Battle of Öland. Claus Møinichen, 1686.Wikimedia Commons.
Swedish divers have discovered the wreck of one of the largest 17th century warships.
Found off the coast of the Baltic island of Öland at a depth of between 160 and 320 feet, the wooden wreck is believed to be that of the royal warship Svärdet.
According to Deep Sea Productions, the underwater research team who identified the wreck, the vessel is "a prime example of richly decorated 'gaudy' ships, built largely to impress the enemy."
The 82-foot Svärdet (the Sword) sank in 1676 in the largest naval battle in the Baltic, when Sweden was defeated by a Danish-Dutch fleet.
After fighting for five hours, the Svärdet was set afire by a Dutch ship.
"The commander, admiral Claes Uggla, chose to go under with his ship, rather than surrender to the enemy," Deep Sea Productions said in a statement.
The Svärdet went down with its sister ship the Kronan (the Crown), whose wreck was discovered in 1981. It has yielded more than 30,000 archaeological artifacts, many of which are displayed at the Kalmar County Museum in Sweden.
Resting on the bottom of the sea, the Svärdet boasts "important portions still intact, huge guns still protruding from the gun-ports," Deep Sea Productions said.
Indeed, the Baltic Sea lacks the shipworm that destroys woodenwrecks in saltier oceans.
Little doubt remains about the vessel's identity.
According to the researchers, wood from the wreck indicates it dates from the 17th century. Moreover, the fact that the stern of the ship is missing, is consistent with historical reports of explosions at the stern.
A few months ago, another team of divers discovered the 16th century warship Mars at a nearby location.
Built in 1561 for the first Swedish hereditary king, Erik XIV, the 230 feet Mars was the largest ship in the Baltic Sea.
Weighing about 1000 tons, equipped with more than 150 guns and cannon, she had more firepower than any warship before her.
She sank in 1564 after an explosion on board during her first battle against a Danish fleet.
"Mars and Svärdet are the missing pieces that will help historians and archaeologists lay the puzzle to reveal the secrets of the first tall ships made for naval warfare," Deep Sea Productions said.
The team is now working on a 3D documentary about the vessels.