Marine archaeologists from Vrak—the Museum of Wrecks in Stockholm, Sweden—have discovered the wreck of the 17th-century warship Äpplet (“Apple”). Launched in 1629, the Äpplet was built by the same shipbuilder as the famed ship Vasa. Measurement data, the ship’s technical details, wood samples, and archival data confirm that the wreck is indeed the Äpplet, the Vasa’s sister ship.
On several occasions, the museum’s marine archaeologists have collaborated with the Swedish 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.
“Our pulses spiked when we saw how similar the wreck was to Vasa,” said Jim Hansson, marine archaeologist at the museum. “Both the construction and the powerful dimensions seemed very familiar. The hope of finding one of Vasa’s sister ships was sparked within us.”
A second more thorough survey was conducted in the spring of 2022. During those dives, ship details were found that thus far had been seen only in the Vasa, and several samples and analyses were made. It emerged that the oak for the ship’s timber was felled in 1627 in Mälardalen—the same place as the Vasa’s timber just a few years earlier.
“The dimensions, construction details, wood samples, and archival material all pointed in the same direction—amazingly, we had found Vasa’s sister ship Äpplet,” said Patrik Höglund, another marine archaeologist at the museum.
In 2019, the museum’s maritime archaeologists found two shipwrecks at Vaxholm that both seemed to indicate they might be the Äpplet. But surveys revealed that the vessels actually were the Apollo and Maria, two medium-sized ships from 1648. The archaeologists refused to give up and continued their search for the Vasa’s sister ship.
The discovery of the Äpplet provides important new knowledge. “With Äpplet, we can add another key piece of the puzzle in the development of Swedish shipbuilding,” Hansson said. “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,” Höglund added.
“The find is also valuable for those who want to uncover a new piece of exciting history through the old ship,” Hansson said. “Äpplet is part of our cultural heritage.”