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Amazing sculptures of 2 lions discovered on the wreck of the 17th-century ship Äpplet

Published: June 22, 2023 - 16:27
Updated: July 23, 2023 - 02:38
Amazing sculptures of 2 lions discovered on the wreck of the 17th-century ship Äpplet

Maritime archaeologists from the Vrak Museum have discovered sculptures of two lions on the wreck of the 17th century Swedish warship Äpplet.

Built in 1629, the Äpplet was a sister vessel of the famous Swedish warship Vasa (1627), whose wreck was excavated in the 1960s and is now the main showpiece of a magnificent museum in Stockholm. The younger vessel, whose name after translation is “Royal Apple”, was found by a joint effort of researchers with the navy in late 2021.

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lion sculpture
Lion sculpture Photo: Jim Hansson, Vrak/SMTM


Since the discovery of the wreck, archaeologists have been conducting systematic research at the site. In the spring of 2023, together with the Swedish Navy, specialists from the Vrak Museum launched another expedition. Operating from the vessel HMS Furusund, the researchers were assigned the task of creating 3D documentation of the Äpplet wreck. As a result of their work, they made a sensational discovery when they came across the two sculptures of lions placed on the transom near the stern. Without a doubt, these are the lions featured in the coat of arms of Sweden.

In addition to the lions, archaeologists also uncovered a smaller, circular sculpture, which they identified as an apple. Most likely, this piece was a kind of symbolic identifier placed instead of a ship name. All the carvings found made archaeologists amazed, as no one expected that such elements could have been preserved until our times.

3D model of the Applet wreck
3D model of the Applet wreck Photo: Jim Hansson, Vrak/SMTM


I’ve been diving for more than 30 years and have never found a sculpture, says Jim Hansson from the Museum of Wrecks. To be part of finding the ones from Vasa’s sister ship Äpplet is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced!

As Vrak Museum researchers assure, this is an extremely valuable discovery that will contribute to expanding the current state of knowledge. The researchers also hope to understand how the sculptures were used as a symbolic language. Using the example of the sculptures from the Vasa wreck and those found on Äpplet, experts have already detailed a number of similarities and differences.

Atlas the Titan
Possible sculpture of the Atlas the Titan Photo: Peder Sjöholm, Försvarsmakten / The Swedish Armed Forces


Another very interesting aspect is the evolution in the construction of the ship. As is well known, the Vasa sank during its maiden voyage shortly after sailing out of the harbor as a result of construction errors. Thanks to the partially preserved stern of Äpplet, scientists can now analyze what changes were made in the construction of the next ship. We already know that Äpplet had a higher stern and a different shape than Vasa.

Participation of the Navy

The help from the Swedish Navy has been priceless. Both when we are talking about discovering the Äpplet wreck and during further studies at the site. Thanks to the data provided, the researchers were able to start creating a 3D model of the wreck.

I’m thrilled to be working with Vrak, says Ewa Skoog Haslum, rear admiral chief of the Swedish Navy. Besides helping people to better understand our maritime heritage, the collaboration has provided our divers with some great training. We’re developing our skills through this collaboration.

Applet and Vasa
Comparison of the Vasa and Applet ship constructions Photo: Vrak – Museum of Wrecks

Vasa and Äpplet

Swedish king Gustav II Adolf ordered the two large warships to be built in 1625. The two ships were built side by side at Skeppsgården, in central Stockholm. Just a year after the unfortunate sinking of the Vasa in 1628, the builders completed the second unit with an already improved design. As a result, after Sweden became involved in the Thirty Years’ War (1630), the Äpplet was part of the fleet that moved with the army to Germany. Äpplet served in the royal fleet for the next 30 years, until the warship was intentionally sunk in the Vaxholm Strait in 1659.


Maritime archaeologists from Vrak Musuem carried out the research work together with scientists from Stockholm University as part of the pogram “The Forgotten Fleet”. Subsequently, together with the Swedish Navy, they explored the site located near Vaxholm several times. According to their knowledge, it is in this region that the wreck of the Äpplet ship should be resting. The breakthrough came in December 2021, when archaeologists discovered a huge wreck of a warship. More detailed research, including the collection and analysis of wood samples, made it possible to conclude that Äpplet had finally been found.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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