“Wouldn’t it be fun to take passengers on a sail back when the original Kalmar Nyckel first crossed the Atlantic in 1638?,” Sam Heed, the senior historian and director of education for the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation, recently asked himself. “We’ll just have to build a time machine!”

With a little help from technology, that is - in essence - what the Foundation has done.

Thanks to the magic of 3D animation, Heed and his project team have created a unique new exhibit called Tall Ship Time Machine, and it is taking up permanent residence at the Foundation’s Wilmington location. It takes visitors on a “fantastic voyage” back almost 400 years when the Swedish colonial ship brought the first European settlers to the Delaware Valley, what would later become the State of Delaware. The animated storyline introduces cartoon characters representing Kalmar Nyckel Captains Lauren Morgens and Sharon Dounce who decide to sail today’s replica on an imaginary voyage back to 1638. 

Kalmar Tall Ship Time Machine Exhibit Women Captains2020 is such a milestone year for women. This year marks the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, and there were an unprecedented number of female candidates in the presidential election. In Delaware, we are very proud that both captains of the Kalmar Nyckel are women. This is a significant step forward for the maritime industry’s largely male-dominated workforce.


The captains must identify and “remove” all the modern equipment in order to “restore” the Kalmar Nyckel back to its original condition. Along the way, Captain Lauren and Captain Sharon point out the many differences between the two ships.

The premise behind the project gives audiences a revealing “inside look” at two very different ships that are both called Kalmar Nyckel

“There’s the original Swedish colonial ship that no longer exists, and then we have today’s modern-day replica Kalmar Nyckel,” explains Heed.

“Today’s Kalmar Nyckel is really two ships in one. There’s the accurate full-rigged replica sailing ship of the 17th century wrapped around a very modern vessel with diesel engines and state-of-the-art systems including navigation, communication, fire-suppression, and rescue equipment, not to mention modern crew accommodations like private bunks, flush toilets, a shower, and a full galley with a modern appliances.”

More than two years in the planning and production stages, Heed’s vision came to fruition January 23 with an opening reception at the Kalmar Nyckel’s Copeland Maritime Center. For more information on the Kalmar Nyckel and the exhibit, visit www.kalmarnyckel.org.