- a grinning monster


The year was 1495 and the Danish king Hans was on his way to Kalmar. But outside Ronneby, the main ship Gribshunden (the Griffin Hound) foundered. Summer of 2015 divers suddenly discovered a grinning monster in the mud on the seabed - The ship's figurehead.

The head appeared to be incredibly well preserved, in fact the only one of it's kind in the world.


Salvaged in 2015

Near Stora Ekön in the Ronneby archipelago, lies the remains of the 500-year-old ship submerged in the mud at a depth of nine metres. The wreck was discovered in the 1970's, but it was only in 2013 that it was established that the ship was indeed the Gribshunden. The ship's figurehead was salvaged in August 2015. The head appeared to be incredibly well preserved, in fact, the only one of its kind in the world. The figurehead was part of the boat's construction. A beam in the middle supported the triangular forecastle. At the front in the bow, the protruding head was visible.

Gribshunden by Deep Sea Productions on YouTube.


What happened?

According to Sturekrönikan (the Sture Chronicle), the Danish king Hans was sailing to Kalmar in 1495 to get to Sweden to rejoin the Kalmar Union, thus making him king of the whole Scandinavia. The king's main ship was the Gribshunden, and there were nearly 150 soldiers and crew on board. Outside Ronneby, a fire broke out on board, which they unsuccessfully tried to extinguish. Many died, and a lot of valuable equipment sank with the ship to the bottom. Johan Rönnby is Professor at Södertörns högskola (Södertörn's University), and he was the lead diver when the figurehead with the wicked wolf grin was found. According to Rönnby, the wreck could be the best-preserved ship from the 15th century in the world.

The Gribshunden was probably constructed in Flanders or the Netherlands in a time of great exploration and may provide clues about how ships that were captained by Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama were designed. Jon Adams, Professor of Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton, believes that the Gribshunden is one of the most significant wrecks in the world! It is also an essential element in the understanding of the Nordic fleets' early development and expansion.



The figurehead restoration will take several years. However, at the Blekinge Museum, an exhibition about the Gribshunden will be on display. You will be able to see artefacts that were salvaged from the ship, including gun carriages as well as a full-scale reconstruction of a canon. There will also be films of the salvage operation, a 3D-model of the head, photographs and other information about the ship and period which it sank.

Grevagården, Blekinge museum in Sweden. Photo by Ola Åkeborn

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More about Gribshunden

The ship is approximately 35 metres long and twelve metres wide. A number of artefacts from the wreck have been salvaged and preserved, for example gun carriages, anchor capstans, pieces of chain mail, crossbow arrows and more. It is the oldest armed warship in the Nordic region. In olden times, figureheads were a prominent part of a ship's identity. Ships were often given animal and bird names or biblical and mythological names that were written in the definite form. This made the ship almost a living being, such as Gribshunden (the Griffin Hound).

Gribshunden, a shipwreck found i Blekinge, Sweden