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The Mars Shipwreck (1564)
Photo: The Mars Shipwreck (1564)
Home » Shipwrecks » Maritime Image of the Day: The Mars Shipwreck (1564)

Maritime Image of the Day: The Mars Shipwreck (1564)

PortandTerminal.com, October 3, 2020

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – Today’s Maritime Image of the Day is a photo of the 450-year-old Mars shipwreck which lies in almost 250 of water, 10 nautical miles north of the Swedish island of Öland.

The photo is actually a composite of a number of photographs of the wreck that have been stitched together to form this image.

The wreck of the “Mars” galleon was found in the summer of 2011 by Swedish divers with Richard Lundgren, who conducted a search on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Galleons were sailing ships in use (especially by Spain) from the 15th through 17th centuries, originally as warships, later for trade. They were mainly square-rigged and usually had three or more decks and masts.

Mars is the best-preserved shipwreck of its kind. The condition of the wreck is optimal thanks to the properties of the waters of the Baltic, which allow boats to be preserved for centuries — low levels of sediment, slow currents, brackish water, and the absence of a mollusk called a shipworm

One interesting feature of the photo is the diver who appears in the image and provides a sense of scale of the wreck.

The Mars’ history

A 20th century engraving by Jacob Hägg of what the Mars galleon may have looked like

The Mars went down while engaged with a Danish force allied with soldiers from a German city called Lübeck.

German forces began lobbing fireballs at the Mars and eventually succeeded in pulling alongside the burning ship so soldiers could board her. As gunpowder on the warship fueled the inferno, the heat became so intense that cannons began to explode, said Johan Rönnby in an interview with National Geographic. Rönnby is a professor of maritime archaeology at Södertörn University in Sweden, who is studying the 197-foot-long (60 meter) wreck. Those explosions eventually sank the warship.

Mars was a functioning war machine that performed extremely well in battle,” he explained. She sank loaded to the gills with cannons—even her crow’s nests had guns—sailors, and all the accoutrements needed to run a ship built for war (including eight different kinds of beer).

The wreck was identified thanks to the Waza coat of arms found on one of its cannons.

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