Kalmar Nyckel

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File:Kalamar Nycel Lewes DE.jpg
A replica of the Kalmar Nyckel leaves Lewes, Delaware for an evening cruise.

The Kalmar Nyckel (Key of Kalmar) was a Dutch built armed merchant ship famed for carrying Swedish settlers to North America in 1638 to establish the colony of New Sweden. A replica of the ship was launched at Wilmington, Delaware in 1997.


The Kalmar Nyckel was constructed in about 1625 and was of a design called a pinnace. The ship was named after the city of Kalmar, which purchased the ship in 1628 as its contribution to the Royal Swedish Navy. When Sweden decided to establish a trading colony in the New World under the direction of Peter Minuit, the Kalmar Nyckel was chosen for the voyage. A smaller vessel, the Fågel Grip (Griffin Bird), accompanied her.

The ships sailed from Gothenburg in December 1637, commanded by Jan Hindriksen van der Water, but encountered a severe storm in the North Sea and had to divert to the Netherlands for repairs. They departed on New Year's Day 1638, arriving in North America in March 1638.[1]

A second voyage, which departed on February 7, 1640 and arrived at Fort Christina on April 17, brought additional settlers for New Sweden. One of them was Reorus Torkillus, the first Lutheran clergyman in New Sweden. The Kalmar Nyckel made four successive round trips from Sweden, a record unchallenged by any other colonial vessel. She later served the Royal Swedish Navy in the Swedish-Danish War, then was used as a merchant ship. She was lost at sea in the late 17th century. There are conflicting reports on where she was lost. One says she sank off the coast of the city of Kalmar, while another says she was lost in the North Sea off the coast of England.[2]

The modern Kalmar Nyckel

File:Kalamar Nycel bow figurehead.jpg
The bow of the replica Kalmar Nyckel including a two-tailed lion figurehead, one tail symbolizing the old ship and one symbolizing the new ship.

In 1986 a group of citizens of Wilmington, Delaware established the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation, whose primary source of funding is from the taxpayers of the State of Delaware, plus donations from corporations and individuals. The foundation designed, built and launched a replica of the Kalmar Nyckel. The modern ship, designed by naval architects Thomas C. Gillmer, Melbourne Smith, Joel Webster and Ken Court, was built at a shipyard in Wilmington on the Christina river near the original 1638 Swedish settler's landing site at Fort Christina. She was launched on September 28, 1997 and commissioned on May 9, 1998. The re-creation measures 94 feet on deck and 131 feet overall, with a 25 foot beam, a 12 foot draft, and displaces 300 tons.[3]

The ship is operated and maintained by a volunteer staff, under the leadership of a paid captain, boatswain, and a chief mate. In November 2006 the captain of the Kalmar Nyckel, David W. Hiott, who had commanded her for nine seasons, died from the effects of recurring melanoma. Captain Lauren Morgens took over on April 1, 2007, with Sharon Litcofsky as Chief Mate and Relief Captain, and Corey Young as Second Mate and Education Officer. The Foundation is now in its 12th season. Volunteers maintain the ship, run the education program, and sail her from port to port.[4]

File:Kalmar Nyckel stern.JPG
Stern of the replica


In 1986, composer Benjamin Lees was commissioned to write a symphony to honor the founding of Wilmington, Delaware. Lees named the resulting work Symphony No. 5: Kalmar Nyckel. The piece was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2003, following release of a recording by the German orchestra Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz.[5]

See also


  1. Johnson, Amandus. The Swedish Settlements on the Delaware, 1638-1664 (Philadelphia: Swedish Colonial Society, 1911)
  2. Henderson, John R. (2007-09-05). "A History of the Kalmar Nyckel and a New Look at New Sweden". Ithaca College website. Ithaca, NY: Ithaca College. http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/kalmar.html. Retrieved 2010-02-01. 
  3. The Kalmar Nyckel Ship Specifications Kalmar Nyckel Foundation. Retrieved 2010-2-1
  4. Weslager, C. A. A Man and His Ship: Peter Minuit and the Kalmar Nyckel ( Kalmar Nyckel Foundation. Wilmington, Delaware. 1989)
  5. Fox, Margalit. (2010, June 7). Benjamin Lees, 86, Versatile Classical Composer. The New York Times, p A-19

Other Sources

External links

de:Kalmar Nyckel sv:Kalmar Nyckel