Swedish diver and professor of maritime archaeology Johan Rönnby received a grant on Monday to investigate the wreckage of Sweden's largest warship, Mars the Magnificent – which has rested off the shores of Öland for nearly 500 years.
"King Erik the 14th, son of Gustav Vasa, built the ship when his father died as the new flagship of Sweden," Rönnby told The Local. "There had never been such a big ship built before. It was gigantic."
The massive warship was discovered by divers in 2011. The Mars went down during a fierce battle in 1564, during one of land-hungry King Erik XIV's many attempts to keep his acquisitions from the Danish-Lübeck armies.
"In a way the ship is an alter ego for the king," Rönnby told The Local. "There are silver coins with his face on them, and his coat of arms is everywhere. You feel his presence on the field."
See video from the wreckage of Mars:
Rönnby's team has been granted support from the National Geographic Society to investigate and scan the entire ship over the summer, enabling them to create a virtual reconstruction using underwater photography and 3D technology. But a future replica is just one of many goals. Work has already begun, and will continue for years.
"We are working on many different things on this project," Rönnby said. "But thanks to the support from NGS we can expand and examine more of the total battlefield, and not just part of the ship. We're going to map the whole picture."
Researchers from Södertörn University, the Swedish National Defence College, Ocean Discovery, Västerviks Museum, and more will be participating in the exploration and research of the ship.