SMU Case: Vasa Footnotes

The Vasa Capsizes


[1]This case was prepared by Professor Richard O. Mason of Southern Methodist University from public sources to be used for purposes of classroom discussion.

[2] So dubbed by Professor Arthur M. Squires in his book The Tender Ship: Governmental Management of Technological Change, Boston: Birhäuser; 1986


[3] The keel is the principal structural member of a ship, running lengthwise along the center line from bow to stern, to which the frames are attached.

[4] The hull is the frame or body of a ship, exclusive of masts, sails, or superstructure.

[5] A 1670 Swedish shipbuilding manual summarizes the Dutch method. First the keel was laid. Then the bottom planking was added, being held together by wooden chocks nailed on. Following this the floor timbers were laid and the ribs built up around them. The skin shell was added, strake by strake, until the hull was high enough to float. Then the hull was usually launched bow first and work continued while the ship floated in the water. English and French shipwrights used a different method.

[6] Timber, of course, is a crucial resource for shipbuilding. For example, over one thousand oak trees were used in building the Vasa . In order to obtain the correct dimensions, the trees had to be located and specially felled for each part of every ship. Because the Navy's requirements were substantial, oak trees and other trees used in ship construction were protected by law.

[7] A scarf joint is a joint made by cutting or notching the ends of two pieces correspondingly and strapping or bolting them together.

[8] Records show that the final armament count was 24-pounders canon (48), 3-pounders canon (8), 1-pounders canon (2), 16-pound siege gun (1), 62-pound siege gun (2) and 35-pound siege gun (3) for a total of 64 guns.

[9] Each 24-pounder weighed about a ton and one-half and had a gun-crew of seven.

[10] A boatswain is a warrant officer or petty officer who is in charge of a ship's rigging, anchors, cables, and deck crew.

[11] In nautical terms "the lee" is the side away from the direction from which the wind blows or the side sheltered from the wind.

[12] Ballasting was done by "feeling" at the time, usually by simply filling the available space. Recent studies show, however, that there was not enough ballast aboard, ballast being a heavy material -- in this case stone -- that is placed in the hold of a ship to enhance its stability. Moreover, if more ballast had been added, as boatswain Matsson wanted but Admiral Fleming refused to allow, water would have come pouring in the gunports on the lower gundeck.

[13] In nautical terms "stiffness" means not heeling over much in spite of great wind or the press of the sail.