STOCKHOLM: The wreck of a Swedish warship that historians hope is the Mars, head of king Erik XIV's fleet before it sank in the Baltic in 1564, has been found off Sweden's coast, museum officials said on Friday.
A team of divers discovered the wreck at a depth of 75 metres (250 feet), 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometres) north of the Swedish island of Oland, Stockholm's maritime history museum said in a statement.
The find came after several years of research.
“Everything suggests that it is indeed the Mars that we have found,” Richard Lundgren, one of the divers, said in the statement. “The size and the age of the ship correspond,” with historical records, he added.
A stack of corn, the symbol of the Swedish royal family at the time, was found engraved on a cannon, providing another strong clue.
“This is a wreck we have waited a long time to see,” said Andreas Olsson, head of the museum's archaeology department, practically certain that the find is indeed the ship described as “mythical” by the museum.
The remains of the ship will be important for research, he added, particularly in comparison with other recovered finds of historical importance, including the Swedish Vasa which was sunk in 1628, and the British Mare Rose which went down in 1545.
Equipped with 107 cannons and a crew of 800, the Mars was one of the biggest ships of its day.
Just a year after being launched it was sunk in May 1564 during a major battle against the Danish fleet.
More than 450 years later, the experts think the Mars has reappeared and “it seems to be well preserved,” though with a hole in its side, Olsson told reporters.
The local Kalmar prefecture has decided to ban diving and fishing in the area to allow the divers and archaeologists to continue their work.
The beautifully restored Vasa is now a major tourist attraction in Stockholm.