Millions promised for Vasa preservation research

David Landes
David Landes - [email protected]
Millions promised for Vasa preservation research

The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskaprådet) announced plans on Wednesday for a multi-million kronor research project aimed at learning more about how to best preserve the centuries old Vasa war ship, one of Sweden’s most popular tourist destinations.


A consortium of organizations has promised to set aside a total of 18 million kronor ($2.2 million) to support research into the degradation of the historic ship’s wooden hull.

"It is urgent and important to contribute to research that can enable us to preserve the ship for posterity," said Rolf Annerberg, director general of the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas), in a statement.

The Vasa sank in Stockholm’s harbour on its maiden voyage in 1628 and stayed there for more than 300 years until it was recovered from the sea bottom in the early 1960s.

Restoration work took decades and the ship was finally put on permanent display for the public in 1990 with the opening of the Vasa Museum.

Several years ago researchers feared that the Vasa was being damaged by sulfuric acid resulting from the conversion of sulfur stored in the ship’s hull from its time under water.

Newer research has also suggests that iron compounds are a major contributor to the ship’s degradation.

The Vasa weighs about 1,000 tonnes, including 50 tonnes of wood preservative, 2 tonnes of sulfur, 2 tonnes of iron, which diffused into the wood from the ship's rusting iron bolts and cannonballs.

The new project will help researchers and preservationists gain a better understanding of the extent and speed at which the various components of the wood and preservative are breaking down, as well as how this degradation is affected by oxygen, moisture, temperature, and the presence of iron compounds and sulfur compounds.

Research is expected to commence in 2009 and last two years.

The main source of funding, 11.6 million kronor, comes from the Swedish National Maritime Museums, with additional contributions from Formas, the Foundation for Strategic Research, VINNOVA, and the Swedish Research Council.


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