Military Gear & Army Surplus Gear Blog

DOCUMENTARY – Vasa 1628 (ENGLISH SUBS) Part 1 of 2

DOCUMENTARY – Vasa 1628 (ENGLISH SUBS) Part 1 of 2


VASA 1628
THE PEOPLE, THE SHIP, THE ERA That the big Vasa ship sunk… …during her maiden voyage in 1628,
is well known… …but knowledge about Stockholm in
the early 17th century is more sketchy… …because there are hardly any pictures
of the town, and few could write. Fortunately, we have
the Stockholm Annals… …where the town scribe each day
made notes about local events. About those who had been convicted
of theft, adultery or murder… …had applied for building permits,
been allowed to open shops… …or borrowed money. Stockholm was a small, rural capital
surrounded by forests and water… …with less than 15,000 inhabitants. Around the royal castle,
the cathedral and the main market… …the wealthy
lived in stone houses… …while the many poor had to make do
with simple wooden houses. The ships lined the quays and several
hundred seamen waited to board. Some of them lived in small huts
by the harbour. Mårten was one of them. His sister cared for his daughter… …because his wife, Karin, worked until
late as a candle clipper at the navy yard. There were no Street lights… …so in autumn and winter
the alleys were pitch dark. According to the annals, there were
robberies almost every night. This time, the thieves
took the candle dipper’s only coat. Most people had no more clothes
than what they wore. The navy yard that would build Vasa, lay
a few hundred metres from Old Town… …on Blasieholmen,
opposite the castle. Different languages were heard, as
more than ten nationalities worked there. It was Stockholm’s largest
place of work with 400 employees. And Sweden had a large immigration,
as there was a lack of skilled people. Candle Clipper Karin was one of the
many women so important to the yard… …when the men were away at war. She worked for candlemaker
Lambrecht’s widow… …who made candles for the ships.
One of those would be Vasa. Thousands of tallow candles were used
in cabins, navigation lights and lanterns. Planks and ship frames
were made from large oak timbers. Many of the carpenters
were from Holland… …which had Europe’s
best shipwrights. This is why king Gustavus II Adolphus
let the Dutchman Henrik Hybertsson… …and his brother, the businessman
Arendt de Groot, lease the navy yard. It was a family enterprise… …where Henrik’s Swedish wife,
Margareta, was treasurer… …and shared the bookkeeping
with their son. They are promised 200,000 dalers… …if they build two smaller
and two larger ships… …within four years,
one of them being Vasa. It will be the most expensive and
extravagant ship ever built in Sweden. In September 1625,
ten Swedish warships founder… …during a storm in the Baltic Sea. That’s almost half of the Swedish navy,
thus a major disaster. So the king wants shipwright Henrik
to start with the two smaller ships… …in order to lessen the loss. Gustavus II Adolphus sees himself as
the Nordic Lion, a Protestant messiah… …fighting the Catholics. Lord High Admiral Karl Karlsson
Gyllenhielm, the king’s half brother… …is to oversee the ship building. The king attempts to frighten Germans
and Poles with pamphlets… …where he decapitates
the Catholic dragon. But the war was very costly
and Sweden is a small country. Timber and copper generated income,
but not enough… …so the rest was taken
from the people through taxes. Vasa was to cost the equivalent of
a quarter of Sweden’s annual harvest. The warships are worn
and need constant repairs. Lately, several have gone aground
or have been damaged in battle. Henrik Hybertsson
was an experienced shipwright. He had come to Sweden
in the early 1600s… …and had built many ships
for its navy. At this time, ships were built
with measurement tables… …instead of drawings. All measurements of a ship
were preserved in tables. These were kept secret and used by
a shipwright family for generations. The shipwrights learned through
experience, from ship to ship. His wife, Margareta,
provided important support… …and assumed
much responsibility for the yard. He has started with one of the smaller
ships, and the king seems satisfied. Women in business
was not uncommon at this time. Margareta bought timber from Brita Bååt
on Ängsö as well as Anna Kyle in Nacka. The ships were built in oak,
so such trees were very valuable. The Crown had the sole right to fell
oaks. An important skill was to pick the trees
that would be most suited for each ship. The carpenters brought along templates
for ribs, knees and other bent parts. They needed thick branches that nature
had grown into the right shape. The oaks were felled in winter
and sledged down to Lake Mälaren. Transporting the heavy timber
wasn’t easy. Roads, if any, were poor and narrow. Winters were extremely cold
in the 17th century. There were no sea battles in winter, due
to the ice and lack of heating on board. Winter was difficult for everybody,
but especially for the poor… …with the darkness, damp and cold. Food was often a warm soup,
made of dried peas and fish… …and the smoke left the room
through a hole in the roof. That was the life for many. During winter, farm animals
could be kept in town… …but after Easter they had
to be moved to the countryside. A thousand seamen could be lodging
with the townspeople during winter. The many new arrivals also
contributed to a growing violence. Reading the Stockholm Annals
is like reading a crime novel. In a small town like Stockholm,
there were eighty murders per year. I read in the annals that seaman Bengt,
who stole candle dipper Karin’s coat… …was sentenced to “the wheelbarrow”
for one year. This meant he should remove the
townspeople’s night soil each morning. Worse than death, according to many. It’s 1626, and the king
has changed his mind again. Now he wants to display his power
with a very impressive ship… …which is why Vasa is to be built. The navy employs an experienced
former Danish captain… …Söfring Hansson… …to oversee the construction. But Master Henrik
is tired of all changes. The timber isn’t suitable, as it had been
selected for one of the smaller ships… …and he has made several complaints
to the privy council… …that he is losing money. Vasa is built in the Dutch fashion. When bow, stem and bottom planks
are in place, the frame is raised. More than a thousand oak trees
are needed for Vasa alone. But the Crown wouldn’t advance any
money, so Vasa is financed with loans. Henrik’s brother, Arendt… …must constantly borrow more money
from Dutch bankers. The yard manager, Söfring Hansson,
now has a huge responsibility… …because the 65-year-old Henrik
is constantly ill and bedridden. His wife, Margareta, has to take on
more and more responsibilities. In addition to the yard… …the family had copper interests
and ran a large farm. Vasa was something new
for Henrik Hybertsson… …perhaps inspired by a Dutch ship. The king wanted so many guns
that Vasa would have two gun decks. This was probably a first
in Swedish shipbuilding. Stockholm was growing very quickly,
with new houses constantly being built. The population had doubled
in just a few years. Foreign merchants, especially Dutch,
moved here, hoping to do well… …like the Hybertssons. Beautiful stone houses were being
built… …and Arendt de Groot’s family
made their home on Västerlånggatan. The lute was popular
in better families. Learning to play the lute
was part of a good education. Perhaps Arendt’s wife took lessons
from the Italian Giovanni Veraldi… …who taught the king and the queen. Arendt was constantly travelling
on behalf of the yard… …and Dutchmen like him introduced
more luxurious habits… …in this comer of Europe: Beautiful lace-trimmed clothes,
art, good food and drinks. Perhaps the lamb-filled paté had been
ordered from another Italian, Nicola… …who had his shop
by the main market. He made pasta and cakes, but also
confectionery and marzipan… …which was expected
at any good 17th century party. But the gap
between rich and poor was big… …and increased
on the back of the war. Hundreds of begging orphans
roam the streets of Stockholm. The town guard tries to catch
the starving children… …and place them
in the workhouse… …where they would have to live
among thieves and murderers. Alehouses were being established… …such as “The Sun”,
“The Swan” and “The Lion”. Many seamen gathered there
before going off to war. They knew that their chances
were slim. Over 30,000 Swedes had already been
killed on the other side of the Baltic Sea. Women became war widows: Stockholm had three times
as many women as men. But finding work was difficult, so many
sold their bodies for food and beer. The seamen liked playing tables.
It was popular in all social classes. In the annals, I read about
two seamen who played table. They both regarded themselves winner
of the daler on the table. According to a witnesses, the wound
in Simon’s head was two fingers deep. Johan Brun confessed and was
sentenced to death for manslaughter. The annals also mention Malin,
who had five illegitimate children. She was found drink by the town guard.
She was sentenced for whoredom… …and she had to carry the town stones;
a common punishment for women. She must carry the shame to the town
limits. If she returns, she’ll lose her life. Death was always present. Being ill was life-threatening. A common cold could end one’s life. Master Henrik was getting worse,
so Margareta called for the barber… …whose job it was to both cut hair
and treat the sick, on land and at sea. Trained physicians were rare. The barber placed cup glasses
over the illness… …in a last attempt
to improve the blood flow. But Henrik grew weaker. In May 1627 he died,
when Vasa wasn’t even half done. In the yards big smithy, they made all
the iron tools needed for ship building: Saws, broadaxes, hatchets,
drills and planes. But most of all the 8,000 iron bolts that
would hold the big Vasa hull together. Margareta now became the manager. In the 17th century, a widow could
inherit her husband’s profession… …and Margareta
was an experienced businesswoman. She is now in charge of Sweden’s
largest company… …with carpenters, painters… …tanners, ropers and wood carvers. It’s urgent to get Vasa finished
after all the delays. The king is waiting for his ship. In the sail shop,
the ten sails are being made. They are being made
of the best French hemp canvas. Most of the sailmakers
were also Dutch. Margareta had to finish the construction
of Sweden’s largest ship ever… …but Henrik’s knowledge
was hard to replace. She is supposed to have said, “I must
fulfil the contract my husband made.” But there is unrest in the yard;
many haven’t been paid for months. The money for Vasa is running out, as
Crown income from copper is dropping. The copper price is falling
at the exchange in Amsterdam… …and the inflation lowers the value
of Swedish copper coins. The vital Dutch craftsmen
threaten to go home… …unless they are paid
in silver dalers. But Margareta can’t afford it. When the Vasa contract was signed,
a silver daler stood at six copper coins… …now it’s at eleven. So they strike. One of the leaders may have been
hanged. Strikes were strictly forbidden. King Gustavus II Adolphus
needs Vasa… …in order to ship more soldiers
to Germany. He has decided to attack Stralsund,
and the Vasa guns will then be needed. Suddenly,
the king decides to pay a visit. He arrives on the morning
of 16 January 1628… …together with his Lord High Admiral
Karl Gyllenhielm and an aide-de-camp. Vasa has now been launched… …and work on masts and aftercastle
has commenced. The king is annoyed over the poor
management and all the delays. But Margareta has cash flow problems. She is building another warship,
Äpplet, at the same time as Vasa. But she wasn’t afraid
to state her case… …although being the only woman
among these fine gentlemen. She tells the king that the delays
aren’t the fault of the Hybertssons… …but of the Crown,
as it hasn’t paid as agreed. This annoys the king immensely,
and he threatens to fire Margareta. The cost had increased
from 40,000 dalers… …to over 53,000 for the hull alone.
To this would be added rigging and sails. Her brother-in-law must put the family
in debt in order to keep the yard running. He tries to borrow
from Dutch bankers… …but his promissory notes
are returned. He has no more credit. So he tries to smuggle out
a large consignment of oak… …to sell to Dutch yards. But it fails and the oak is confiscated,
as the Crown has sole right to all oak. Arrested at first, Arendt de Groot
is released without any penalties. It has taken two years… …but in the spring of 1628,
Vasa is finally near completion… …and is moved from the navy yard
to the quays beneath the royal castle. The rigging ropes
were made of hemp… …which Arendt had bought
in Königsberg and Riga. Some of the hemp
went to the workhouse… …in the old monastery
on Riddarholmen. The street children were put to work
making sail twine and lines for Vasa. They had to work for their food
and somewhere to sleep. Anna is six and makes sacks. Her mother left her here, alter having
been widowed fora second time. According to the 1628 annal, “the
wretched children starve and suffer.” The navy paid the workhouse too little,
so the children were given rotten food. On the quays beneath the castle,
the new harbour crane was ready… …to hoist the heavy guns aboard. From dawn until late
into the light summer nights… …the seaman walk the treadwheels
in teams of four. They run the hawsers that lift the guns
and other items aboard Vasa. The guns are placed on both
the upper and lower gun decks. She’s becoming very heavy, and
there is a rumour that Vasa is unstable. Each piece weighs 1.5 tonnes,
and Vasa will have 64 guns in total. The seamen move aboard. Several
hundred will live on the gun decks. Lots of food was needed. More than
2,000 casks of bread, salted meat… …dried peas and salted fish were
consumed during a two-month voyage. Söfring Hansson had been appointed
captain for Vasa… …and he ate dinner
in the great cabin. This was where the officers would live;
the only place with proper bunks. When in harbour, the seamen
had to furnish their own food… …in order to save the stored food. It was often simple and unvaried food.
Mainly pea soup and porridge. The soup was shared by teams of
seven. The kitchen – the galley – was situated
furthest down in the ship. The salted meat was soaked in water
for a few days before being cooked. The salt food
required lots of beer… …and beer was also believed
to combat scurvy. They drank no less than four litres
per person each day. The seamen made
and repaired their own clothes. Part of the salary was paid in cloth. Bread was important in war. The bakers
were threatened with the death penalty… …if they didn’t produce enough bread,
because the soldiers were starving. At least 20,000 casks of bread
had to be delivered as a special tax. According to the annals, baker Anders
faced prison if he didn’t deliver more. Day and night, the sourdough
was turned into ship’s biscuits. The king put as much pressure
as he could on the bakers. Finally, they can’t cope anymore… …although Stockholm
has a hundred bakeries. Joined by butchers and beer brewers,
they protest against all the taxes. One of the protesters,
butcher Erik Bengtsson… …was arrested for having urged people
to ignore the king’s order. He was sentenced for rabble-rousing
and was executed to set an example. Vasa must have been awe-inspiring. Nobody had ever seen
such a grand ship. All of Stockholm came to see her. The main mast
was almost 50 metres high… …and the transom
was colourful and golden. The king wanted to display his power
with an impressive ship. In spite of the urgency, much effort had
been spent on hundreds of sculptures. Captain Söfring Hansson ensured that
the guns were properly lashed down. Many of the seamen were young
and had never been to sea before. Every male aged between 15 and 60
could be conscripted for war service. When recruitment was difficult,
the navy raided the alehouses. Sometimes thieves were sentenced
to sea service. The weather was very bad
that summer, 1628. Nobody could remember
so much rain and wind. Waiting for the right wind
could take a long time. Large ships couldn’t tack or gybe well,
especially during autumn storms. The Lord High Admiral Karl Karlsson
Gyllenhielm, head of the navy… …tries to calm the king by writing,
“Vasa will depart, God and wind willing.” While in harbour, seamen could keep
their wives aboard, but not “trollops’… …which was a common term
for prostitutes. Seaman Tomas admits having been with
the whore Jägarbritta on the king’s ship. He defends himself insolently: “If all her customers
had been caught”- -“the king wouldn’t have
many warriors left.” People were superstitious and looked
to the stars for answers… …which showed some ominous signs. Will it be the wrong day to set sail? It is so urgent, that Gyllenhielm
decides to set sail on a Sunday… …when there should be no travel,
except to church. But this morning, 10th of August 1628,
the wind has finally died down… …and the sun shines
in the summer sky. Many have gathered on the quays… …on this day which Margareta’s
husband, shipwright Henrik… …didn’t live to see. As it is the maiden voyage, wives and
children are allowed to come along. Some 40 will come along
for the first leg, to Vaxholm. It is uncertain if candle
dipper Karin was one of them… …as nobody knows the names
of those who came aboard. The lists of crew members and family
members have never been found. Captain Hansson
tries to judge the wind direction… …by watching the mast pennants. He knows the ship is unsteady… …and he hasn’t been able to do
any trials to trim the sails. The wind is so weak that they
have to warp her out of the harbour. An anchor is rowed further out,
and the hawser is then hauled in… …moving the ship some hundred
metres, and then it’s done all over again. The warping is so slow… …that they probably
won’t reach Vaxholm before dark. They would be away for over six months,
so longing fora loved one could be hard. But a keepsake could easy the pain. A keepsake. And many never returned. Alter a few
weeks at sea, diseases killed them. After several hundred metres of warping,
they can finally set the first sails. Everyone up! He dares only set four of the sails. Vice Admiral Erik Jönsson Kramer lays
the course with Master Jöran Mattsson. After Vaxholm, they will continue to
Älvsnabben, south of Stockholm. More than 300 soldiers will embark there
and be transported to Germany. As they leave, they fire
the two-gun Swedish salute. It takes almost two hours before
Vasa reaches more open water. As it was Sunday, people were off
work… …so many were watching
from beaches and quays. The helmsmen try to shift the rudder,
making Vasa run before the wind. She’s not responding! A gust of wind makes her roll
back and forth a couple of times. Everyone up! Let loose the topsail! Are the pieces lashed? The most senior officer, 70-year-old
Admiral Erik Jönsson Kramer… …tries to help the seamen pull in
the guns in order to close the ports. But it’s too late. It all happens so quickly.
Suddenly, there is a strong gust… …causing Vasa to heel over, so water
starts gushing in through the gun ports. The captain tries to save her
by letting loose the sails… …but the wind is too weak
to pull the lines out of the blocks. The admiral and some of the seamen
try to straighten Vasa… …by pulling some of the guns
over to the other side. Some people on board are saved
by the smaller boats close to Vasa. However, many under deck are helpless
when the water rushes in. It happens so quickly.
She sinks within a few minutes. The water causes the stairs
to the upper deck to come loose. The admiral struggles to get up,
and he succeeds. Some 40 are believed to have drowned,
of the 130 who were on board Vasa. After five minutes, only the tops
of the main masts are above water. Some 15 seek rescue
in the crow’s nest. Subtitles: Paula Ekström
www.broadcasttext.com


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *