(T&G)- In 1625, Sweden’s King Gustav II Adolf ordered four new ships to be built. Vasa, the first of the four, was his vision of the greatest warship that had ever existed. Sadly, that vision collapsed when Vasa sank in 1628, during her maiden voyage. Centuries later, when Millbury native Thomas Ward was tasked with re-creating one of Vasa’s 24-pounder cannons for the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, he faced a daunting endeavor of his own. After receiving his bachelor’s of fine arts in sculpture from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2011, Mr. Ward sought a new challenge. He applied for and was awarded a prestigious Fulbright research grant. Originally, he had planned to work with “historical reproduction axe and tool smithing.”
However, that “opportunity fell through and by some very good luck and sending a lot of emails, I fell into this project at the right time,” Mr. Ward said. He arrived in Stockholm in 2012 and embarked on a creative journey that lasted a little more than a year. The Vasa Museum, which houses the salvaged naval ship, challenged Mr. Ward to put his sculpting skills to the test. Not only did the museum want Mr. Ward to reproduce one of Vasa’s 24-pounder cannons, it wanted him to make a functional reproduction that could be tested on a firing range. Because the Vasa 24-pounder cannon was the heavy weapon of choice by the Swedish military during the Thirty Years’ War, the museum hoped to better understand the capability of the cannon and, consequently, naval warfare in the first half of the 17th century. Mr. Ward soon realized what an immense task he had before him. While “24-pounder” refers to the weight of the cannon shot, the Vasa 24-pounder cannon itself weighs approximately 3,000 pounds and is 10 feet long. Since the original cannons were in very rough condition, Mr. Ward was charged with making the patterns to create the cannon and all of its intricate parts and ornamentation. He also needed to help solve the many technical problems that arose from re-creating 1620s heavy weaponry. “The main challenge was reverse engineering a 17th-century piece of technology,” said Mr. Ward, who is now back in Millbury. “I had to take a 17th-century object and learn about its process of creation; take that and apply it to modern foundry technology to make a functionally identical object.”
Alright so lets look at this from two angles the serious, and the not so serious. First the serious. This is amazing! To take all this time to create something that is so unique is truly a special thing, and the artists is for sure a brilliant man. The intricacies of this Cannon must have been hell to recreate, but amazingly Ward did it.
Now the less serious side: How awesome would it be to own a cannon? I’d wake up every morning and blast the 1812 overture like it was the fourth of July at the Hatch Shell! I mean thats better than coffee or a wake up call, and it sure as hell beats a rooster. Imagine how fun having this at a party would be too. Just shooting beer cans and anything else you want into the ether.