Years 1738-1745

The Original Ship

The East Indiaman, later named “Götheborg” was built at Terra Nova, which was one of the four major shipyards in Stockholm in the 18th century. She was launched in 1738. Terra Nova was situated where the road Strandvägen lies today. The area was a filled in inlet that had previously been overgrown by reed: hence the name Terra Nova, which means ‘new land’ in Latin. Around 200 people worked at the shipyard and around half of these were carpenters. At that time, an East Indiaman could be built in just less than 18 months.



The East Indiaman Götheborg was launched in 1738 and went through three adventurous voyages to China before it’s wrecking outside the Fortress of Älvsborg. The first voyage was relatively painless whereas the second was filled with problems. On her departure from Cadiz in Spain, she was hijacked by en English Frigate, but was released, however, a month later.


The actual disaster for the East Indiaman Götheborg would arise a couple of years later. In March of 1743, Götheborg left together with the East Indiaman “Riddarhuset” to commence her third – and last – journey. After just over two months of travel, Götheborg reached Cadiz in Spain, where it was loaded with silverware and provisions.

The ship was brought out of Africa’s coast by strong winds and currents leading to her almost touching upon Brazil. Afterwards, she abruptly turned towards the East, past South Africa, an established colony primarily formed for the provisioning of East Indiamen. After a stop in Java, it normally meant a straight way to Canton. Or that’s what they thought at least. After missing the southern monsoon, Götheborg was forced to return to Java where she was laying in the harbour waiting for the right winds. She lay there for more than six months, and not until the summer of 1744 was she able to throw the anchor outside her target in China.


Götheborg reached the Chinese coast in the summer of 1744 and after a six-month trade halt she began her voyage back home. The long wait had a strain on the crew. After 30 months at sea and an adventurous journey back home, the Swedish coast was finally within sight. The ship’s cargo holds were crammed with tea, silk, porcelain, Tuttanego (zinc), spices, and much more.

On September 12, 1745 maritime pilots came aboard close to Vinga. This did not prevent the ship from sailing into the well-known underwater rocks of Knippla Hunnebådan, around 900 meters west of Nya Älvsborgs Fästning (The new Älvsborg Fortress).

The ship remained stranded on the rock and water started to leak in. Fortunately the boats that came to the rescue saved everyone on board. Right after the grounding and over the following two years, one-third of the cargo was salvaged.

Despite the damage of the ship, the costs of salvage, and the unusually long journey, the expedition was able to provide the stakeholders with a return of 14,5 per cent. This was possible as a part of the cargo was salvaged and sold, and because of the insurance that applied.

Further salvage operations were carried out during the 19th century. Divers dressed in heavy diving outfits carried out new extensive salvage operations in the early 20th century. After that the wreck was left to its fate. No one believed there was anything else to salvage.