WYVERN Successfully Raised


The 116-year-old WYVERN in a file photo. Photo: Stavanger Maritime Museum

The Norwegian sailing ship Wyvern, which sank in the Baltic Sea between the Swedish islands of Gotland and Öland on July 11, 2013, was salvaged this past weekend. The ship was emptied of hundreds of tons of water once it reached the surface of the water. Wyvern will be returned to her home port at Norway’s Stavanger Maritime Museum where a homecoming party awaits her August 15 arrival.

“We really want to make a fuss of Wyvern. Therefore, we hope as many people as possible show up at Strandkaien when the ship arrives,” said Lene Berge Førland, Communications Manager at Stavanger Maritime Museum.

Wyvern‘s Sinking

Swedish maritime authorities reported on July 11 that an historic Norwegian vessel home ported in Stavanger had started taking in water and later sank. Its Norwegian crew was rescued but one person was reported missing and later presumed to have gone down with the ship.

According to the website Views and News from Norway, the two-masted Wyvern, built as an exclusive 60-foot touring vessel in 1897, was sailing in this year’s Tall Ships Races when it sent out an emergency call at 5:21 a.m. Thursday, July 11, that it was taking in water with 10 persons on board.

Sweden’s air and sea rescue service sent helicopters to the scene  from both Visby and Ronneby as several merchant vessels in the area also diverted course to offer assistance. Five of the Wyvern’s 10 crew members were winched up from the sinking vessel by 6:42 a.m. and all were eventually rescued by 8 a.m. and flown to Kalmar on Sweden’s east coast. The vessel sank at 9:37 a.m., according to the Swedish authorities.

The drama resumed, however, when rescue crews got word that three persons from the Dutch vessel Wylde Swan had voluntarily gone on board the Wyvern in an effort to pump out water and prevent it from sinking. Two of them were later plucked up by a rescue helicopter from the choppy waters in stormy conditions and flown to Visby but one remained missing. Emergency officials reported waves of three to four meters and strong winds in the area.

The search continued for the third man, who was said to be wearing a life vest and survival suit, with both helicopters and other vessels were taking part in the rescue efforts. Emergency authorities called off the search at 12:36 p.m. after it failed to yield any result and after witnesses said the man was bound to the vessel’s rigging when it sunk. The stormy weather prevented divers from going down to the wreckage, which was believed to be lying at a depth of 50 meters. The rescue authorities then turned the case over to Swedish police.

The cause of the accident remained unclear and officials at the Stavanger Maritime Museum, which took over the vessel in 1984, said they couldn’t understand how the accident could have occurred. It’s a huge loss for the museum and the sailing enthusiasts who had fully restored the vessel.

“The vessel has been through much worse weather than this,” Bitten Bakke, acting director of the museum told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “And it was in very good technical condition, so we can’t understand how this could have happened.”

The Wyvern has sailed in several national and international regattas over the years and has won in both its class and for overall performance in previous Tall Ships Races, according to the Stavanger Maritime Museum’s website. The vessel, designed by legendary designer Colin Archer, was originally built as a pleasure yacht for the wealthy British timber dealer Frederick Croft. He named it Wyvern after the mythological dragon that was featured on his family’s shield.

Eventually sold to a series of owners who collectively crossed the Atlantic 12 times and circumnavigated the world in the late 1950s, Wyvern returned to Norway after being found in bad shape in Ibiza in 1978. A group of oil industry executives financed the boat’s full restoration a the vessel was given as a gift to the Stavanger Maritime Museum in 1984, officially handed over by then-Crown Prince Harald. It since had crossed the North Sea several times and taken part in five Tall Ships Races.