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Now THAT’S a adult cheese: Smelly Roquefort-like matter discovered in pot on 340-year-old Swedish shipwreck

Ian Harvey

Aged cheese is usually a chance that is not to be missed by turophiles, but some recently found might be too cultivated even for their taste. Divers have dug up a pot of what is thought to be a cheese that has spent 340 years at the bottom of the sea. Contained within a watertight pewter container, the gooey, thick substance smells rather strongly.

The Kronan was the pride of the Swedish Admiralty when it was finished in the year of 1672. As one of the biggest vessels of the time, it was an important ship for the Swedish Navy’s and aided the nation in asserting its dominance over the Baltic. Kronan, which means “crown”, sank off the island Öland in the year of 1672 during a battle with Danish and Dutch ships. Bickering officers and relentlessly sailing through a sharp turn are believed to have caused the ship to capsize. The vast hoard of ammunition on board for the 126 guns exploded, destroying a large portion of the frame. Only 50 of the 850 crew survived.

Swedish ship of the line HMS Stora Kronan 1668.

Swedish ship of the line HMS Stora Kronan 1668.

The cheese-like substance was found on the wreck of the Kronan, and the unusual discovery is being sent to the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences for examination. If it is discovered to be cheese, it is possible it was a personal stash of a cherished delicacy.

Archaeologists have found more than 30,000 objects comprising rare coins, 44 bronze cannons, and musical instruments from the wreckage. Countless articles that were discovered included common utensils and the personal possessions of the crew, such as a golden drinking spoon and a diamond ring. Also found were the skulls of several unfortunate crew members.

he remains of one of the violins and two drumsticks on display at Kalmar County Museum Photo Credit

The remains of one of the violins and two drumsticks on display at Kalmar County Museum Photo Credit

The Kronan was an impressive warship that had seven decks which housed about 126 guns. When it sank it was carrying a vast amount of gold and silver, along with weapons. The vessel was one of the biggest ships in the world by the time it was finished in the year of 1672. Due to the explosion as it was sinking and damage and erosion from dredging the area, only a fragment of the Kronan’s frame remains on the sea bed. Specialists have not been able to raise it like as with other vessels.

A painting by a Danish artist from 1686, showing how Kronan explodes while foundering

A painting by a Danish artist from 1686, showing how Kronan explodes while foundering

It is believed that the thick mud located on the ocean floor and the cold water aided to preserving the cheese; it did not have oxygen there to cause bacterial activity. The low salinity of the Baltic sea might also have aided in preserving the countless artifacts discovered in the shipwreck. It was stated that the smell from the pewter containing the cheese was so potent that the team had to fasten it in bags as it was taken up from the depths.

The digging has also discovered the remnants of barrels that held chopped meat, flour, and beer, giving us vital information about the diets of those on the ship and how food was created throughout the 17th century.