STOCKHOLM (July 7, 2014)—Swedish researcher Johan Rönnby received a grant from the National Geographic Society to explore the undersea wreckage of the famed warship Mars the Magnificent. Rönnby’s project, “The Maritime Battlefield of Mars (1564),” marks the 100th grant awarded by the Society’s Global Exploration Fund, a regional grant program in Northern Europe.
Rönnby, professor of maritime archaeology at Södertörn University, head of the Maritime Archaeological Research Institute and a professional diver, is investigating the well-preserved maritime battlefield in the Baltic Sea where Swedish King Erik XIV’s legendary 2,000-ton flagship Mars sank. In 1564, the Mars went down in flames after a bloody clash with a fleet from Denmark and the German city of Lübeck.
In 2011, a Swedish dive team led by Richard and Ingemar Lundgren of Ocean Discovery found the missing vessel resting 75 meters (246 feet) below the surface of the Baltic Sea, 12 nautical miles southeast of the island of Öland. At the time she went down, the Mars was the largest ship of her kind and the largest in the Baltic Sea, armed with roughly 130 cannons and manned by a crew of approximately 600 Swedes.
“The team and I are extremely honored to receive a National Geographic Society grant,” said Rönnby. “The Society’s support makes it possible for us to expand our exploration of the area surrounding the Mars wreckage, which will broaden our understanding and appreciation of the ship’s historic battle and will likely lead to new and exciting discoveries.”
According to Rönnby, the Baltic Sea’s cold, brackish waters and topography left the Mars remarkably well preserved. Rönnby plans to study the undersea battlefield for further insight into maritime history, naval battles in the region and the nature of warfare. Fieldwork will begin in June 2015.
“We are delighted to support this project given Sweden’s great historical interest in the Mars,” said Joakim Mörnefält, National Geographic executive director for science and exploration in Northern Europe. “This project exemplifies our commitment to working with local explorers to further their research and share their stories with the world.”
In addition, Rönnby and his colleagues received support from the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program to complete scans of the entire ship over the summer. The scans will enable them to create virtual reconstructions of the Mars using new three-dimensional technology based on underwater photography.
The National Geographic Society’s Science and Exploration division in Northern Europe provides grants for cutting-edge scientists, conservationists and explorers through its Global Exploration Fund to residents of Northern Europe (Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Ireland). The Fund is managed by National Geographic from its office in Stockholm and supported by the Swedish Postcode Lottery. For more information about the Global Exploration Fund and National Geographic’s work in the region, please visit www.nationalgeographic.org/Europe.
The Mars expedition is a cooperative effort involving Södertörn University, the Swedish National Defence College, Ocean Discovery, Marin Mätteknik AB, Deep Sea Productions and Västerviks Museum.
About National Geographic
Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. With a mission to inspire people to care about the planet, the member-supported Society offers a community for members to get closer to explorers, connect with other members and help make a difference. The Society reaches more than 500 million people worldwide each month through its media platforms, products and events. National Geographic has funded more than 11,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information about National Geographic in Europe, visit http://www.nationalgeographic.org/Europe.
Read more about the Mars and Johan Rönnby in this National Geographic Daily News piece: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/07/140707-mars-shipwreck-warship-baltic-sea-archaeology-science/.
To watch a video about the Mars shipwreck featuring Johan Rönnby, please visit http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/140707-mars-shipwreck-vin.
For photos related to the National Geographic Society’s Mars announcement, visit http://press.nationalgeographic.com/downloads/temp2/file/mars_shipwreck.
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