"Sea Monster" Raised From the Bottom of the Baltic

Södertörn University, Facebook
Södertörn University, Facebook / Södertörn University, Facebook

Last week, a figurehead from a 15th century ship was brought to the surface after spending over 500 years at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

The wooden “sea monster” was attached to the Gribshunden, a warship that belonged to Denmark’s King Hans. The Gribshunden sank in 1495 after a fire and has since been underwater near the southern Swedish town of Ronneby. It’s thought to be the world’s best-preserved ship from that era.

The creature depicted has lion ears and a crocodile mouth, holding what might be the figure of a person. It weighs 660 pounds, was carved at the end of an 11-foot beam, and once sat poised at the prow of the ship.

It’s a unique figurehead for a few reasons. Marcus Sandekjer, head of the Blekinge Museum who handled the recovery effort with Södertörn University, told Discovery News, “No similar item from the 15th century has ever been found anywhere in the world.” 

The name of the ship—Gribshunden—means “Grip Dog,” which might be the creature reflected in the carving.

The artifact is now in a waterbath at the Blekinge Museum storehouse, where it awaits preservation. The archaeologists hope to bring up more of the wreckage, and in doing so, discover information on shipbuilding from the 15th century, when Columbus and Vasco de Gama were sailing the high seas.