On 20 September 1625, 14 warships and a Dutch merchant ship commanded by Admiral Klas Flemming left Riga, the present-day capital of Latvia, bound for Sweden. The weather was favourable when they departed, and after several hours the ships approached Cape Kolka, or Kolka rags, as the cape is called in Latvian.

The wind turned

Right before the ships arrived at Cape Kolka, the wind turned and gained in strength. Because of the harsh eastern wind, the fleet had to change its course in order to avoid problems as darkness fell. After dawn, the fleet planned to pass the island of Ruhnu in the Gulf of Riga, and then sail through the Irben strait on its journey to Sweden.

Almost every ship ran aground

However, the change in course did not help. Just before dawn Admiral Flemming’s flagship Gustavus ran aground, soon followed by Perseus and Mars. Apollo and the Dutch merchant ship successfully changed course in time and managed to escape running aground. But most of the other ships – Engelen, Maria, Hektor, Orfeus, Hannibal, Harbo Lejonet and Elefant – also ran aground. The other three ships, Stockholm, Achilles and Jupiter, managed to pass the sandbar north of the cape without meeting the same fate.

Five ships return to Sweden

Attempts were made to save the flagship Gustavus. When this did not succeed, Flemming decided that the crew, guns and sails from Gustavus, Perseus and Mars would be transferred to Apollo and the Dutch merchant ship. It is believed that it was neither easy nor without danger to carry out this transfer in the prevailing harsh weather. But the effort was successful, and a few days later the five remaining ships arrived safely in Sweden.