The engineer and wreck researcher Anders Franzén looked for several famous shipwrecks, including Vasa, for a number of years. He went through the archives in search of information and dragged the sea bottom for physical remains. On the 25th of August, 1956, he sat in a small motorboat with the diver Per Edvin Fälting, who had provided advice on a likely search area. On that day, his homemade coring device brought up a piece of blackened, waterlogged oak. Fälting dived to the bottom two weeks later and could confirm the find – two rows of gunports meant that it had to be Vasa.
Franzén succeeded in enlisting support for salvaging the ship, notably with the navy and the Neptune salvage firm.
Vasa lay at a depth of 32 meters. The navy’s heavy divers were able to cut six tunnels through the clay under the ship with special water jets. Steel cables were drawn through the tunnels and taken to two lifting pontoons on the surface, which would pull the ship free of the harbour bottom’s grip. In August 1959, it was time for the first lift. There was great uncertainty – would the old wooden ship hold together? Yes! Vasa held. She was lifted in 18 stages to shallower water, where she could be patched and reinforced in preparation for the final lift, to the surface!
The final lift
The day that Vasa was scheduled to break the water, all of Sweden held its breath. Newspapers, radio and TV from all over the world were there, and Swedish TV made its first live broadcast to Europe.
At 9:03 AM on the 24th of April, 1961, Vasa returned to the surface. A piece of the 17th century was suddenly back among us.
Just seven months after the salvage, the Wasa Shipyard opened as a provisional museum. The ship and all of the smaller finds were conserved, partly as a great experiment. Nothing like it had been attempted before. For 17 years, Vasa was sprayed with polyethylene glycol, PEG – a chemical compound that replaces the water in waterlogged wood to prevent shrinkage and cracking. The current Vasa Museum opened in 1990.
At the museum there is an exhibition about the salvage