The Mars, also known as Makalös (“Magnificent”) was the flagship of King Erik XIV and one of that era’s biggest warships, carrying more than 100 cannons and a crew of about 600 men. She sank during the first battle at the island of Öland’s northern cape in 1564.
The Mars engaged in the first Battle of Öland in 1564, when the Swedish navy with its 35 vessels fought against allied forces from Denmark and Lübeck, a German city, which had 36 vessels. The captain was the admiral Jacob Bagge, who was also commander of the entire Swedish navy.
Throughout the battle, which lasted two days, the Swedish navy made use of its great firepower. On 31 May, the ships in the fleet got separated and the Mars was far from the rest of the fleet. That’s when the Danish-Lübeckian fleet decided to encircle the Mars, successfully managing to shoot down its rudder. The Danish-Lübeckian fleet could now board the ship.
The enemy fired with assault cannons full of hail, and pounded the Mars’ decks with fireballs filled with animal fat in an attempt to injure the crew members aboard the Swedish giant. Archaeologists don’t know whether it was because of the heat or all the fire bombs aimed at the Mars, but one of the iron guns (called an apostle) exploded.
During the chaos that ensued, the enemy sailors scattered across the ship and plundered it. The raging fire had spread across large portions of the ship and once it had reached the powder keg at the bow the Mars exploded, taking between 800 and 1,000 sailors down below the surface.
Sources state that the explosion was so great and violent that the mainmast was sent flying like an arrow. And what happened to Jakob Bagge? He was imprisoned in Copenhagen and released after the end of the war.
Today the Mars rests at a depth of slightly more than 75 metres, completely scattered over the sea floor, testifying to the great battle it engaged in.