Sweden had become the most powerful country in the north. In war after war it expanded its territory, but the King was not satisfied.
“Build me a great warship,” he said, “reflecting the glory of our great nation.”
Soon a ship was underway. It was going to be the most magnificent vessel of the century. After it was half done, the King came to inspect it.
“Aha,” he ordered, “make it so high it towers over all other ships. And it should bristle with guns,” whereupon he left.
When he came back the ship was almost finished. “Great!” exclaimed the King. “Looks good. How many cannons?”
“Thirty-eight, 24-pound cannons, Your Majesty, and ten smaller ones.”
“Pretty good. Why not add another ten big ones? And how many sculptures?”
“About five hundred, Your Majesty, with fifty-two gilded lions.”
“Very good. They call me the Lion of the North. So it’s befitting we have lots of them. Make it an even sixty.”
After which he rushed off to another war.
As more and more cannons were added and bigger lions were carved into the stern, some of the builders began to have misgivings.
“This is madness,” muttered an experienced seaman. “The ship is getting top-heavy.”
“Quiet,” said his superior. “His Majesty would not like this kind of talk.”
So work continued. Then came the maiden voyage.
It was a beautiful day in the nation’s capital, and all the citizens were out watching.
What a splendid sight! Just look at those cannons, and ferocious lions! As the mighty ship headed for the open sea the crowd cheered. It was a glorious moment of patriotism and pride. Then came a small gust of wind. It caught the ship, making it lean heavily. Cannons broke loose, water gushed through the open gun ports. As the crowd watched, the ship keeled over and sank.
Since the King was beyond reproach, no one was blamed for this colossal fiasco.
But, of course, everyone knew.
This is a true story. It happened in Stockholm in 1628. But this is not the end of it.
In 1956, an amateur Swedish archaeologist set out to raise Vasa, the name of the ship. Step-by-step it was brought up and immaculately restored. The vessel is now on display in the Vasa Museum in central Stockholm, and admired by millions of visitors.
A magnificent ship, with only one flaw.
She couldn’t sail.
Feathers, Flaps & Flops, Fabulous Early Fliers
Highlights the people who attempted to defy gravity by using imagination, dedication, and daring, from "Wrong Way Corrigan" who was supposed to fly to California but ended up in Ireland and Beryl Markham, who was the first woman in Africa to receive a commercial pilot's license to Bessie Coleman, a notorious African-American stunt pilot. Get a downloadable copy from the iNK Books & Media Store.
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