Today in Transportation History – 2003: The Swedish Sailing Age Comes Alive Again!

A sailing replica of the 18th-century Swedish ship Götheborg was launched. The ceremony took place in the presence of members of the Swedish royal family at the Terra Nova shipyard in Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast.

The original ship had been built for the Swedish East India Company, which conducted trade with East Asia, and was launched in 1738 at the Terra Nova shipyard in the capital city of Stockholm on Sweden’s east coast. The ship’s name was a variation of Gothenburg, where the Swedish East India Company was based.

The original Götheborg set sail for her maiden voyage in 1739. She would make a total of three journeys to China. On her return from the third voyage in 1745, Götheborg rammed into a large rock in the water while making her way into Gothenburg harbor. All of the sailors on board survived this collision and most of the cargo was salvaged, but the ship was badly damaged and eventually sank to the bottom.

In 1984, a group of divers located the shipwrecked Götheborg on behalf of a local marine archeological society. Over the next several years, a number of the ship’s items were recovered. It was during these underwater excavations that idea of building a replica of the Götheborg first took shape.

Construction on the replica began in 1995. While a good deal of modern technology had to be installed to meet national and international safety regulations, every possible effort was made to also use various 18th-century shipbuilding techniques while constructing the replica. About two-and-a-half years after being launched, Götheborg began her first long-distance voyage. She sailed to China, making her way back to Gothenburg 18 months later. She and her crew of 80 were welcomed back at her home port by Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia and visiting Chinese president Hu Jintao, along with thousands of private vessels in the harbor and 100,000 spectators on shore.

The current version of Götheborg has since undertaken several sea tours in Europe. Measuring more than 190 feet in length, she is one of the largest wooden sailing vessels in operation today.

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