The sound came rolling over the water as the cannons roared and the people screamed, and gunpowder smoke draped the ship like a shroud. Suddenly, the enormous ship capsized. Next came the shock of a powerful explosion, and the sky turned crimson red. Ship wood burst like matches up in the air, people like limbless dolls were flung up to the sky. And soon after, the ship of the line The Crown disappeared beneath the depths.

At noon on 1 June 1676, The Crown capsized, exploded and sank during a skirmish between the Swedish and united Danish-Dutch naval fleets. The ship capsized in hard southwest winds as it turned to face the enemy, probably because the sail area was not reduced sufficiently. The skirmish took place 6 kilometres outside the village of Hulterstad on southeastern Öland.

The sinking of The Crown is one of the biggest maritime disasters in Swedish history. Only a handful of the 850 man-strong crew survived. Several factors likely contributed to the sinking of the ship. The ship’s instability, excessive sail area as it attempted to turn, lack of coordination between the naval squadrons, poorly trained crew, and rivalry between the officers likely played a major role in the disaster.

But despite the instability of The Crown, unlike the warship Vasa it had sailed for several years without any major mishaps. What ultimately brought The Crown to its doom was a series of erroneous judgements – what we would today call the human factor.

Basic data

Depth 27 metres
Built 1665, Skeppsholmen, Stockholm
Length 53 metres (Vasa 47.5 metres)
Width 13 metres (Vasa 11.7 metres)
Draught 6.2 metres (Vasa 4.8 metres)
Weight 2,300 tonnes (Vasa 1,210 tonnes)
Armament 110–114 bronze cannons (Vasa 64)
Cannon weight Approx. 185 tonnes (Vasa 72 tonnes)
Three masts Distance from waterline to top of mainmast approx. 60 metres.
Sank 1676
Ship type Warship. The number of cannons on The Crown makes it the most heavily armed ship we know of from this period.