Failures – exposed, reflected, considered

The Vasa sinking

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The Swedish flagship Vasa‘s first and final sailing in August 1628 left fine fodder for future management consultants – an all-purpose cautionary tale of an overbearing but technically clueless boss pushing through his pet project. King Gustavus II Adolphus, striving to make Sweden a superpower (in his bid to make the Baltic fleet join the Thirty Year War), had wanted four new warships built fast. Workmen were already laying the Vasa’s keel when the king ordered its length extended. His seasoned master shipwright, fearing to challenge the famously hot-tempered king, went ahead. The shipwright then took ill, directed the project as best he could from his sickbed and died before it was finished. His inexperienced assistant then took over, and the king ordered a second gun deck, possibly spurred by false reports that rival Denmark was building a ship with double gun decks. The result was the most lavishly appointed and heavily armed warship of its day, but one too long and too tall for its beam and ballast – a matchless array of features on an unstable platform. When the stan dard stability test of the day – 30 sailors running from side to side trying to rock the boat–tilted the Vasa perilously, the test was canceled and the ship readied for launch.

Despite an obvious lack of stability in port, she was allowed to set sail and foundered a few minutes later when she first encountered a wind stronger than a breeze. She drowned.

Vasa was located again in the late 1950s, in a busy shipping lane just outside the Stockholm harbour. She was salvaged with a largely intact hull on April 24, 1961. During recovery thousands of artifacts and the remains of at least few dozen people were found in and around the hull of the Vasa by marine archaeologists. The artifacts and the ship itself have provided historians with invaluable insight into details of naval warfare, shipbuilding techniques and everyday life in early 17th-century Sweden.

The ship is currently one of Sweden’s most popular tourist attractions.

Written by Hayk

September 10, 2008 at 7:34 pm

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