Historical background

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HUMA Maritime archaeology Gotland

The Heritage Underwater – Maritime Archaeology Gotland (HUMA) project is a maritime archaeological project focused on the remains of the ships from the Danish-Lübeck fleet that wrecked outside Visby one night in July 1566.

A short summary of the events leading to the disaster of the Danish-Lübeck fleet is given below. If you want to read more on the historical background, please look in the list to the left and you will find a number of different themes all aimed at providing insight of the historical setting that the HUMA project is related to.

Historical setting

In 1566 the war between Sweden and Denmark-Lübeck had raged for three years. The primary cause of the war (Nordic Seven Years War) was a strong wish from both parties to gain and maintain control of the trade in the Baltic Sea.  Every summer the battling parties send their ships into the Baltic Sea to patrol and gain control of important areas and trade routes. At times the fleets were far away from each other, but occasionally they met in battle.

One such battle took place north of Öland in July 1566. Both fleets suffered damage and losses, but the battle had no clear winner. As the battle faded out the Swedish fleet headed towards the skerries of the Swedish mainland, whereas the Danish-Lübeck fleet headed for Gotland, which at the time was Danish territory. In spite of warnings of “foul ground” for anchoring the Danish admiral insisted that the fleet anchored on Visby roadsted just outside Visby. The following day a Danish commander killed during the Öland battle was buried.

The night after the funeral a strong storm broke out. A total of 15 ships from the Danish-Lübeck fleet either sank or were smashed against the rocky shore. Naturally losing more than 1/3 of the fleet and a huge number of men was a massive blow to the strength of the Danish-Lübeck alliance and it came to influence the rest of the war until its end in 1570.

Historical setting
Picture text: A copper plate illustration from the work Rerum Danicum. The engraving sums up several events during the Nordic Seven Years War. Please note that the location of Visby and the disaster of the Danish-Lübeck fleet are misplaced to the eastern side of Gotland.
Source: The Royal Library (Denmark)

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