A Story to be told:
With Sweden’s desires to expand their empire, a trading company was organized under the command of Peter Minuit, called the New Sweden Company, who had hopes to colonize the Deleware Valley, on the coast of North America and what is modern day Wilmington. Secrecy was key in their plans, as they desired to invade and acquire this land, which was owned by the Dutch. Funds were attained and the Kalmar Nyckel, along with a second and smaller pinnace, the Fogel Grip (meaning Griffin Bird) were procured for their voyage.
After a long period of preparation and delays, in November of 1637 the “Kalmar Nyckel” and “Fogel Grip” set out on their expedition, led by Minuit and captained by Jan Hindrickson van der Water. They carried with them a crew of sailors and soldiers who would set up and defend the new fort. Shortly, upon setting out, both ships met a violent storm in the North Sea, were separated, and barely made it back to a Dutch port where they received extensive repairs.
Minuit and Hindrickson’s plan was to return to Sweden to make consecutive trips. However, upon stopping in the Caribbean, both men were lost in a violent storm, while aboard a Dutch ship. The Kalmar Nyckel faired this storm, and even a hurricane in the midst of their Atlantic crossing, on their return to Sweden. Excellent seamanship and navigational skills allowed the new captain and crew of the Kalmar Nyckel to make three more round-trip crossings between 1640 and 1644, a record unmatched by any other colonial era vessel.
The original Kalmar Nyckel disappeared off the record books after her decommissioning and sale in 1651, to a man believed to be a Dutch merchant. Today’s Kalmar Nyckel is a replica ship, built in 1995, by the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation on the area of land adjacent to the original Fort Christina. During her construction, every effort and research was undertaken to re-create a historically accurate Dutch pinnace. In fact, multiple volunteers and wood cravers took the time to recreate the ornate sculptures that can be seen throughout the ship, most notably the stern gallery where, among mermaids, fish, and decorative scroll work, you’ll find the angel face carvings of some of the people involved in making the ship possible. Swedish ships of this era were highly decorative, and much of this is proven by the raising of the Vasa. The Vasa was the Swedish flagship to the navy in early 17th century and was built under the reign of Gustav II Adolf. The king had hoped it would join his Baltic fleet during the period of the thirty years war, but shortly after leaving port the ship, being incredibly top heavy, foundered and sank within minutes. For over 330 years, she sat in the mud of the cold Baltic Sea, a hundred feet under the very busy shipping channels of the Stockholm harbor. Her find and raising has been one of the most spectacular events to occur in the nautical world, and she is a remarkable example of ornamentation with over 700 carvings. Upon analysis of paint particles still visible on the sculptures, it was found that the Vasa was vividly painted and heavily gilded. In comparison, today’s Kalmar Nyckel may have the most hand carved sculptures of any tall ship that exists. She is a proud example of what can be accomplished when a group of individuals, of multiple talents, ingenuity, and inspiration, come together to reproduce an amazing piece of history.