Consultation launched on proposal to protect 18th century shipwreck

A consultation on proposals to protect the site of a Swedish merchant ship which sank off Shetland around 270 years ago has been launched by heritage chiefs.

The wrecked vessel is believed to be the Queen of Sweden, a merchant ship of the Swedish East India Company.

It hit a rock off the headland of Knab while seeking shelter in Bressay Sound, Shetland, after running into stormy weather on January 12, 1745.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) said the wreck is of national importance as “arguably the best preserved remains of a Swedish East Indiaman located in waters around Scotland”.

It has recommended that the Scottish Government designate the area as a Historic Marine Protected Area (Historic MPA) and a consultation has been launched inviting people to give their views.


Historic MPAs aim to preserve marine historic assets of national importance, so they can be protected, valued and understood.

Philip Robertson, Deputy Head of Designations at HES, said: “The sinking of the Queen of Sweden was a significant event in the history of the Shetland Isles, and the wreckage that remains is a marine heritage site of national importance that can greatly enhance our knowledge and understanding of the Swedish East India Company and its trading activity around Scotland’s coasts during the 18th century.

“We believe that designating the site as a Historic MPA will promote its heritage value, and I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to take this opportunity to share their views about this important piece of our nation’s priceless marine heritage.”

It comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week announced a consultation on proposals to create a Historic MPA at Scapa Flow in Orkney, where vessels from the German High Seas fleet were scuttled in 1919.

The Drottningen af Swerige (Queen of Sweden) was the flagship of the Swedish East India Company, and the largest vessel in the company’s fleet.

Built in Stockholm in 1741 for the Chinese trade, the vessel was around 45 metres long and was armed with up to 32 cannons.

During the 18th century, the Swedish East India Company played an important role in growing northern European trade with China in tea and silk.

The vessel left Gothenburg in Sweden on January 9, 1745, en route to Cadiz for more supplies before heading to China but ran into difficulties a few days later as weather conditions worsened.

With poor visibility and under blizzard conditions, the ship struggled to maintain course, forcing the captain to head for the safety of Lerwick where the vessel struck a rock in sight of land.

All the crew made it to shore safely.

The site was partly excavated after it was rediscovered in 1979 by Belgian diver Jean-Claude Joffre who recovered around 350 items including glass bottles, pieces of China porcelain, lead weights, clay pipes, wooden tableware, musket shot, cannonballs, and a variety of coins.

However there is said to be significant potential for further discoveries at the site.

Both consultations will close on Wednesday 17 April.