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The Wikipedia article for Vasa contains a wealth of information. One must be very careful with Wikipedia, but last time I looked this article was quite good: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasa_(ship)

In the early 17th century, Holland was the most powerful trading and maritime nation. King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden wanted to capitalize on trade and power, and Sweden was position well to do so, with vast forest producing good shipbuilding timber. These oak trees were generally felled in the winter, as they were less filled with sap. An industry evolved to use this resource, which became highly prized.

Shipwrights at the time did not use blueprints in the sense that we do today, but rather just calculation from relationships between defferent arcs and circles. In the case of Vasa, master Heinrich (a Dutchman) started constructing the ship, but died before it was finished completion. His wife Margarita continued the task of overseeing other shipbuilders. Because the King was not exceptionally rich, he was both forgiving of tardiness in construction as he took care of some of the details himself.

During the early years of the 16th century, transom sterns were developed. The transom permitted heavier construction, especially for a more developed rudder assembly. It was normal on larger ships to make each deck in the stern castle shorter than the one below it. The sterncastle was typically where the officers slept was often richly decorated.

The lowest deck in the sterncastle is called the quarter deck because it is located above teh ship's stern quarters. The middle deck, because it was a shorter deck then the quarter deck is called the half deck. The uppermost deck is called the poop deck, from teh Latin word puppis, which means stern.

In place of the overhanging forecast of the carrack, vessels like Vasa had a lower-set projection proceeding from the hull itself, a short of continuation of the main deck, extending under the bowsprit. This came to be known as a beak-head or just head for short.

It was used as a boarding ramp in the early days of the galleon, but mainly functioned to give the crew access to the bowsprit and its frigging. The head also proved to be a convinient latrine for the crew. This is where the expression "going to the head" arose.

Vasa was King Gustavus Adolfus of Sweden's prized flagship. She was completed in 1628 and was the greatest warship of the Swedish Navy... for a few hours. As the ship was completed, it was sailed out of the harbour with all flags flying and gun ports open so that the crew could see and hear the cheers. She was rich in iconography intended to link the king's family to the power and glory of the powerful Catholic Church and power that was the legendary Roman Empire.

The ship was caught in a squall, heeled to port and immediately sank, after sailing a mere 1/2 mile.

Several attempts were made to salvage whatever was possible from the ship, but the majority of that recovered were the guns with the aid of a diving bell. In 1956 it was found by an amateur historian and archaeologist named Anders Franzen, who was looking for it after many years of archival searching. He had a special devise that he used which would drop to the bottom and cut out a core of hte soil below like a plumbob with a hollow. In the summer of 1956 he pulled up samples of black oak from the bottom and knew immediately that he had discovered the ship.

Vasa lay on hard clay in a remarkable state of preservation, 100 feet below the harbour's surface. As quick as possible, work began on the recovery of the ship. It was a major undertaking, with dozens of workers in hard-hat diving suits working on the wreck. Six tunnels were dug beneath the hull and large cables were placed through them, cradling the hull. These cables were attached to two barges, which slowly lifted the ship and moved it into safer waters close to the harbour.

Eventually it was raised high enough that teh ship was able to float under its own buyancy into a final berth. Once in dock, teams of archaeologists slowly excavated centuries of silt and debris from the interior of the ship. Many of the gun carriages were still in position. After sifting and removing debris, water was used to initially clean the surfaces of the wood, and to keep the wood from drying out and cracking.

An initial structure was built solely to spray cold water over the surfaces of the vessel to prevent it from drying out. Construction crews worked to solidify and stabilize the structure.

Eventually a new musuem was constructed to house Vasa. Today it sits in the Vasa Museum.

Here is the lion figurehead, carved from limewood. The lion held the coat of arms of King Gustav Adolphus between its paws. The lion had two tails, one attached to each side of the beakhead.

Here is the interior of the beakhead. You can make out a toilet box against each side of the beakhead. Besies being the crew's toilet, the beak head also allowed access to the bowsprit and other rigging. The two doors gie access to the upper gun deck, the deck just under teh main deck.

You can also see a timber projecting forward and outward from either forward corner of the main deck. These have two slots for pulley sheaves at their outer end. They are called catheads and served for the raising of the ship's anchors up against the side of the ship.

There is no fore castle here.

By the early 17th century when Vasa was built, cannon had become the most important offensive weapon on warships and were all mounted below the main deck. As a result, the fore and stern castles had become obsolte as elevated fighting platforms, and the forecastle had disappeared. There were some very small guns mounted on the main deck. They are much lighter (firing 1-2 pound shot, rather than 24-lb shot).

Each gun port lide had a carved lion's head mounted upside-down on the inner side (so that it appeared right-side-up when it was swung up, showing not only the muzzle of the cannon but also the snarling face of a lion with painted blood dripping from its muzzle.

Vasa carried 64 guns, all of bronze. 48 were heavy cannon, each weighing 1 1/4 tons each, and firing 24-lb shot to a maximum range of about 2,000 to 2,500 feet.

10 of the other guns were light cannon: 8 2-pounders and 2 1-pounders.

6 mortars, which fired explosive balls in a high trajectory: 1 16-pounder, 2 62-pounders, and 3 35-pounders.

The 48 heavy cannon were all carried on a lower and upper gun deck. The total weight of all the guns was nearly 80 tons. Along with the great mass of carved-wood decorations, they greatly contributed to a dangerously high center of gravity for so narrow a vessel.

Vasa's sterncastle was lavishly decorated with relief sculptures and was originally brightly painted. The officers' quarters were on the main, quarter and half decks. On the transom was the large crest of the House of Vasa, the Royal House of Sweden. The carvings on the ship bore witness to the pwoer and ancient lineage of the king, gave examples of ancient heroism and moral virtue, or symbolized the sea and its ancient traditions. They were designed to instill the crew with obedience and pride. Many of the figures have to do with warrior figures. Others include sea creatures with human heads, but lower bodies in the shape of a twisting serpent ending in a fish head.

All of the ship's sails except for the four that were flying when she sank suvived, as they were stored in a sail locker. They were very fragmentary, but were treated and reassembled like a jigsaw puzzle and photographed.

The total length of the ship, including the bowsprit was 230 feet.

Maximum beam is 38 feet 4 inches, making her quite narrow for a galleon... too narrow, in fact.

The distance from her keel to the top of the mainmats is about 170 feet.

She drew 15 feet 5 inches of water and had a displacement of 1300 tons.

She had an intended crew of 435 men, including 15 officers, 10 craftsmen such as carpenters and cooks, 90 seamen, 20 gunners, and 300 soldiers. The soldiers were not yet on board when the ship sank, but some of the crew had their wives and children on board for the initial cruise within the harbour at Stockholm.