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The Impact on Modern Business of a 17th Century Ship

Posted September 03, 2018 12:00 AM by RSBenner
Pathfinder Tags: sweden Vasa

It was a clear afternoon on August 10, 1628 when the Swedish warship Vasa entered Stockholm Harbor on her maiden voyage. She was the most advanced ship Sweden had ever commissioned and it was no surprise that hundreds (by some reports thousands) of people came out to witness the historic launching. However, the crowd was about to see more of a show then they expected.

At the beginning of the 17th century, the country of Sweden was at war in an attempt to control the Baltic Sea. This required a strong navy. So, after ten Swedish ships were lost on September 10, 1625, King Gustav II Adolph decided to rush the construction of ships currently being built at the Stockholm Navy Yard. In addition to adjusting timelines, the King sent numerous specification changes to the shipyard. One of the ships caught in all this confusion was the Vasa.

After the keel for the Vasa was laid, word was received from the King to increase her length and to add additional armament capacity. To accommodate this extra weaponry, the master shipwright, Henrik Hybertsson, ordered a second gun deck to be added to the ship, a design that had never been implemented on a Swedish ship before. Because of the time restraints, Hybertsson decided that scaling-up the existing design, rather than starting from scratch, would save time and materials.

But, there was a problem: the center of gravity of the ship was too high. The addition of the gun deck required a wider design. Since the keel was already laid, the width was increased only in the upper portions of the ship, thus giving her a high center of gravity. Also, the size of the armaments mounted on the upper gun deck was increased by the King’s decree thereby raising the center of gravity further. Lastly, as was the custom at the time, hundreds of beautiful carvings decorated the ship. However, these heavy, oak carvings succeeded in raising the center of gravity even more.

Compounding the problem, Henrik Hybertsson became ill and died a year before the Vasa was completed. It was difficult for anyone to take over the project because there were no detailed documents to pass on and no written design drawings to follow.

The ship was completed and a prelaunch stability test was conducted. During this test, 30 men ran from side to side midship and the movement of the ship was observed. The test was halted after just 3 traversals because of fear that the ship was going to capsize. The results of test were not communicated to the new shipwright nor to the king.

After much fanfare, and in front of a crowd, the Vasa was launched into Stockholm Harbor. She traveled about 1,400 yards when a light gust of wind filled her sails and the ship tipped to her port side. The gun ports on the lower gun deck, all of which were open for the launching ceremony, were thrust below the surface of the water and the ship began taking in water. The Swedish warship Vasa, described as the “biggest, most powerful, expensive and richly ornamented vessel ever built for the Swedish Navy” sank 390 feet from shore in 105 feet of water after sailing for only about 20 minutes. Fifty-three sailors lost their lives.

The Vasa Syndrome

You may be asking yourselves what does the sinking of a 17th century ship have to do with modern business practices? The Vasa Syndrome is a modern term sometimes used to describe problems with project management. The sinking of the Vasa sunk can be blamed on an inadequate amount of communication between parties, insufficient time schedule, lack of documentation, and numerous design changes. These are some of the issues that plague projects today. We must take lessons from the Vasa, keep our goals real and attainable and communication lines open. Or else our project might sink in sight of a crowd.

References:

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4947/cd77938c850ca27bea61e3588146b97f8d46.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasa_(ship)#Maiden_voyage

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasa_syndrome

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#1

Re: The Impact on Modern Business of a 17th Century Ship

09/03/2018 1:36 AM
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Re: The Impact on Modern Business of a 17th Century Ship

09/04/2018 3:09 PM

It could be the post-op effects of rent hospital treatment and a coincidence, but I have just had but a touch of nausea and feeling mildly sea-sick reading about metacentres and rolling and capsizing in your interesting link.

Strange....

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Re: The Impact on Modern Business of a 17th Century Ship

09/03/2018 8:59 AM

Sounds a bit like the fate of the Mary Rose, but she went down in battle.

From Wikipedia:

"Early in the battle something went wrong. While engaging the French galleys the Mary Rose suddenly heeled (leaned) heavily over to her starboard (right) side and water rushed in through the open gunports.[67] The crew was powerless to correct the sudden imbalance, and could only scramble for the safety of the upper deck as the ship began to sink rapidly. As she leaned over, equipment, ammunition, supplies and storage containers shifted and came loose, adding to the general chaos. The massive port side brick oven in the galley collapsed completely and the huge 360-litre (90 gallon) copper cauldron was thrown onto the orlop deck above.[68] Heavy guns came free and slammed into the opposite side, impeding escape or crushing men beneath them."

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Re: The Impact on Modern Business of a 17th Century Ship

09/04/2018 11:37 AM

All ships look top heavy to me.

Especially the holiday cruise liners that look like floating tenements - they all look as though they will overturn if passengers all go to one side for sightseeing.

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Re: The Impact on Modern Business of a 17th Century Ship

09/05/2018 11:00 AM

All ships, except perhaps submarines, ARE top heavy by design. It's the lateral movement of the center of buoyancy as the ship tilts and center of gravity that drive metacentric height.

There is a story from WW2 about a destroyer design the US purposely allowed to be stolen by the Japanese. The Japanese built it, it slid down the building ways into the water, rolled over and sank. Designed with a negative metacentric height.

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Re: The Impact on Modern Business of a 17th Century Ship

09/04/2018 11:43 AM

If you have any nautical interests at all a visit to the Vasa Museum is well worth while.

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Re: The Impact on Modern Business of a 17th Century Ship

09/07/2018 9:29 AM

In most 'Vasa' cases, it so happens that the whims and fancies of the lords (Powers that be) overwhelm the technically knowledgeable, and ultimately, it would be the last straw on the camel's back, that would collapse the system.

But the alternative of leaving it to the tech savvy is equally dangerous, since no two techs agree. So the best would be to get a sanction of the project, and then change it as per exigencies, keeping safety, paramount, which any techy could do.

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