Jim Huggins (jkhuggins) wrote,
Jim Huggins

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A story to remember: the Vasa

I was reminded today, by some reading, of the tale of the Vasa --- and what it has to tell us for today.

What, you don't know the story?  Well, it's pretty simple, really.

Back in the 1600s, King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden commissioned a new warship to be built.  Kings at that time got to do more than just order ships to be built; they got to design them, too.  So, the king designed the ship.  And, in particular, the latest craze on warships was to have two decks worth of cannons, so he added those to his design.

Problem was, the ship wasn't wide enough underneath the waterline to compensate for all the extra weight (cannons are heavy, if you hadn't realized that), and putting all that weight above the waterline would've led to a terribly high and variable center of gravity, which makes ships, y'know, likely to tip over and sink.  At least, that's what the designers believed.  So, they told the king.  But the king can never be wrong, so the design stayed as it was.

They even beta-tested it, once it was built, by having crewman run from side to side aboard the ship while it was in port.  It started to tip, so they stopped the test.  But the king can't be wrong, so ... the test was simply cancelled.

The ship put to sea with much fanfare ... and promptly sank, about a mile out of port.  The king was furious and ordered an inquest to find out who was responsible.  Attempts to find blame were put everywhere.  But ultimately, the design was shown to be faulty.  But since the king can't be wrong, the official cause of the sinking was "an act of God".

Ever have one of those situations where your boss simply won't listen, and a disaster results?  It's apparently a very old story.

And a story to keep in mind, in case you become king ... er, um, manager, one of those days in the future.


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