deemed to be no longer in such condition that it would be worth repairing. The following year, she was sunk.
As early as the mid-1500s, the Swedish navy began work on blocking a narrow strait off Vaxholm. During the 1600s, at least ten large Swedish warships were deliberately sunk on the site. One of them was Äpplet.
There is a diving ban in the area where the wreck is located.