The Naval Architecture of Vasa, a 17th-Century Swedish Warship
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The Swedish warship Vasa sank in Stockholm harbor after sailing less than one nautical mile (1.85 km) on its maiden voyage in 1628. The hull was raised in 1961, and after a lengthy conservation and reconstruction process, went on display in a state-of-the-art museum in 1990. The hull is estimated to be 98% intact, making it the oldest intact wooden ship recovered to date. The recovery and remarkable preservation of the hull presents unparalleled archaeological research opportunities. This dissertation recovers and analyzes the methods of naval architecture used to design the hull of Vasa as evidenced in its intact structure. Digital 3D solid modeling software is used to virtually deconstruct the hull to facilitate a nuanced understanding of the design principles that guided the construction of the ship Although Vasa was a Swedish warship constructed in Stockholm, it was designed and built by Dutch shipwrights. In the early 17th century, the Dutch rose to prominence as the premier shipbuilders in Europe. The quality and character of Dutch-built vessels were renowned and Dutch shipwrights were hired to build the merchant fleets and navies throughout Europe. Limited scholarly attention has been given to the methods of naval architecture by which Dutch shipwrights designed their ships. Dutch shipwrights designed and built ships according to orally transmitted principles of design and therefore left little written evidence for their tradition of naval architecture. Vasa presents an unprecedented opportunity to examine the methods used by Dutch shipwrights to design large vessels as they are evident in an intact hull. The results of the analysis contained in this dissertation suggest that Vasa was designed according to proportional and arithmetical methods of naval architecture. The methods are identical or very similar to those described in Nicolaes Witsen’s 1671 treatise on Dutch shipbuilding. While many aspects of Vasa’s hull appear to be derived according to the tradition of naval architecture described by Witsen, certain significant deviations resulted in an atypically narrow hull. The methods of analysis in this dissertation, which highlight digital 3D visualization, mark an attempt to expand the range of analytic and explanatory tools available to nautical archaeologists in the 21st century.
Rose, Kelby James (2014). The Naval Architecture of Vasa, a 17th-Century Swedish Warship. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from