Researcher to Explore 450-Year-Old Sunken Swedish Ship

An expert on 16th-century guns identified the Mars after divers found this unique bronze cannon. The National Geographic Society just announced Johan Rönnby has won a grant to research the Mars.
An expert on 16th-century guns identified the Mars after divers found this unique bronze cannon. The National Geographic Society just announced Johan Rönnby has won a grant to research the Mars.
INGEMAR LUNDGREN/ OCEAN DISCOVERY

Would you dive into a sunken ship in the Baltic Sea?

National Geographic just gave Swedish researcher Johan Rönnby a grant to do just that.

Rönnby’s project, “The Maritime Battlefield of Mars (1564),” will explore the undersea wreckage of the warship, Mars the Magnificent.

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This is the 100th grant awarded by the Society’s Global Exploration Fund Northern Europe.

Rönnby is a professor of maritime archaeology at Södertörn University, head of the Maritime Archaeological Research Institute and a professional diver.

The ship he will be exploring, the Mars, sank in 1564, according to Ocean Discovery, which described the scene the day it went under in a battle of the Nordic Seven Years War, between Sweden and Denmark.

“The Decks are awash in the blood of the injured crew, making footing treacherous as the youngest members of the crew, the 12 year old deck-hands, pour sand on the bloody deck to let the gun crews fight on. Suddenly, a powerful explosion shakes Mars forcing the deck to lift upwards and throwing the battling combatants to the deck. Mars struggles in what is clearly the last moments of life but her eventual demise is a foregone conclusion. This is the end for Mars and the once glorious battleship is sinking. Swedes and Danish-Lübeck alike desperately try to leave the sinking ship while the heat from the burning Mars causes the water around her to boil like the devil’s own cauldron. An enormous cloud of steam rises, like a ghost, out of the ocean. Mars the Magnificent is nowhere to be seen.”

The Mars was the largest warship of its time and its sinking left a variety of questions unanswered.

After 447 years of being hidden, the ship was finally uncovered in May 2011 off the coast of the Swedish island, Öland, after 20 years of searching.

But how did it last all these years?

The Baltic Sea has a very low salt level and low temperatures, making it one of the only places in the world where a 16th century ship could stay preserved for over 400 years.

Studying a warship like this could also give scientists and historians an insight into what was happening in Sweden at the time.

Rönnby plans to extent the research beyond the ship’s physical boundaries to learn about its broader context.

“The team and I are extremely honored to receive a National Geographic Society grant,” Rönnby told National Geographic. “The Society’s support makes it possible for us to expand our exploration of the area surrounding the Mars wreckage, which will broaden our understanding and appreciation of the ship’s historic battle and will likely lead to new and exciting discoveries.”

He will begin his work in June 2015.