Once the Swedish naval warship called the Kronan was completed in 1672, it became clear that it was the jewel in the Swedish naval fleet’s crown.
But, just four years later, it sank — taking almost all 800 members of the crew with it. Disappearing beneath the waves and, indeed, from history, it lay on the ocean bed for centuries.
It was only in 1980 that the remains of the Kronan were rediscovered. Thereafter, many different expeditions went down into the deep to explore the wreck, and many valuable and historically significant artifacts were recovered.
However, it was the most recent dive that yielded the most unexpected and remarkable discovery of them all.
Taking seven long years to construct, the Kronan was a multi-masted behemoth and a force to be reckoned with.
And when it finally set out to sea in 1672, its impressive appearance intimidated just about every other ship it came across. But nobody anticipated that the sea itself would prove to be its most formidable enemy.
The Kronan’s luck ran out one fateful day in 1676. During a maritime battle, it capsized while making a sharp turn on rough waters. But that wasn’t the final nail in the majestic ship’s coffin.
In an unlucky turn of events, the gunpowder that was stored below deck ignited, causing a massive explosion. The ship sank to the bottom of the sea, taking almost all of its crew along with it.
The Kronan lay quietly on the ocean floor for three hundred years and was forgotten, its skeleton becoming home to many sea creatures and other aquatic life.
But inside, it still harbored valuables and treasure. Hidden deep beneath the Baltic, it seemed unlikely that anyone would ever find it and recover the artifacts in its hull.
In 1980, and by a sheer stroke of dumb luck, amateur researcher Anders Franzen stumbled upon the enormous wreck.
After the Kronan was rediscovered, the Swedish government took it upon themselves to sponsor archeological dives every year, hoping to recover the artifacts that still lay within. Nobody could believe what divers eventually hauled up off the ocean floor.
Divers exploring the massive ship’s remains were immediately overcome with fear and awe. The wreck’s sides bristled with dozens of rusted cannons, which made it abundantly clear that the ship was a formidable instrument of war before it met its untimely end.
But the silent, fallen juggernaut was still concealing many more secrets inside.
The divers moved inside the ship’s gigantic skeletal hull and swam through dozens of rooms that once housed the ship’s crew, now eerily devoid of human life.
Among shoals of shiny fish that called the Kronan home, they discovered caches upon caches of weapons — leaving no room for anyone to doubt that this ship was an unstoppable force in its day.
After their exploration was complete, the divers set to work. They used specialized equipment to remove the algae and silt that had layered and caked over and inside the ship for three centuries.
They painstakingly cleaned every rusted surface and every nook and cranny. But no-one was expecting to uncover an unbelievable treasure trove.
The priceless artifacts that the divers reclaimed from the wreck of the Kronan were to be sent straight to the Kalmar County Museum in Sweden.
As the items began to emerge, the museum began to prepare an entire Kronan exhibit to house them. They were almost ready to unveil the artifacts to the public — they just needed to be sure that everything that was hidden in the ship’s hull had been excavated.
Among the first artifacts that were reclaimed from the Kronan were rifles and firearms from the 17th century. The value of such rare items alone made this an extraordinary discovery.
But, aside from the antiques’ intrinsic value, they offered new insights into 17th-century warfare and armaments that even surprised and amazed experts in the field.
Once recovered and inspected, the weapons were carefully polished and restored to their former glory so that they would look like new when they went on display at the museum.
However, as historically significant as these firearms were, they were far from the most fascinating items that were found on the wreck of the Kronan…
Many of the items that the divers excavated were far simpler in nature. But these items provided fascinating and previously unknown insights into what everyday life was like in the 1600s.
These historical artifacts included musical instruments such as trumpets and violins, which were thought to be used to create entertainment while the crew was out at sea.
During one expedition, the divers found a ring that was made from pure gold. It was in pristine condition and sparkled as brightly as the day it was made, even after lying at the bottom of the ocean for three hundred years.
It looked out of place amongst the other rusted artifacts, so much so that it could have been placed there by accident. But the most interesting find was still to come.
In probably the most exciting haul from the wreck, a load of gold and silver coins that the Kronan had been carrying when it capsized was found.
The divers’ eyes widened when they saw that they not only comprised coins from Sweden, but also from as far afield as Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. Indeed, it was the biggest coin collection ever discovered in Swedish history!
By far the most important find from the Kronan’s wreck was a wooden plaque with the ship’s name engraved on it.
Although it may not have as much monetary value as the gold and silver coins and firearms, it was just as significant. The Kalmar County Museum was thrilled to put all the lost treasure on display. But there was still one more item waiting to be discovered.
It happened just when the divers thought that they had unearthed everything of importance and had uncovered all of the Kronan’s secrets.
One of the researchers came across a black jar, buried deep in the mud. It was made of tin and was surprisingly heavy when he lifted it out. Was it another hoard of gold coins, perhaps?
A Scientist carefully worked at the lid. The top came off and the contents met the light of day for the first time in three hundred and forty years.
Everyone leaned in and almost immediately regretted it. A few more jumped back and gagged. Staring at the greyish substance in the jar, they were all floored when it suddenly hit them. It was some sort of preserved cheese product!
They described the smell as a mix of yeast and Roquefort cheese. During the era when the Kronan was built, cheese was a real status symbol.
It separated the rich from the poor. In this case, however, the cheese was well past its prime.
No one intended to add this Kronan cheese to a gourmet cheese plate anytime soon, but just the fact it was still in relatively good condition stunned everyone.
Where’s Andrew Zimmern when you need him? He’d probably give this a taste!
The Kronan cheese sits on display at the museum along with the rest of the findings. Since the ship was discovered in 1980, diving teams have collected over 30,000 artifacts, and they haven’t even explored every nook and cranny.
Maybe they’ll come across a nice Merlot to pair with the cheese!
But while they investigated the Kronan, another strange relic from the past had turned up in a place that no one expected.
See, the coast of California is no stranger to significant storms, specifically El Niños—the unusually warm systems that move over the area in late December. But one 2016 storm in Coronado, California was especially devastating.
The residents of Coronado were quick to make their way back outside after the rains and winds passed.
They were ready to clean up their town, but they certainly were not prepared for what they’d find there…
When people reached South Coronado Beach, they noticed something very unusual protruding from the sandy shore.
It was a massive shape of some kind, and it clearly wasn’t part of a reef. What the heck was it?
No one was quite sure what the strange formation was, but everyone was curious enough to want to get a closer look.
Many residents had theories, but the truth would be even wilder…
It would take more work to find out what this powerful storm had unearthed.
Luckily, as the tide continued to wash the surrounding sand away, the answer was revealed…
It was an enormous shipwreck! Everyone was in awe when they finally realized what the structure was.
How amazing is it that a ship that enormous had been lying just beneath their feet all along?
This storm had to be really intense in order to uncover something the size of a city block. As the surface of the ocean increases in temperature—and the warm air meets much colder air in the sky—it causes intense wind and rain.
Any time an El Niño storm hits a populous area, it typically causes a hefty amount of damage. Usually, the best way to prepare is by boarding up windows and doors or simply evacuating the area altogether.
Obviously, the intensity of El Niño’s winds and rain regularly tossed around small boats. The discovery on South Coronado Beach, however, was completely different.
This was no small boat—this thing was seriously huge!
Now that the enormous vessel was uncovered, everyone wanted to know where exactly it had come from.
On top of that, what was it used for when it was a fully-functioning ship sailing the high seas?
As it turned out, the history of the ship was fascinating.
Named the SS Monte Carlo, the 300-foot vessel was built in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1921. It was one of the few concrete and iron ships built after World War I.
The ship was the property of the United States Quartermaster Corps until 1923 when it was sold to the Associated Oil Company of San Francisco.
This company then sold it to two actual mobsters, Ed Turner and Martin Schouwiler, in the early 1930s.
The two men had hoped to turn their new property into a “sin ship” during Prohibition.
It was to be anchored three miles off the coast of Coronado Beach in international waters, so gambling, prostitution, and alcohol were all technically legal onboard… or so they hoped.
Unsurprisingly, the ship became incredibly popular. Visitors from all around came to indulge in the illegal activities it offered.
The ship was by no means the first “sin ship” in existence, but it was the largest. In its prime, it would host upwards of 15,000 gamblers a week!
It’s estimated that the ship also raked in nearly $3 million a year, which by today’s standards is nearly $52 million!
However, on New Year’s Day in 1937, a massive storm set the ship adrift, and it eventually ran aground on the shores of South Coronado Beach.
Over the next several years, the remains of the ship were slowly buried underneath the sand.
That is, until the 2016 El Niño, which was strong enough to remove the sand and reveal the ancient piece of history once more.
With a little help of the incoming and outgoing tide, the sand slowly revealed more and more of this former “sin ship.”
It didn’t take long before the residents of Coronado could make out the entire thing.
Once people could see the entire vessel, word of the discovery spread rapidly around the area.
Everyone wanted to explore this real-life shipwreck for themselves! Can you blame them?
As fascinating as the discovery was, visitors needed to be extremely careful around the remains.
Because the ship was built with concrete and iron, erosion had caused the frame to develop extremely sharp edges. Albeit dangerous, exploring it might be worth it…
Some rumors suggested that upwards of $150,000 worth of gold and silver coins were still on board.
Even if it was just a rumor, the SS Monte Carlo remains a treasure in its own right!