Scientists study a 17th cent. battleship that sunk in the Baltic Sea

The wreckage of the 16th cent. battleship Mars, once pride of Swedish navy became the subject of research by divers and scientists. The remains of the ship, resting on the Baltic Sea’s floor, is said to be the best preserved vessel of the first generation of big, three-masted warships. Maritime archaeologist Johan Rönnby of the Södertörn University in Sweden declared the sunken ship as being a missing link in the development of warships between 16th and 17th century, because it originated in the time when such warships started being built. Never before such well preserved 15th century ship has been found, neither was studied.

Wreckage of the Mars on Baltic bottom (by National Geographic)
Wreckage of the Mars on Baltic bottom (by National Geographic)

The ship was sought over the years by many only to be found in 2011 by a group of maritime archaeology divers at 75 metres depth at the coast of the Swedish Öland island. The wreck is resting on the sea-floor tilted to her starboard, or right, side. Low levels of sediment, slow currents, brackish water, and the absence of shipworm combined to keep the warship in remarkable condition. The Mars sunk while engaged with Danish navy allied with soldiers from a German Lübeck. On the second day of the battle German forces began lobbing fireballs at the Mars and succeeded in pulling alongside the ship so soldiers could board her. What sunk the ship were explosions of the gunpowder and cannons which did not stand the heat. A wooden piece of the ship’s hull still smelled with as charred scent of a burnt wood after bringing up to the surface.

Location of Mars' resting place (by National Geographic)
Location of Mars’ resting place (by National Geographic)

The study is being sponsored by the National Geographic Society’s Global Exploration Fund and aided by Ocean Discovery, a company of professional divers that assists in maritime archaeology work. The work this season is aimed at producing photomosaics and 3-D reconstructions through scanning the entire wreck.

(after National Geographic)

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