The Kalmar Nyckel is a full‐ scale re‐ creation of the original 17th‐ century ship, whose historic significance rivals that of the Mayflower. The present day Kalmar Nyckel serves as the Delaware region’s floating Academy and Goodwill Ambassador. The ship provides a unique platform for the Foundation’s educational programs, offering the best in recent scholarship and experiential learning. Students get to experience the “Age of Sail” first‐hand during the Kalmar Nyckel’s floating classroom programs, helping to set sails, heave cannons, steer the ship, navigate with 17th‐century instruments, and learn about America’s maritime and colonial history.
The original Kalmar Nyckel was built by the Dutch in or about 1625 as a “Pinnace” – a class of vessels that could operate either as small warships or as armed merchantmen. This was the “Golden Age” of Dutch naval power and seaborne world trade, and the Dutch were the most advanced naval architects and shipbuilders of the 17th century.
photos by Sharon Lowe
Measuring 93 feet on deck and with a sparred length of 141 feet, she was stoutly built and remarkably seaworthy, characteristics that would serve her well throughout her long and remarkable career. Her original armament probably consisted of 12 six‐pounder cast iron cannon, with two smaller swivel guns attached to the quarterdeck rails.
The Kalmar Nyckel was purchased from the Dutch in 1629 by the Swedish cities of Kalmar and Jönköping and given her new name. The name means the “Key of Kalmar,” which derives from the 12th‐century castle that guarded Kalmar harbor, a fortress defense the ship was meant to honor and augment.
The Swedish Empire reached its zenith under King Gustavus II Adolphus (1611‐1632), the greatest war leader of his age, known as the “father of modern warfare,” whose battles are still studied in military schools. Gustavus wanted to enhance Sweden’s position as a Great Power and to secure his recent territorial additions around the Baltic. This would require the building of a navy to match his powerful army.