Established in 1731 and modelled on the successful Dutch and British East India Companies, the Swedish East Indian Company (Svenska Ostindiska Companie or SOIC) focussed mainly on the tea trade with China and, although not as commercially successful as it’s predecessors, still made substantial fortunes for the anonymous investors that funded the fleet and it’s voyages.
The wooden 30 gun sailing ship Drottningen af Svierge (Queen of Sweden) was launched in Stockholm for the company in 1741 some ten months after the company’s formation. She measured 145.0′ x 30.0′ x 18.0′ and was the largest ship to date in the company’s fleet. She made a number of successful trips to Canton returning with holds full of lucrative tea and other goods from China. On 9th January 1745 the Drottningen and a second ship, the Stockholm, sailed from Gothenburg on the latest voyage with a full cargo of trading goods under the command of Captain Carl Johan Tretuinger with a crew of 130 men aboard. The ships were initially bound for Cadiz in Spain where they were to pick up a consignment of silver to pay for their return cargo of tea. They proceeded on the usual ‘north about’ route around the north of Scotland to avoid the English privateers in the Channel.
As the two ships approached the Shetlands they were caught in a winter storm with heavy driven snow, rough seas and poor visibility. The Stockholm was the first to succumb, driven ashore near Dunrossness, and although the crew of the Drottningen could see the Stockholm’s difficulties there was little they could do and the captain decided to run for Lerwick to save his own ship. For a while the weather abated and it looked like they would be safe but, as they reached the entrance to Bressay Sound and Lerwick harbour, the blizzards returned and the ship ran ashore at Twageos Point. Thankfully there were no casualties on either Swedish ship as local residents assisted in the rescue of everyone aboard.
Some salvage was carried out by the crew immediately following the wreck and, no doubt, the local population also recovered many items from the ships in the years that followed. Following the initial salvage by the crew, professional salvors Robert Hunter & Co., were engaged and recovered a total of 154 bars of lead by June 1746. Two French salvors, the ‘Eschauzier Brothers’ recovered a further 1330 bars of lead, four anchors and one gun in the years that followed. The last reported salvage operation was completed by George Innes & Co. on the 22nd October 1746. A total of 266 pigs of lead were recovered.
After this the wreck gradually slipped into memory until the Drottningen was rediscovered by Jean-Claude Joffre in October 1979. Over the next three years Joffre surveyed and excavated selected areas of the site. The site was further surveyed by John Adams and Chris Dobbs in October 1987 who concluded that, although the most productive areas had already been excavated by Joffre, the site was likely to contain additional site material in the sandy areas not previously excavated. The investigation and excavation by Joffre resulted in the recovery of a large number of artefacts, most of which are now located in the Lerwick Museum. Over 248 artefacts were recovered including, a large number of glass bottles and flagons; a large number of pieces of China porcelain; and lead weights, clay pipes, wooden tableware, musket shot, cannonballs, and a variety of coin.