Divers searching the wreck of a 17th-century Swedish warship on the bed of the Baltic found not diamonds as they had hoped ... but a cheese.

Inside a watertight pot in the ancient timbers of the Kronan, a ship that sank in 1676 off the Swedish coast, was a semi-firm 340-year-old "dairy product" smelling of yeast and Roquefort cheese, expedition leader Lars Einarsson said yesterday.

"Unlike the others, I find its smell is quite pleasant," he said. "It smells of life."

The unusual find is being sent to the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences for tests.

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The Kronan (Crown) sank off the island of Oeland, southeastern Sweden on June 1, 1676, in a battle with a Danish-Dutch fleet.

Squabbling officers and too much sail caused the ship to capsize and then explode. Only about 40 of the 800 crew survived.

The wreck was found in 1980 by Anders Franzen, an amateur naval archaeologist.

The blast that destroyed the Kronan was so powerful that pieces of the ship were scattered over a wide area of seabed. Around 80 per cent of the estimated site has been explored, revealing a trove of treasure and historical artefacts. Around 30,000 items have been brought to the surface so far, including bronze cannon, a German-made trumpet, as well as diamonds and gold coins. The cheese survived thanks to the chill and low salinity of the Baltic and the fact that it lay under a thick layer of sediment, which protected the pot from corrosion.

- AFP