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Explore a 16th-Century Underwater Battlefield

The warship Mars sank in a 1564 naval battle, and archaeologists have now reconstructed its wreck site in 3D.

New Animations Reveal Details of Cursed Warship

Remarkable 3D visualizations of deep-sea scans are helping archaeologists to reconstruct one of the best-preserved historic warships yet discovered.

Over the course of several years, a research team led by Johann Rönnby, professor of maritime archaeology at Sweden's Södertörn University, has photographed and scanned the 453-year-old wreck Mars, the legendary flagship of Swedish King Erik XIV.

Named for the Roman god of war, Mars went down in the Baltic Sea in 1564 during a battle against Danish and German forces. The massive three-masted warship was nearly 200 feet long, and carried more than 100 cannon and between 800 and 900 Swedish and German sailors at the time that it sunk.

The Mars wreck site was discovered in 2011 by Rönnby's team near the Swedish island of Öland. Initial investigations of the vessel, lying at a depth of 250 feet, indicated that a combination of slow currents and a dark and cold environment helped to facilitate the stunning preservation of the wooden warship.

Raising Mars is an extremely expensive proposition and would result in undue damage to the hull and associated artifacts, so Rönnby's team chose to document the site using photogrammetry and multibeam sonar scans accurate to within 0.08 inches. The resulting reconstructions will enable them to not only reconstruct the vessel itself, but also the site's remarkably well-preserved maritime battlefield.

The research project is a recipient of funding from the National Geographic Society.

According to legend, Mars was doomed from the start due to the fact that its cannon were constructed from melted-down church bells, according to Rönnby.