The year 1676 was marked by adversity for the Swedish king’s naval fleet. In battles against the Danish fleet outside Öland, Sweden lost its royal ships The Crown and The Sword. Riksäpplet was spared, however, and sailed home to Dalarö. But there she encountered a storm, and sank. To add insult to injury, she was blown up into pieces in the 19th century.
In the autumn of 1659, the keel was added to a new warship at the naval shipyard at Stigberget in Gothenburg. The master ship builder was the Englishman Francis Sheldon, who was in charge of the navy’s shipbuilding operations in Gothenburg. The ship was launched in March 1661 and completed in September 1663.
Marriage and disease
After its arrival in Stockholm the ship lay inactive until 1674, when it was sent off to pick up King Karl Xl’s uncle with a consort from Holstein. The following year, the fleet set sail for an encounter with the united Danish-Dutch navy. Riksäpplet had 84 guns on board. The expedition, however, turned into a major fiasco when the ships returned after only 10 days of sailing. It had only managed to make it to the Karlsöarna islands outside Gotland, when it had to turn back home because of the ravaging diseases on board.
Protected by Dalarö Fortress
In 1676, the navy was ready for a new expedition. It encountered the united Danish-Dutch fleet at Öland, and the Swedes were crushingly defeated. The massive royal warships Kronan and Svärdet went down in the battles, and nearly 1,500 people perished. The remaining ships fled to the north. Some entered the Stockholm archipelago, including Riksäpplet, which sought protection from the gunfire at Dalarö. But in a tempestuous storm shortly after her arrival, Riksäpplet tore herself away from her moorings and ran aground on a skerry, today called Äpplet, just south of Aspö.
An exploded wreck
Salvage attempts Because Riksäpplet sank at a depth of only 16 metres, the navy immediately attempted to salvage her. But success was not forthcoming, and only a few guns were brought to the surface. In 1868, Stockholm’s Diving Company conducted salvage operations at the site and found objects such as three 18-pound iron guns, oak timber, and an enormous iron anchor with oak stock. In the 1920s, the salvage company Olschanski worked at the site to rescue cannons and furniture timber. During these efforts, Riksäpplet was blown up and the company salvaged at least 70 cubic metres of oak timber and several sculptures. Before the explosion, the ship had evidently been quite well preserved.
The beautiful gate of Stockholm City Hall’s northern vault is made from bog oak. Parts of this so-called black oak are said to originate from the wreck of the warship Riksäpplet, which sank off Dalarö in 1676.
The wreck today
Today, the ship’s ribs protrude from the seabed at varying heights. Its primary remains consist of the stern and a large section of the port-side frames. Some of the frames measure 2–3 metres high, and the planking remains as well. On the starboard side, the frames protrude a few decimeters at the most. However, stems, kelson and masts are missing. The interior is buried by a huge amount of wreckage, especially fore and aft. Among this can be distinguished the remains of the galley, barrels and various types of cordage. The strait between Aspö and the Äpplet skerry contains more parts of the wreck that many people have not yet seen.