Vega Monument – Stockholm, Sweden - Atlas Obscura

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Vega Monument

Celebrating the Swedish ship used in the first Arctic expedition to navigate through the Northeast Passage. 


Sweden has a strong naval tradition. Throughout its history, Sweden has had many ships that are now considered famous, (or infamous). But the ship that achieved the most acclaim is broadly considered to be the Vega.

This 1873 hybrid sailing/mechanical ship started its life as a whaling vessel but eventually was chartered by Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld to attempt the first crossing of the Northeast Passage. This dangerous Arctic route has become the end of many explorers, but the trade potential that it held was too large for anyone to ignore, and so was the fame that comes with finding a way around. 

Nordenskiöld attempted just this in 1878 and took two years to find a way. While this journey was long, taxing, and above all dangerous, Nkrdenskiöld and his team did return victorious. The Vega returned to being a fishing ship and sadly sank near Greenland in 1903 after getting trapped in a bay by ice. 

Some geographical places are named after the Vega, such as Vega Island in Antarctica, the Vegafonna glacier on Northeastland in the Spitsbergen archipelago, and the Vegasund strait. Additionally, the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography awards the Vega Medal in memory of the first navigation of the Northeast Passage, the first bearer of which was Nordenskiöld himself.

The statue of the ship was erected in 1930 in front of the natural history museum to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the voyage. The copper ship was designed and made by Ivar Johnsson. A perhaps more accessible replica of the statue can be found on Observatorielunden. 

Know Before You Go

The statue is freely accessible, but do consider visiting the one on Observatorielunden since it's on a much lower granite pillar than the original one.

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November 18, 2022

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