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New deterioration scare for Sweden's Vasa

13 Sep 2012, 17:57

Published: 13 Sep 2012 17:57 GMT+02:00

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"Our research shows that the strength [of the wood] has fallen dramatically. We didn't know this previously," Lars Berglund, a professor at the Wallenberg Wood Science Centre at Stockholm's Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) said in a statement.

The findings of Berglund and his team come after analyzing the effects of the polyethylene glycol (PEG) which was sprayed on the ship after it was lifted out of Stockholm's harbour in 1961, in combination with the effects of iron from nails and rivets as well as sulfur from decaying bacteria.

The researchers concluded the Vasa's wooden hull had been weakened by as much as 80 percent, suggesting that the loss of strength could have been a result of letting the ship dry out after it was recovered, prompting a reaction between oxygen and the iron in the wood.

On average, the wood of the Vasa only has about half of its original strength, the researchers found.

"This is also the first time that someone has shown that the breakdown has practical consequences. In other words, if you take an oak plank and put weight on it, it won't tolerate as much as it would have before," said Berglund.

The challenge now is to better understand exactly how Vasa's wooden structure is deteriorating and what to do about it.

"The first step now is the figure out how fast the breakdown process is and do a qualified risk assessment," Berglund told the TT news agency.

The Vasa was commissioned by Swedish King Gustav II Adolf in 1625 and was designed to be the mightiest warship in the world.

It was armed with 64 guns on two gun decks, but did not have enough ballast to counteract the weight and sank just minutes after setting sail on its maiden voyage.

A Swedish shipwreck enthusiast, Anders Franzen, located it in 1956 at a depth of 32 meters.

Story continues below…

The ship was raised in 1961, and the museum built around the ship opened in 1990. It is one of the most popular tourist sites in Scandinavia, with 1.1 million visitors annually.

TT/AFP/The Local

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Your comments about this article

18:47 September 13, 2012 by Charon
Can someone please explain to me why the Vasa ship is something that is being showed off as a achievement in Sweden? The entire museum should if anything make Swedes ashamed of their own history. The ship SANK after 2 km on it's maiden voyage, and now it stands in a museum as something to show off?

I will never understand the logic of a "proud Swede".
20:48 September 13, 2012 by Emerentia
The ship itself isn't showed as a achievement, but a part of history. There are not many ships from that age left. And to salvage a ship of that size and age is an achievement actually.

Do you think that history only should be about "showing off" and things that were successful?
23:10 September 13, 2012 by dizzymoe33
I hope there will be a way to preserve it and not have any more deterioration happen.
00:55 September 14, 2012 by muscle
@Charon Its a brave thing to honor ones failures as well. Also, as #2 has stated, how the ship had been preserved till now, it was a big achievement as well.
04:05 September 14, 2012 by philster61
The fact that it is even able to be displayed at all is remarkable. Regardless of its own history it should preserved for history...
05:45 September 14, 2012 by jimfromcanada
I suspect the Titanic, if it could have been raised and preserved would have been as interesting an exhibit even though it was a failure in some respects.
06:08 September 14, 2012 by Da Goat
There is no problem here as the ship will not sail again so the strength of the wood is immaterial now, she will not ever face the waves EVER!
08:30 September 14, 2012 by Sven-Ingvar
Minimal treatment with copper sulphate solution should stop deterioration
10:56 September 14, 2012 by eltechno
@Charon. I think it is wonderful to celebrate Vasa. Not only is it a stunning example of craftsmanship (both the original builders AND the restorers) but it is such an excellent example of what goes wrong when folks confuse good design with mere decoration. This is clearly a lesson worth learning and Vasa is a fun way to learn it.
11:37 September 14, 2012 by Shibumi
The Vasamuseet is a world class museum. I have been 7-8 times and I think it is one of the coolest museums I have ever been to (and I've been to quite a few) and it should not be missed. Most Swedes I know have only been once on a school trip years and years ago, and they seem to undervalue it, IMHO.
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