Archive for June, 2017


June 30, 2017





Vasternorrland County (Vasternorrlands lan) is a county (lan) in the north of Sweden on the Gulf of Bothnia.  The name Vasternorrland means “Western Norland,” as it was in the western part of the original Norrland (northern Sweden and northern Finland).

Vasternorrland’s area takes in most of the two traditional provinces of Medelpad and Angermanland.  Vasternorrland has an area of 23,107 square meters (8,922 square miles).

Norrland has high mountains, rushing rivers, small cold mountain brooks, lakes, sea, forests and wilderness.  Along the coast of the northern part of Sweden are many beautiful cities and towns.  Some of the cities along the coastline are Ornskoldsvik, Harnosand and Sundsvall, which are major shipping centers for timber and pulp.

Skuleskogen National Park is located 27 km (17 miles) south of Ornskoldsvik and 40 km (25 miles) north of Kramfors.  It covers a surface of 3,062 hectares (7,570 acres), of which 282 hectares (700 acres) are maritime.  There are many rocky peaks.  The highest peak is Slattdalsberget, which is 280 meters (920 feet) high.

Vasternorrland is said to be the land of Sweden’s “green gold” due to huge forests, forestry industries and a centuries-old tradition and expertise in wood-working skills.

The municipalities within Vasternorrland are Harmosand (population 25,269) Kramfors (18,681), Solleftea (19,846), Sundsvall (98,325), Timra (17,992), Ange (9,495) and Ornskoldsvik (55,964).  The total population of Vasternorrland County is 245,572.

(Source: Statistiska Centralbyran, Sverige.)

The largest populations within Vasternorrland County are Sundsvall (including Johannedal, Sundsbruk and Tunadal — 58,065), Ornskoldsvik (including Gimat, Overhornas, Arnasvall and Vasterhus — 32,700), Harnosand (18,600), Timra (10,497), Solleftea (including Sollefea norra — 8,885), Kvissleby (including Njurundabommen, Skottsund, Dingersjo, Essvik and Juniskar — 8,797), Kramfors (including Frano — 6,752), and Vi (Alvik including Gustavsberg — 5,827).


Harnosand the seat of Harnosand Municipality.  Harnosand is a beautiful small town near the island of Harnon.  It is called “the gate to the High Coast” and “the Athens of Northern Sweden.”  The town has the largest open-air museum in the northern part of Sweden.  The museum is called “Murberget.”  Harnosand has a long and rich maritime history. Harnosand was formerly a shipbuilding town. It is located on a beautiful and dramatic coastline. There are three marinas in central Harnosand.  The Adalen 3 is a tourist boat that leaves from the dock at the wharf in central Harnosand.  Harnosand opened its first theater in the early 1840s.  Today’s theater building is located on Central Park and was opened in 1970.  The town installed electric street lighting in 1885 — the first place in Europe with such lighting. The city was first built in 1585.

The High Coast Bridge (Hoga Kusten Bron) spans the Angerman River near Veda on the border between Harnosand and Kramfors.  It is the fourth longest suspension bridge in Europe and the third longest suspension bridge in Scandinavia (after the Great Belt Fixed Link in Denmark and the Hardanger Bridge in Norway).  The bridge was constructed between 1993 and 1997 and was officially opened on Dec. 1, 1997.  The total length is 1,867 meters (6,125 feet), the span is 1,210 meters (3,970 feet) and the column pillars are 180 meters (591 feet) tall.  The maximum height for ships is 40 meters (131 feet).

Harnosand was granted its town charter in 1585.  It is the county’s oldest city.








Kramfors is the seat of Kramfors Municipality.  The High Coast Bridge (Hoga Kusten Bron) crosses the Angerman River (Angermanalven River) near Kramfors.  The suspension bridge spans 180 meters and is only 70 meters shorter than the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  The larger communities of Umea and Sundsvall are situated within a commuting distance of Kramfors.  (Umea is the capital of Vasterbotten County — Vasterbottens lan).







Solleftea is the seat of Solleftea Municipality.  It is located at the lowest rapids of the Angerman River (Angermanalven). The Angerman River winds through the municipality on its way to the sea.  The river is 450 km and is the longest navigable river in Sweden.  A building called the “Pharmacy Building” was constructed in 1889 in the neo-Gothic style. The building now serves as a library and the city’s museum.  A wooden structure, the Hotel Appelbergs, is located in central Solleftea.  It was built in 1882 by lumberman and innkeeper Erik Appelberg. Guests at the hotel have included King Oscar II and King Gustav V.

Although Solleftea is an age-old trading and commercial center, it was not granted its charter as a town until 1917.  The town is well-known for its military regiment.

There is salmon and sea trout fishing in the Angerman River in the middle of the town of Solleftea and grayling fishing in the Meaforsen rapids of the Fax River.







Sundsvall is the seat of Sundsvall Municipality.  Sundsvall lies at the mouth of the Selanger River and the Gulf of Bothnia. Sundsvall is the center of one of the most important pulp and paper producing regions in northern Europe.  Mid Sweden University (Mittuniversitetet) is located in Sundsvall.  The university was founded in 1993 at has about 9,000 students and 550 faculty members. After fires in 1721 and 1803, the town was entirely rebuilt in brick and stone.  Kulturmagasinet near the harbor is a cultural center that serves as a library and a museum.  Located near Sundsvall is the county’s largest airport, the Sundsvall-Harnosand Airport (aka Sundsvall-Timra Airport).

The town’s website says:

“Ideally situated in the middle of Sweden near the mouths of the Ljungan and Indalsalven rivers, the town of Sundsvall lies where Selanger Creek flows into Sundsvall Bay and the Gulf of Botnia.  Our town is located 380 km North of Stockholm. The town of Sundsvall was rapidly transformed to the industrial centre of the Norrland region during the industrial revolution in the 1880s. In recent years the town has been less depending on heavy industry and more focused on trade and education. The Sundsvall region, home to some 115,000 people, is the most densely populated area of northern Sweden. It plays a prominent role, not only in sports, industry and commerce, but also in education, culture and the arts. In July we host one of the largest street festivals in Sweden. The Gatufesten festival attracts up to 180,000 people.”

Hirschska House (Huset) is located in the Nyttan neighborhood of Sundsvall.  The Northern European Renaissance structure was completed in 1891 after the devastating Sundsvallsbranden in 1888.

Sweden’s largest coastal delta is formed at the mouth of the 430 kilometer Indalsalven River where it flows into the Gulf of Bothnia. (The Indalsalven River has 26 power plants located along its 166-mile stretch.) The airport is located in the middle of the delta.  The 322 kilometer long Ljungan River empties into the Gulf of Bothnia just south of Sundsvall.

There is a ferry from Umea, Sweden to Vaasa, Finland (population 67,495) that is operated by Wasaline.  The ferry is called the M/S Wasa Express.  The ferry has the capacity to transport 850 passengers and there are two large car decks.  The ferry is owned by the cities of Umea and Vaasa.  During the peak season the ferry makes eight crossing per week.  The ferry’s route across the Kvarken Archipelago takes 4 hours 30 minutes.








Timra (10,497) is the seat of Timra Municipality.  Indalsalven, one of Sweden’s largest rivers meets the Gulf of Botnia in Timra.  A total of 26 hydropower plants are located along the course of the 430 km long river.  Timra is located 13 km north of Sundsvall.  A 3o-meter high sculpture known as “the Y” was constructed in 1995 at Midlanda Airport (Midlanda Flygplats AB) in Timra by Swedish artist Bengt Karl Erik Lindstrom (1925-2008).  Lindstrom studied under Swedish painter Isaac Grunewald (1889-1946) and French painters Andre Lhot(1885-1962) and Fernand Leger (1881-1955).  Villa Merlo (Merlo Slott), pictured below, is the only castle in Norrland.










Ange (2,874) is the seat of Ange Municipality.  Ange is a railway junction where the northern main line railway (Norra Stambanan) connects with the central main line railway (Mittbanan).  Norra Stambanan is a 268 kilometer (167 mile) long electrified railway between Gavle, Sweden and Ange.  Mittbanan is a railway from Sundsvall to Storlien to the Swedish-Norweigian border, from where it continues to Torndheim, Norway as the Merakerbanen.

Swedish artist Bengt Lindstrom (1925-2008) created a 6.5 meter high Tangen sculpture made of painted concrete in Ange.  It was inaugurated on Sept. 3, 1995 (or 1996) in the presence of the King and Queen of Sweden.  The rock bands Takida, The Grand Opening and Corroded are from Ange.

The town of Borgsjo is located 13 kilometers east of Ange.  (Borgsjo is located in Jamtland County (Jamtland lan), Sweden.  Ostersund (population 112,717) is Jamtland’s only city.)





Ornskoldsvik the seat of Ornskoldsvik County.  In almost the middle of central Ornskoldsvik is a mountain named “Varvsberget.”  The mount is 150 meters high and from the top there is a nice view of the city.  There is a ski jump on the mountain called “The Paradise Hill.”  Many world famous hockey players began the sport at Ornskoldsvik including Peter Forsberg, Markus Nashlund, Niklas Sundstrom and twins Daniel and Henrik Seldin.  Umea University is located about 110 km northeast of Ornskoldsvik in North Middle Sweden, which is partially located in Norrland and mainly in Svealand.  (North Middle Sweden is comprised of three counties: Dalarna, Gavleborg and Varmland.) Umea University was founded in 1965 has about 20,500 students and about 2,300 faculty members.  Umea University is the largest institution of higher learning in Northern Sweden.

Ornskoldsvik was granted its town charter in 1893.  It is the trade and commerce center of the northern part of the province.  It has many beautifully restored ancient stone buildings and dramatic new architecture.








The sinking of the Swedish warship Vasa

June 25, 2017

In 1628, the 69 meter Swedish warship Vasa sunk on its maiden voyage out of Stockholm harbor.  The sunken ship was located in 1956 and was recovered in 1961. The ship has been displayed at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm since 1990.  Vasa is the world’s only preserved 17th century ship and is Sweden’s biggest archaeological tourist attraction.



Vasa had a width of about 11 meters and a maximum height of about 20 meters — not including masts.  (The ship was more than 50 meters tall from the keel to the top of the main mast.) The hull consisted of three layers and was approximately 40 cm thick. The ship weighed 1,200 tons.

It is concluded that Vasa, which was fitted with 64 cannons weighing 70 tons, was top-heavy.  It capsized and sank after sailing less than one mile.  The ship had more than 100 crewmen aboard along with guests including women and children.   More than 50 persons drowned.  When the ship was recovered about 25 human skeletons were found in the ship.

“Although Vasa was a Swedish warship constructed in Stockholm, it was designed and built by Dutch shipwrights. In the early 17th century, the Dutch rose to prominence as the premier shipbuilders in Europe. The quality of Dutch-built vessels were renowned and Dutch shipwrights were hired to build the merchant fleets and navies throughout Europe.”  Source: Kelby James Rose, The Naval Architecture of Vasa, a 17th Century Swedish Warship at 8 (doctoral dissertation submitted to the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies of Texas A & M University — 2014).

“Despite his pivotal role in the construction of Vasa and eminence as a royal shipbuilder, little is known about Henrik Hybertsson. He was born in the Netherlands . . . [and] in the early 1600s, Hybetsson moved to Sweden where he was commonly referred to as Master Henrik. . . . By the time he entered into the Stockholm shipyard contract, he was likely one of the most experienced shipwrights in Sweden. . . . Hybertsson eventually moved to Stockholm . . . [and] in 1621, Master Henrik joined the contract held by Anton Monier for operation of the Stockholm shipyard. Along with his partner Arendt de Groot, Hybertsson signed a new contract in January of 1625 and that was scheduled to take effect in January 1626.  Hybertsson was likely concerned primarily with organizational and administrative matters of the shipyard and left most practical construction matters to two other shipwrights in his employ, Henrik Jacobsson and Johan Isbrandsson (both Dutch). . . . Master Henrik’s health began to deteriorate in 1625. In the summer of 1626, he handed practical responsibility for the operation of the shipyard to his chief assistant Henrik Jacobsson who would oversee the completion of Vasa. Hybertsson was bedridden by the end of 1626 and died in the late spring of 1627.”  (Source: Rose dissertation at 45-46.)

“Although Vasa was the largest naval architecture project of Henrik Hybertsson’s life, this was not the case with Henrik Jacobsson. Following Vasa’s sinking, Jacobsson went on to build at least three more large and successful warships. . . . All three of Jacobsson’s warships had successful careers.”  (Source: Rose dissertation at 318.)

In an academic article by, Richard E. Fairley, a faculty member at the Oregon Graduate Institute School of Science and Engineering, Mr. Fairley wrote about Vasa’s sinking:

“Around 4:00 PM on August 10th, 1628 the warship Vasa set sail in Stockholm harbor on its maiden voyage as the newest ship of the Royal Swedish Navy.  After sailing about 1,300 meters, a light gust of wind caused the Vasa to heel over on its side. Water poured in through the gun portals and the ship sank with a loss of 53 lives. The Vasa lay in shallow waters off Stockholm harbor (at 32 meters depth) and after initial attempts to salvage it failed, was largely forgotten until it was located by Anders Franzen in 1956. In 1961, 333 years after it sank, the Vasa was raised and was so well preserved that it could float after the gun portals were sealed and water and mud were pumped from it.” Source: Richard E. Fairley,  Why the Vasa Sank: 10 Lessons Learned at 1.

Authors Lars-Ake Kvarning and Bengt Ohrelius described Vasa’s maiden voyage:

“Between three and four in the afternoon of Sunday August 10th, Captain Sofring Hansson gave orders to cast off.  Slowly, the Vasa was towed out from her place by the crane. Her maiden voyage had begun. In calm and lovely weather, with a light south-west wind the Vasa was towed along Skeppsbron. The great lion figure-head, glowing in its colours, gazed grimly over towards the slopes of south Stockholm. Men were all ready at the handspikes round the great capstan to start their circular march to wind up the huge anchor hawser. The march began and as the anchor hawser curled in, the Vasa moved slowly forward. In one of the ship’s boats, a new anchor was already being rowed in for the next round. The road from the palace down to the water outside the heights of Soder is long considering the anchors, manpower and capstan. There were many people out and about in town, vespers were just over and the churches emptying. A large number of Stockholm’s roughly 10,000 people had come out to enjoy this late summer evening and to witness the ship’s departure. . . . Everything on board was secured and made ready to go to sea. All gun tackle was secured and belayed — only one small one pounder, called falkon, lying on deck and with no gun-carriage, was not secured. . . . The stern cable was cast off, the wind not strong, the south cliffs providing lee. With only four sails hoisted, the ship was moving quite slowly with scarcely any steerage-way. Then the wind increased slightly. Water began swirling round the bows and rippling faintly round the sturdy oak hull. The Vasa fired svensk losen (two shots). A fierce gust from the clifftops made the ship heel over, but then she straightened up again. Slowly, the Vasa slipped along the southern shores, the evening sun high above the lake Malaren, its rays giving lustre to the colours and gold of the richly decorated stern, the cliff still providing lee. . . . Beyond what was then the bay at Tegelviken, the wind was suddenly given much freer play and again a gust of wind from inland made the Vasa unexpectedly heeled fiercely over. All at once, she straightened up again, but this fierce careening had caused some uneasiness. The captain shouted through his megaphone that all men should immediately go to their stations, and he gave orders to loosen the topsail sheets. But the wind was not even strong enough to pull the new rope through their well-greased blocks and help was actually needed to ease them through. She heeled over again. The list was even greater this time, and water began rushing in through the open gun-ports. The list increased even further until the Vasa’s railing was in the water. Her moment of destiny had come. Just off Beckholmen, she went to the bottom at full sail, flags and all. . . . No one knows with any certainty how many people were on board. According to available crew recommendations, however, the crew on the Vasa should have consisted of 133 seamen. . . . It is said that old Captain Hans Jonsson was drowned and that Ordnance Master Erik Jonsson and the captain got away after being for a long time under  water in great danger of their lives. No list has ever been found in any of the archives of those who were saved or those who died. At the most, fifty or so people probably died in the disaster. In the excavation after the salvaging, however, only skeletons and parts of skeletons of twenty-five people were found.”

Source: Lars-Ake Kvarning and Bengt Ohrelius, The Vasa: The Royal Ship 18-22 (1972 — reprinted 2002). (Paragraphing omitted.)

Here is another account of Vasa’s sinking:

“On her maiden voyage on August 10, 1628, the Vasa sailed out of port and into Stockholm’s harbor. Les than a mile out, her sails filled with wind, and she fired a salute. A cheer went up from the assembled onlookers. Suddenly, she heeled sharply onto her port side. She righted herself briefly before heeling again. This time, water rushed into her gun ports, and she promptly sank to the bottom of the harbor. Sweden lost 50 lives that day, and the crown lost a fortune. The Vasa’s guns, carvings, and majestic trappings plummeted into 110 feet (33 m) of cold, Baltic water.”

Source: Liz Mechem, Disasters at Sea: A Visual History of Infamous Shipwrecks 44 (2009).




King Gustav II Adolphus of Sweden was in Poland at the time of Vasa’s sinking.  The King demanded that those responsible be punished for “imprudence and negligence.”  After an inquiry, no one was found to be negligent or punished.

Admiral Baron Carl Carlsson Gyllenheim (1574-1650) was a half brother of King Gustav II Adolphus (1594-1632).  Gustav II was the King of Sweden from 1611-1632.




The King may have been partially responsible for Vasa’s sinking.  He insisted that the ship take up her station as the flagship of the Baltic fleet as soon as possible. Captain Hansson, the person with some responsibility for the construction of the ship,  had warned Vice Admiral Flemming that the ship had stability problems.  However, Captain Hansson and Vice Admiral Flemming were apparently too timid to discuss the ship’s structural problems with the King.

“That the Vasa was launched with known stability problems is the result of poor communication, pressure from King Gustav to launch the ship as soon as possible, the fact that the King was in Poland conducting a war campaign, and because no one had any suggestions for making the ship more stable.”  (Source: Fairley article at 5.)

“During his reign, Gustav Adolf invested enormous administrative effort and capital into the growth and improvement of the Swedish military. The king viewed military strength as a primary tool to advance the position of Sweden within the Baltic and as a defensive strategy against potentially hostile neighbors. Gustav Adolph began a campaign of strengthening his navy in the mid-1620s, which included the construction of several large and heavily armed warships.  The first of these was Vasa.”  (Source: Rose dissertation at 15-16.)

Vasa was not the only large ship to sink on its maiden voyage.  The list includes the RMS Titantic (British passenger liner that collided with an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912), the MS Georges Philippar (French ocean liner that caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Aden on May 15, 1932) and the SS John Morgan (World War II liberty ship that collided with a tanker and sank off the coast of Virginia on June 1, 1943).

“The sinking of the Vasa was a major disaster for Sweden. The country was at war with Poland and the ship was needed for the war effort. No expense had been spared. The Vasa was the most expensive project ever undertaken by Sweden and it was a total loss. The ship’s captain survived the sinking and was immediately thrown in jail. On August 11th, the day after the disaster, a preliminary board of inquiry was convened. Incompetence of the captain and crew was ruled out and the captain was set free. A formal hearing was conducted in September 1628. No exact reason for the sinking was determined and no one was blamed.” (Source: Fairley article at 1.)

“Preliminary hearings by state councillors on the accident began at Stockholm Palace the very next day [after Vasa’s sinking], to which the captain, who had only just escaped with his life, and the Master Shipbuilder of Holmen were both summoned. Captain Sofring had been taken into custody at the palace as soon as he had come ashore, but was released a few days later. On September 5th, a major enquiry was held at the  palace by an especially arranged court consisting of seventeen people, of which six were state concillors. The Admiral of the Fleet, Carl Carlsson Gyllenhielm, acted as chairman. . . . The records of this major enquiry are preserved only i a fragmentary copy, but they nevertheless provide certain opportunities to assess the causes of the accident and a reconstruction of the trial. . . . The intention to try to find a scapegoat quickly is very clear. Not least with the knowledge of the severe punishments of the day, it is impossible not to feel pity for those involved in the drama. It is also understandable that the atmosphere must occasionally have been ominously tense.”

Source: Book by Kvarning and Ohrelius at 25-26.  (Paragraphing omitted.)

“During the formal inquiry, several witnesses commented that the Vasa was ‘heavier above than below,’ but no one pursued the questions of how or why the Vasa had become top-heavy.  There was no mention of the weight of the second deck, the guns, the carvings, or other equipment. In those days, most people (including the experts) thought the higher and more impressive a warship, and the more and bigger the guns it carried, the more indestructible it would be.  (Source: Farley article at 4.)

Technical data of Vasa: Total length (including bowsprit) — 69.0 m; greatest width: 11.7 m; Draught: 4.8 m; total height at main mast: 52.5 m; height of sternship: 19.3 m; displacement: 1,210 tons; area of sail: 1,275 sq m; number of sails: 10; guns: 64, of which 48 24-pounders, eight 3-pounders and six mortars; crew: 145 men, 300 soldiers.

Source: Book by Kvarning and Ohrelius at 31.

In 2011, a documentary was released on Vasa by Swedish director and screenwriter Anders Wahlgren.  The film is titled Vasa 1628 — The People. The Ship. The Era.  Books written about the Vasa include Carl Olof Cederlund, Vasa I, The Archaeology of a Swedish Warship of 1628 (F. Hocker ed. 2006); Fred Hocker, Vasa: A Swedish Warship (2011); Larso-Ake Kvarning and Bengt Ohrelius, The Vasa: the Royal Ship (1998); Hans Soop, The Power and the Glory: The Sculptures of the Warshipo Wasa (1986); Anders Franzen, The Warship Vasa: Deep Diving and Marine Archaeology in Stockholm (1974) and Lars-Ake Kvarning and Bengt Ohrelius, The Vasa: The Royal Warship (1972).

On May 31, 1564, the Swedish warship Mars sank during a naval battle with a Danish force allied with soldiers from Germany off the coast of Oland, a Swedish island.  At the time, Mars was the largest and fiercest warship in the world.  In 2011, a group of divers located the sunken ship in 246 feet (75 meters) of water.

“During the day of sailing ships, Dalaro was Stockholm’s outer harbour. . . . But ships have been lost even in the sheltered harbour of Dalaro. In the summer of 1676, the man-of-war Riksapplet [Apple of the Realm] was wrecked in a south-westerly storm on a small skerry and sank at sixteen metres in depth.  The little islet is today called Appelskar [Apple Skerry].  The Riksapplet had a crew of 500 men and carried 86 guns.  Yet another ship was lost in Dalaro harbour.  The same year as the Riksapplet sank, the Grone Jagaren [the Green Hunter] blew up and sank to the depth of thirty metres. . . . Inside Nybroviken in Stockholm lies the 44-gun ship Vastervik.  She caught fire and sank there during the 1676 year of misfortune, when Sweden also lost the sea battle against the Danish-Dutch fleet at Oland. In dramatic circumstances, the great ship Kronan [the Crown] was lost with 850 men on board.”

Source: Book by Kvarning and Ohrelius at 12-13. (Paragraphing omitted.)


Winter 1624-1625: King Gustav II Adolf signs a contract with Dutch master shipwright Henrik Hybertsson and his business partner, Arendt de Groote, to build four ship including Vasa.

1626: Hybertsson becomes ill and can no longer supervise Vasa’s construction. Hybertsson’s assistant, Hein Jakobsson, takes over for Hybertsson.

1627: Vasa is launched during the spring at Stockholm.  Hundreds of craftsmen work through the summer to finish the hull and rigging.

Summer 1628: Captain Sofring Hansson calls Vice Admiral Klas Flemming to report that he is worried about the stability of the ship.  Admiral Flemming is afraid that the ship might sink at tbe quay.  Under pressure from the King, Admiral Flemming orders Captain Hansson to carry on.

August 10, 1628: On Vasa’s maiden voyage the ship sinks within sight of the shipyard after water gushes in through the open gun ports.  Thousands of Stockholm residents witness the scene together with several foreign ambassadors.

Autumn 1628: An inquest is conducted.  It is concluded that the ship did not have enough hull to carry the heavy upper works.  Hybertsson is blamed for the ship’s design.  He cannot defend himself because he died the year before.

1663-1665: Repeated efforts to raise the ship all fail.  A team of divers led by Albrecht von Treileben and Andreas Peckell succeed in salvaging most of Vasa’s cannons.  The divers use a recently perfected invention, the diving bell.

1920: Brothers Simon and Leonard Olschanski apply for a permit to salvage ships sunk in Stockholm harbor.  They plan to blow up the wrecks and to sell black oak, waterlogged wood, which is popular for use in Art Deco furniture.  Their application is dened.

August 1956: Anders Franzen’s crew drags Stockholm harbor.  While dragging, an obstruction is found on the bottom in front of the island of Beckholmen.

September 1956: Per Edvin Falting, the Navy’s chief salvage diver, discovers Vasa standing upright on the bottom of the harbor.

September 1958: One of Vasa’s cannons is brought up from the deep.  Per Edvin Falting becomes a media hero.

August 1959: Vasa is lifted and moved in 18 stages.  By September the ship lies at a depth of 17 meters by the island of Kastellholmen.  Divers will spend another 1.5 years preparing the ship for the final lift.

April 24, 1961: Vasa is lifted to the surface.  The event makes headlines throughout the world.

February 16, 1962: Vasa is displayed to the general public at the newly-constructed Wasa Shipyard.  During 1962 nearly 440,000 people buy a ticket to see the ship and its contents.

April 1962: The operation begins to reconstruct and preserve Vasa. The ship is sprayed with polyethylene glycol PEG to prevent the ship from being destroyed. This treatment continues until 1979.

1979-1989: The ship continues to dry.  The drying process will go on for decades until the ship completely stabilizes.

1989: The graves of 11 people who died when Vasa sank are opened after having been buried at the National Naval Cemetery in 1963.  Research is conducted on the remains.  Ten of these people become part of a special exhibit at Vasa Museum in 2004.

June 15, 1990: A museum is officially opened to display Vasa.  The museum was designed by Swedish architects Hidemark Mansson Arkitekkontor AB.

Summer 2000: It is feared that Vasa is in danger of dissolving away due to high humidity combining with sulphur in the wood to produce destructive acids.  A new, state-of-the-art climate controlled facility becomes on line in 2004.

2011: Vasa celebrates the 50th anniversary of its recovery from the depths.  A records 1.2 million people visit the museum.

(Timeline credit: Vasa Museum)









Canadian sniper sets new long shot record

June 23, 2017




During the last month, a Canadian sniper set a new record for a long shot kill.

The record setting shot was reported in the the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail. 

Source: Derek Hawkins, How Canada’s small military produced deadly, record-breaking snipers (June 23, 2017).

The unidentified sniper killed an Islamic State fighter from 3,450 meters — more than two miles away.  The bullet took about 10 seconds to reach its target.

The unnamed sniper serves as a gun specialist in Canada’s elite Joint Task Force 2 operation in Iraq.  The long shot was made using a United States manufactured McMillan Tac-50 rifle.  The .50 caliber weapon is referred to as the C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon (LRSW) by the Canadian armed forces.  It weighs about 26 pounds and has a maximum effective range of about 4,000 yards.

All Tac-50 free-floating barrels are custom  made by Lilja Precision Rifle Barrels, Inc., a family business located in Plains, Montana.  Lilja barrels are made from rifle barrel quality, 416-type stainless and 4140-type chrome-molly steels manufactured in the United States. Stainless steel barrels are guaranteed to be uniform dimensionally to .0001 inch.


British sniper Craig Harrison previously held the world long shot record in 2009 when he killed two Taliban insurgents from a range of 2,475 meters.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff, a reporter for The Washington Post, described the feat:

“For the soldier to hit his target 3,540 meters (3,871 yards) he would need to account for every atmospheric factor available. Wind speed, temperature, barometric pressure, the bullets yaw and the rotation of the earth would all need to be considered before pulling the trigger.”

Source: Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Canadian Special Operations sniper hit target from more than 2 miles away, military says (June 22, 2017).

Canadians now account for three of the top five longest recorded sniper kills.  In 2002, Canadian Master Cpl. Arron Perry shot and killed an Afghan insurgent from 2,310 meters.  Weeks later, during the same operation, Canadian Cpl. Rob Furlong killed an insurgent at 2,430  meters.

Evan McAllister, a former Marine sergeant who served multiple deployments as a sniper in Iraq and Afghanistan, said that some form of assistance other than a conventional rifle scope would be needed to successfully shoot at such a distance.

“While the shot was possible with the outstanding ballistic properties of a match .50 projectile, a conventional rifle scope would make seeing the target at that range almost impossible, and it may be likely that the sniper team had some form of assistance either from an extremely advanced rifle scope or an overhead drone,” McAllister said. “There is also a chance that the sniper couldn’t exactly see the targets or the impacts, but a spotter with an advanced optical device was able to verbally walk the sniper into the target and correct his aim.”

Source: Goodman-Neff article in The Washington Post.

Another Canadian newspaper, The Toronto Sun, reported:

“A Canadian special forces sniper has obliterated the record for the longest confirmed kill in military history. The shot — believed to be taken from the top of an apartment building in northern Iraq — hit its target a staggering 3.54 km away. It blew away the previous record by nearly a kilometre — and the ISIS fighter.”

Source: Brad Hunter, Canadian sniper blows away record for farthest kill, The Toronto Sun (June 22, 2017).  Hunter reported: “Coalition forces often prefer using snipers instead of aerial bombing because the triggermen are more accurate and less likely to hit civilians.”

Hunter’s article listed the top five longest sniper kills: (1) CANADA 2017: 3,540 meters, (2) GREAT BRITAIN 2009: 2,475 meters, (3) CANADA 2002: 2,430 meters, (4) CANADA 2002: 2,310 meters, and (5) UNITED STATES 2004: 2,300 meters.





Swedish kings from Eric the Victorious to King Carl XVI Gustaf and the 1792 assassination of King Gustav III

June 4, 2017



(Photo Credit: Daniel Jonason)

Swedish monarchs date back about 1,000 years under 11 dynasties.  The current dynasty, the House of Bernadotte, has ruled the longest.

Sweden’s current king, King Carl XVI Gustaf, is the seventh monarch of the House of Bernadotte.  He became the King in 1973, at age 23, when his father King Gustaf Adolph died.  King Carl XVI Gustaf is married to Queen Silvia Sommerlath, a German-Brazilian who was born in Germany.  The King and Queen live at Drottningholm Palace, which is just outside Stockholm.

The King of Sweden is the head of state but, under Sweden’s 1974 constitution, has no political affinity and no formal powers.  The King’s duties are mainly of a ceremonial and representative nature.

Some of the most famous Swedish monarchs were Gustav II Adolf (1622-1632), Kristina (1632-1654) and Gustav III (1771-1792).  The Swedish government set forth short biographies on these three monarchs:

GUSTAV II ADOLPHUS (GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS THE GREAT) — The Riksdag elected Gustav Adolphus king in 1523. By intervening in the Thirty Years’ War, Gustav II Adolph came to assume great political importance, and internationally is the best known of Sweden’s kings. Under his rule, Sweden became a leading military power. Gustav II Adolphus was killed in 1632 at the Battle of Lutzen, which was fought during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).

Battle in the Thirty Years’ War.  “The Protestant army, led by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, had advanced into southern Germany with 20,000 men.  In September 1632, [General Albrecht von ] Wallenstein invaded Saxony with 30,000 men, threatening Gustavus’s lines of communication. Gustavus was forced to respond, marching north before entrenching to wait for reinforcements. At this point, Wallenstein split off a third of his army. Hearing this, Gustavus rushed to attack. The two armies made contact on the evening of 15 November, and spent the night drawn up in battle formation, with the Imperial army defending a ditched road. On the morning of the 16th, a mist delayed the start of the battle, and Gustavus was not able to attack until 11.00 am. Gustavus led a cavalry charge, which forced the Imperial musketeers from the ditch, and pushed the Imperial cavalry back.  Wallenstein set fire to the town of Lutzen, and the smoke from the town temporarily blinded the Swedish center, which was then surprised by an Imperial cavalry charge. The line held, and was reinforced by Gustavus, who led his cavalry back to aid his center.  At this point, the Protestant cause suffered a serious blow — Gustavus himself was killed during the cavalry fight that followed.  Command was taken over by Bernard of Saxe-Weimar.  At this point, the force that Wallenstein had detached earlier in the campaign, and had urgently recalled on the 15th, arrived on the battle field, and temporarily forced the Swedish army back across the ditched road. Despite this temporary setback, Bernard of Saxe-Weimar was able to force the Imperial troops to retreat into Lutzen, abandoning their artillery and baggage, before being forced to fall back on Halle  The Imperial army lost 12,000 men, while the Swedes lost 10,000 men as well . . . .”  Source: The Thirty Years War by C.V. Wedgewood (1938).

The phrase “Lutzendimma” (Lutzen fog) is still used in the Swedish language to describe thick fog.

(King Gustavus Adolphus died at age 37.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church on the island of Riddarholmen, close to the Royal Palace in Stockholm.)




KRISTINA — Excepting the short caretaker government of Queen Ulrika Eleonora 1719-20, Kristina is the only female monarch of the modern Swedish kingdom. She succeeded Gustav II Adolf in 1632, just before her sixth birthday, and ruled for 22 years. Kristina abdicated in 1654, converting to Catholicism and settling in Rome, and was succeeded by her cousin, Karl Gustav. When he died in 1660, she traveled to Sweden in the hope of reclaiming the throne. Her claim was rejected by parliament, however, and Kristina returned to Rome.  (She died at age 62.  She is buried at St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican City.)

GUSTAV III — Usually called the Theatre King, Gustav III was a keen patron of the arts, and founded the first opera in Stockholm in 1782, the Swedish Academy and the Royal Academy of Music. His reign was not popular with the high nobility, however, and opposition culminated in a conspiracy in 1792, when he was shot at a masked ball held at the opera. He died shortly thereafter.  (He died at age 46.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

Gustav III legalized Catholic and Jewish presence in Sweden.  In 1782, Gustav III was the first formally neutral head of state in the world to recognize the United States during its war for independence from Great Britain.  It was said that Gustav III personally profited from the transatlantic slave trade.  From 1789-90, Gustav III conducted a war with Russia known as the Russo-Swedish War of 1788-1790.  The war involved the greatest naval victory ever achieved by the Swedish Navy.  Russia lost one-third of its fleet and 7,000 men.

Among those involved in Gustav III’s assassination — about midnight of March 17, 1792 — were Jacob Johan Anckarstrom,  Adolph Ribbing, Claes Fredrik Horn, Carl Pontus Lilliehorn and Carl Fredrik Pechlin.  Upon entering the masked ball, Gustav III was surrounded by Anckarstrom and his co-conspirators.  The conspirators were all wearing black masks and accosted him him French with the words: “Good day, fine masked man.” Anckarstrom used a pistol to shoot Gustav III in the left side of his back.  The wound became infected and Gustav III died on March 29, 1792.  His final words were: “A few moments of rest would do me good.” Anckarstrom was arrested and immediately confessed.  Horn and Ribbing were also arrested and confessed.  On April 27, 1792, Anckarstrom was executed by beheading. His right hand was cut off before he was executed. Anckarstrom’s family changed their name to Lowenstrom. The Lowenstrom family donated funds for a hospital as a gift of appeasement. This resulted in Lowenstrom Hospital — Lowenstromska Lasarettet — in Upplands Vasby north of Stockholm. Ribbing was sentenced to death but was pardoned and exiled to France. Pechlin died four years later in prison.  Horn died in 1823 in Copenhagen. Lilliehorn was exiled to Germany where he assumed the name of Berg von Bergheim. The story of the assassination was the basis of Giuseppe Verdi’s 1891 opera “Un ballo  in maschera,” translated into English as “A Masked Ball.”  Author/playwright August Strindberg wrote a play about Gustav III’s assassination.  It was adapted for Swedish TV in the 1970s.

French origins of the Royal Family — A publication by the Swedish government notes that the Royal Family has French origins. The publication states:

“Jean Baptiste Bernadotte was the first Bernadotte on the Swedish throne. Born in France in 1763, he was named heir to the Swedish throne in 1810. His name as king was King Karl XIV Johan. The Swedish Royal Family is related to all the reigning royal courts of Europe.”

Eric the Victorious (modern Swedish: Erik Segersall) was the first Swedish king about whom anything definite is known.  He is from the “House of Munso” and is said to be the son of Bjorn Eriksson.  He ruled from 970-995.  He is sometimes referred to as King Eric V or VI based upon counting backwards from King Eric XIV (1560-68).  He acquired the name “Victorious” because he defeated an invasion from the south in the Battle of Fyrisvellir located close to Uppsala.  In all probability he founded the town of Sigtuna, which still exists and where the first Swedish coins were stamped for his son and successor, Olof Skotkonung.  (Source: — topic: Eric the Victorious.)




Swedish monarchs since the death of Gustav II Adolphus at the Battle of Lutzen:

QUEEN KRISTINA — She is discussed above.

KING CHARLES X GUSTAV (KARL X GUSTAV) — King from June 6, 1654 to his death on Feb. 13, 1660 at Gothenburg.  He was born at Nykoping Castle.  (He died at age 37. He is buried at Ridddarholmen Church.)

KING CHARLES XI (KARL XI) — King from Feb. 13, 1660 to his death on April 5, 1697 at Tre Kronor Castle at Stockholm, which burned down in 1697. (The site where Stockholm Palace is today.)  (He died at age 41.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING CHARLES XII (KARL XII) — King from April 5, 1697 to his death on Nov. 30, 1718 at Fredrikshald, Norway.  (He died at age 36.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

QUEEN ELEANOR (ULRIKA ELONORA) — Queen from Dec. 5, 1718 to her death on Feb. 29, 1720 at Stockholm.  (She died at age 53.  She is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING FREDERICK (FREDRIK i av HESSEN) — King from March 24, 1720 to his death on March 25, 1751 at Stockholm.  (He died at age 74.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING ADOLF FREDERICK (ADOLF FREDRIK) — King from March 25, 1751 to his death at Stockholm Palace on Feb. 12, 1771.  (He died at age 60.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING GUSTAV III — He is discussed above.

KING GUSTAV IV ADOLPH — King from March 29, 1792 until May 10, 1809.  He was forced to abdicate in 1809 and replaced by his brother, Charles, who acceded to the throne. Gustav IV Adolph died on Feb. 7 1837 at St. Gallen, Switzerland. (He died at age 58. He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING CHARLES XIII (KARL XIII) — King from June 6, 1809 to his death on Feb. 5, 1818 at Stockholm.  He was known as “the Union King.”  He acceded to the throne after his brother abdicated. He became the King of Norway in 1814 by the union between Sweden and Norway.  (He died at age 69. He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING CHARLES XIV JOHAN (KARL XIV JOHAN) — King from Feb. 5, 1818 to his death on March 8, 1844 at Stockholm Palace.  Birth name of Jean-Baptiste d’Radzilow.  He was known of “the Popular Monarch” and “the Elector King.”  (He died at at age 81. He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING OSCAR I — King from March 8, 1844 to his death on July 8, 1867 at Stockholm Palace.  Birth name of Joseph Francois Oscar d’Radzilow.  He was known as “the Warrior King.”  (He died at age 60.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING CHARLES XV — King from July 8, 1876 to his death on Sept. 18, 1872 at Malmo. Birth name of Carl Ludvig Eugen.  He was known as “the Unpopular King.”  (He died at age 46. He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING OSCAR II — King from Sept. 18, 1872 to his death on Dec. 8, 1907 at Stockholm.  Birth name of Oscar Fredrik.  (He died at age 78.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING GUSTAV V — King from Dec. 8, 1907 to his death on Oct. 29, 1950 at Drottningholm Palace.  Birth name of Oscar Gustaf Adolph.  (He died at age 92.  He is buried at Riddarholmen Church.)

KING GUSTAV VI ADOLF — King from Oct. 29, 1950 to his death on Sept. 15, 1973 at Helsingborg. Birth name of Oscar Fredrik Wilhelm Olaf Gustaf Adolf.  (He died at age 90. He is buried at the Royal Burial Ground (Kungliga begravningsplatsen) on the small island of Karlsborg in the bay of Brunnsviken, which is part of Haga Park in Solna, Sweden.)

KING CARL XVI GUSTAF — Sweden’s current king.  He became the King on Sept. 15, 1973. His birth name is Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus.  He was born at Haga Palace. He is the son of Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Vasterbotten (1906 – 1947) and Princess Sibylla of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1908 – 1972).  Prince Gustaf Adolf was killed in an airplane crash at Kastrup Airport at Copenhagen.  He was the heir to the Swedish throne but did not live to ascend to the throne.





Wings of Eagles is a surprise winner at Epsom

June 3, 2017



Wings of Eagles (by Pour Moi) was a surprise winner of the Investec Epsom Derby (also known as the English Derby) on June 3, 2017 at Epsom Downs in England.  The Aidan O’Brien trained horse, ridden by Padraig Beggy, was second-to-last before going on to win the race by three-quarters of a length over Cliffs Of Moher (by Galileo), trained by O’Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore, a horse with 5 to 1 odds.  Cracksman (by Frankel), trained by John Gosden and ridden by Frankie Dettori, the 7-2 favorite, came in third.  Emiment (by Frankel), trained by Martyn Meade and ridden by Jim Crowley, was fourth.

The odds of Wings of Eagles winning was 40 to 1.  Wings of Eagles was the longest priced Derby winner since 1974, when Snow Knight won the race at 50 to 1 odds.

Wings of Eagles paid $113.20 to win, Cliffs Of Moher paid $5.20 to place and Cracksman paid $3.60 to show.  The $2 exacta paid $1,170.20 and the $2 trifecta paid $8,460.60.

It was O’Brien’s sixth win in at the Epsom Derby.  O’Brien trained six of the 18 horses in the 238th running of the classic horse race.  (O’Brien trained horses have won the race four times in the past six years.) The Telegraph called this year’s race “the richest race ever run in Britain.”  (Epsom Derby 2017 result: rank outsider Wings of Eagles pulls off shock victory — June 3, 2017.)  Wings of Eagles earned 931,000 British pounds ($1.2 million).

Wings of Eagles, a three-year-old colt, is the son of Pour Moi, a horse that won the 2011 Epsom Derby.

It was the first English Derby win for jockey Padraig Beggy, 31, who joined O’Brien in January 2015.  Beggy previously raced in Australia until he received a 15-month drug ban at the end of 2014.  (He tested positive for cocaine.)

“I got into a bit of trouble in Australia, a bad mistake and something that I’ve put behind me,” Beggy said.  “I was knocked down then, I had to pick myself up and I’ve come back out fighting and today I think I’ve proved that.”

Beggy said that he did not know that he would be riding Wings of Eagles until the Thursday before the Saturday race.

The Guardian capsulized Beggy’s jockey career:

“Beggy started in Ireland in 2003, rode for eight seasons with some level of success but never achieved more than 22 winners in a year in a country that has never been short of riding talent.  He came to Britain in 2011, basing himself with John Quinn one year and David Evans the next, adding another eights wins before deciding to try his luck in Australia.” (Derby -winning rider Padraig Beggy: “I thought big winners had gone by me” — June 3, 2017.)

“I traveled the whole way round the wold to get on a horse like this but it didn’t happen until I came back home,” Beggy said.

“Paddy Beggy is a brilliant rider,” O’Brien said. “He’s strong, he’s got a great mind and is tactically very aware. . . . An absolutely world class rider.”

O’Brien’s previous winning horses were Australia (2014), World (2013), Camelot (2012), Chaparral (2002) and Galileo (2001).

Douglas McArthur, trained by O’Brien and ridden by Colm O’Donoghue, led for much of the race before Cracksman took the lead and appeared to be on the way to victory.

Wings of Eagles was 16th of 18 horses with three furlongs to go and made up five lengths during the final furlong.  Wings of Eagles managed to catch Cliffs Of Moher with 50 yards to go to the finish.

“Still my best furlong was the last furlong and that is the one that counts,” Beggy said.

Queen Elizabeth attended the race.  Sophie Hamilton wrote in the Hello Magazine: “The Queen looked to be having a wonderful time at the races on Saturday as she attended the annual Epsom Derby.  Dressed in a bright yellow coat, a floral patterned dress and a yellow hat with pretty flower detail, the monarch looked radiant in her summery ensemble.  She teamed her cheerful outfit with pearl earrings and a matching pearl necklace, completing her look perfectly.”  (The Queen enjoys a day in the sunshine at the Epsom Derby! — June 3, 2017.)  Princess Alexandra also attended the event in the Queen’s party.