Naval life in the 1600's LESSONS FROM THE VASA CANNON

On the 10 August 1628 the Vasa warship capsized and sank into the depths of the archipelago off the island of Beckholmen at the entrance to Stockholm. There it remained until 24 April 1961, when the ship was fully returned to the surface, in preserved form, thanks to the mud down below. Now, 383 years after sinking, a replica of one of Vasa's cannons has been test-fired for the first time.


Warships in the 17th century were impressive in their design. The enormous ships had cannons arranged along the sides on several decks. Life as a sailor aboard a ship like the Vasa would have been uncomfortable and fraught with danger, and before hammocks were introduced in the late 17th century, the crew also had to sleep next to the cannons, which was extremely dangerous if the ship began to wallow causing the cannons to move. Until now, we have had little idea about what 17th century naval battles were like and how they would have affected the sailors aboard the ship, but it is thought that naval battles involved getting close to the enemy and then getting an angle from which to fire as many cannons as possible simultaneously. 

Vasa cannon project

For many  years, people have wondered how cannons, such as the ones aboard the Vasa, were used, how they worked and what effect they had on naval battles. That is why in the beginning of 2013, the Friends of the Vasa Museum introduced the Vasa Cannon research project, aimed at investigating the effect of a cannon aboard a 17th century warship. By using copies of ammunition, gunpowder and equipment from the era, it was hoped that answers could be found to many unanswered questions, including how far you could shoot, what the cannon's dispersal was like, what effect the types of various ammunition had and what it was really like on board for the cannon crew during battle, with the pressure, noise and gunpowder fumes.

On the 28th of November 2013 the Vasa Cannon replica had been cast, the work to complete it had continued for a year before it was time for the test firing on October 22nd, 2014.

The goal of the test firings was to seek answers to the questions they had asked around the gun’s ballistic characteristics, i.e. how far they could shoot and what the spread was, but also the impact of the different ammunition types were on target. The ammunition types used during the day was round ball, chain-shot and grape-shot. A copy of a part of the Vasa ship's side as well as a mast arrangement had been made to represent the target at the shootings. A copy of a section of the Vasa's hull along with a mast arrangement had been created to represent the target prior to the test firings. The test firing, which took place at the Bofors Test Centre, was a major milestone for the project and the results will now be examined more closely and analysed before eventually being summarised in a final report.

In addition to a broad range of knowledge and expertise, Saab contributes to the project by giving the access to the Bofors Test Center (BTC), in which Saab Dynamics is a majority owner, for test firings. BTC with its personnel holds the technology and expertise that enable this type of complex and unique testing.

"As a leading figure in the defence industry and with a substantial and growing focus on the naval domain, this project is of great interest and it's important for us to be involved. It is also about taking responsibility for our history and our heritage by learning what naval battles of the past were like ", says Frida Höök, Head of Brand Management at Saab.


Follow the project

The Vasa Cannon project is now in the analysis phase. A final report with results from the test firing is expected to be ready during winter 2015.

The project can be followed through "Vasamuseets vänner" on Facebook, via #Vasakanon on Twitter or via MyNewsdesk, where all of the press releases are gathered.

For more information, contact Mårten Granberg, +46 (0)70-7640100, Communications Manager for the Vasa Cannon project or Frida Höök, Head of Brand Saab


Friends of the Vasa Museum (Vasamuseets Vänner) was formed in 1991. The association aims to stimulate greater awareness and interest in the Vasa Museum, and also to contribute to the museum's continued development with financial assistance. Through membership fees from companies and individual members, funds are generated to pursue projects that further contribute to the Vasa Museum's popularity.