the Remnants of the
Flow, the Orkneys in the 1980's
OF SCAPA FLOW
atmosphere on the islands of the Orkneys might be described as ethereal. It is
as though the spirits of lost seafarers have left their ghosts behind before
they made their final journey to a watery grave. The feet of these men have
paced the flagstones of the narrow, winding Main Street between grim, grey
granite houses of the port, Stromness.
At the end of
the street is Login's Well, from where the ships of the Sir John Franklin's
tragic arctic exploration vessels watered before sailing west to chart the
North West Passage. The water from this well supplied
Captain Cook's 'Discovery' and Hudson Bay ships before they ventured
westwards on their hazardous voyages.
Click above for more pictures.
surrounded by the Orkney Islands is one of the largest natural harbours in the world
rich in history and a haven for ships for well over 1000 years.
warships have sunk
within these waters, but the most famous and romantic is
the story of the scuttling of the German warships on June 21st
1919. One cannot but escape the
feeling of sadness and
tragedy that abounds the area.
German Warships in Scapa Flow, the remnants of the formidable German
Fleet in the First World War
after the German surrender
to the Allies,
the German High Seas Fleet was confined to Scapa Flow
A few days before
the Treaty of Versailles, the peace treaty, was signed in Paris, the commander, Admiral von Reuter,
wishing to avoid his fleet falling into British
or allied hands, ordered the scuttling of the 74 German battleships and other warships
at anchor in Scapa Flow.
Local gossip has it that the British Navy went out on manoeuvres and so turned a
blind eye to their sinking in order to prevent the captured German Naval
vessels being shared between the victorious nations. Many of these were
salvaged for scrap after the war, but seven remain in deep water for scuba
divers to investigate in the murky sea.
The German Fleet in Scapa
Flow in 1918
Three warships, Kron Prinz Wilhem,
the König and the Mark Graf and four light
the Dresden, the Köln and the Brummer
present for the adventurous diver - most more than 30 metres deep. The warships have turned turtle, but the cruisers
lie on their side. Swimming over the surface of the warships seems to be
a never ending expanse of ship, merely an area covered with crustaceans Much more can be seen of the
infrastructure of the cruisers that lie in slightly shallower water.
It is a memorable and unforgettable experience to see the
ships that once formed part of the formidable German navy.
Maps of Scapa Flow
It is well
over 20 years ago when the Nottingham Scuba Diving Club made the first of a
number of visits to Scapa Flow in the Orkneys to dive these famous and
Having reached the
north of Scotland by bus, the
ferry left from the port of Scrabster to the Orkneys. After passing the
famous Old Man of Hoy we had the first impression of
Stromness - that of an old traditional stone built port and seaward houses
each with its own
small jetty or slipway. There is an
overpowering impression of greyness with the occasional red house brightening the scene.
Here have fishermen have offloaded catches of lobster and crab for
view has greeted seafarers for centuries.
Old Man of Hoy
Jim, the skipper of our
dive boat, the Radiant Queen was a dour old character - cleanliness
was not his forte, but as a navigator he could not be faulted and he always
got us to our intended dive site. On the first day we dived the shallowest
of the cruisers, the Karlsruhe and it was possible to swim round the
whole ship, examining the guns, the hawsers, the generator and the anchor .
20 years ago we probably had just invested in dry suits, but were still
using the old horse collar ABLJ, depth gauges and watches to time our dives.
We conscientiously waited six hours before our second dive and we were yet
to use computers. Later in the week we dived the deeper warships,
but apart from the abundant deadman's finger and plume anemones there was
little to see on the upturned ships bottoms.
On one occasion we dived on the remains of HMS Vanguard
which blew up in 1917, taking over 800 of her crew down with her.
There was little to see of her and it is now strictly forbidden to dive her.
The HMS Royal Oak is also a protected War Grave having been sunk by a
German submarine in October 1939 with the loss of 833 lives. Its position
was clearly marked by the leakage of oil - a concern to the environment in
the locality. An interesting dive was over the foul ground where there
are scallops and queenies to gather and even a crab or two,
slide show of underwater pictures click the anemone or these words.
Below is a slide show of the dive expedition from Nottingham Diving Club
The Radiant Queen skippered by Jim who took us to our dive sites.
clear and exhilarating and this heightened by the bleakness and the fact
that are few trees on the low-lying islands. The clarity of lighting is a photographers
With six hours to spare between dives we had time to land on one of the islands
to have our lunch or perhaps swim with the seals that were lying on the
rocks on the Barrel of Buttter. We picnicked on Flotta where there was a a oil terminal and oil
freighters moored taking on oil. We berthed at Lyness where there were
the remnants of the Naval Base HMS Prosperine. and today is a
visitors centre. We wandered through the derelict Naval Headquarters
building which now appears no long to exist. Pigeons and gulls flew
through the corridors where once naval ratings hurried and in the large
operation room there were the parts of the operational map lying on the
floor like the portions of a giant jigsaw puzzle. It was uncanny to think
that in wartime this had been a hive of activity. The old naval pier was
still standing. Back in time was an ancient post office with an
elderly post mistress who appeared to be in a time warp. Scattered
over the land leading up the the headquarters were decaying war time
equipment including the anchor from HMS Hampshire.
In 1917, on
its way to Russia, the
Hampshire struck a mine off the Orkneys . On
board was Lord Kitchener who perished with his crew of 655 men. Only 12 men
In the Island war cemetery, some sailors from these ships
are buried including 14 Germans who died at the time of the scuttling of the
battle ships. A memorial cross remembers those killed in the
Views From Lyness
These photos were taken in Lyness on the Island of Hoy. The
view was taken from the war cemetery which is the picture in the lower right
hand corner. Centre is the anchor from HMS Hampshire and the two crosses are
the memorial to HMS Vanguard.
There can be few islands like the Orkneys that have such rich
history. The Neolithic man were settlers and his legacy still abounds.
Querns for grinding corn stand in peoples' gardens as rockery stones.
A visit to the Ring of Broga, Maes Howe and Skara
Brae and other archaeological sites of interest is not to be missed. The
Vikings have left their heritage and the capital, Kirkwall is well
worth a visit . At the heart of the town stands
Cathedral, its tower and spire widely visible across both
land and sea. It was founded in memory of Saint
Earl of Orkney
by Earl (later saint) Rögnvald Kolsson.
Neolithic remains in the Orkneys and the Viking
heritage of Kirkwall
Ring of Broga
Scara Brae looking out to sea.