Building the Ship

Terra Nova was the name of one of the four major shipyards in Stockholm in the 18th century. When the Swedish Ship Götheborg was built 250 years later, it was only fitting to revive the shipyard name on the foundations of the Eriksberg yard. A ship’s hall was built over the remains of a building berth and a timber workshop, a forge and a rigging workshop with a sail loft were all eventually added, as well as staff areas, a restaurant, conference facilities and offices. There was also room for an exhibition hall and shop in the large ship’s hall.

Built like the original

The Swedish Ship Götheborg is built as closely to the original East Indiaman as possible, according to the original methods and using original materials. Apart from the constant struggle to fund the project, the technical designers and craftsmen have faced all kinds of special challenges. What were the specs for sailcloth, tar and oak logs 250 years ago? What working methods were used? How were the tools made? And of course the modern ship also has to meet today’s safety requirements for ocean-going vessels – which the ships of the 18th century most certainly didn’t. And as an extra complicating factor there were no drawings to work from, as shipbuilders in those days kept everything in their heads. Drawings for trading ships were rare right up until the early 19th century. Just designing the rig with all its masts, yards, blocks, ropes and sails has kept 20 people busy for a total of 100,000 hours.

You don’t have to be mad – but it helps

Joakim Severinson is one of the Swedish Ship Götheborg’s genuine enthusiasts. He has been involved from the beginning, when the ship was rediscovered and the marine-archaeological investigations began back in the mid-1980s. He was there when the construction plans were devised, and he has been involved right up until the ship was finished. Joakim himself designed the hull after meticulous research, and was also production manager during the construction. Seventeen years after the first dives down to the wreck, he is now a Master Shipwright.

“Only thanks to great single-mindedness and an incredibly goal-oriented body of staff did we manage to get the ship built,” says Joakim. “I like to compare us with bumble-bees – we shouldn’t be able to fly, but we do anyway. We built a ship that couldn’t be built.”

Modern technology the old way

One of the hardest tasks Joakim and his team had to face was neither the rigging, the hull nor the mighty figurehead on the bow. It was something else entirely.

“The most complicated thing turned out to be finding a concept that even classification company Det Norske Veritas and the Swedish Maritime Administration would accept.”

The approved ship is virtually an exact replica of the original East Indiaman Götheborg in her lines, hull and rigging, as well as in the materials and working method. But she is also a ship with advanced technical equipment, including two Volvo Penta engines with a total of 1100 hp. Something the original certainly never had.

An illustrious launch

One of the magnificent highlights of the new-old ship’s history was her launch on Sweden’s national day, 6 June 2003. It was attended by royalty and some 100,000 people. In China the event could be followed by an estimated 300 million people on state TV channel CCTV. There was massive media coverage and tremendous interest all over the world. What the world wants to see is dreams coming true, and the impossible being achieved.

Facts about building the ship

Location: Terra Nova shipyard, Gothenburg
Keel was laid: 1995
Year of construction : 1996 – 2005
Launching: 2003
Baptism: 2004
Number of employees: About 600 people
Total amount of visitors: About 1 million

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