Scapa Flow (/ˈskɑːpə/ or /ˈskæpə/; from Old Norse Skalpaflói, meaning “bay of the long isthmus”) is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsayand Hoy. It is about 312 square kilometres (120 sq mi). It has a shallow sandy bottom not deeper than 60 metres (200 ft) and most of it about 30 metres (98 ft) deep, and is one of the great natural harbours/anchorages of the world, with sufficient space to hold a number of navies. Viking ships anchored in Scapa Flow more than 1,000 years ago, but it is best known as the site of the United Kingdom‘s chief naval base during World War I and World War II. The base was closed in 1956.
Our intrepid explorers arrived onboard our vessel the Jeanelaine, for 6 days of exceptional diving in the sheltered natural harbour that is Scapa Flow,
Where the German Imperial fleet was interred in 1919,
On Midsummers day June 1919, admiral Ludvig Von Reuter gave the order to “Scuttle the Fleet”to prevent these ships becoming available to use by the allies.
Of the 54 ships successfully sunk, most had been salvaged for there non ferrous metals, Leaving us just 7 of the original fleet. However 7 is more than enough to fit into just 1 week 3 Battleships of approx 26,000 tons, Konig, Markgraf & Kronprinz Wilhelm.
We dived on the Knonprinz as this is the most accessible of them, lying completely inverted, on a seabed of 38m, but standing proud, we descended down the shotline and her hull came into view at only a 12m depth, the sheer scale & size of what lay below us took our breath away,
As some salvage has taken place there where numerous holes & swim-throughs for us to explore,
Covered in life it makes for a fascinating dive, plumrose anemones, dead mans fingers, crab, conger, wrasse et al. Beautiful.
At 174m (575″) long, A beam of 27m (97″) & a Draught of 9m (30″) This is probable the largest ship I have dived (so Far).
Being at nearly 40m did push our NDL a little, but thanks to our excellent training & skills, we were able to make the most of our dive time.
We spent most of the week exploring the 4 Cruisers on the sea bed: Karlsruhe , Brummer , Coln, & The Dresden.
The Karlsruhe being the shallowest is the most deteriorated, but is one of the most impressive being 495″ long, lying on her starboard side at only 25m to the seabed See David’s Video of her forward gun here:
We maximised our dive time viewing the Konigsberg class of light cruiser, her arms included 8x 5.9″ guns, 3x 3.45″ guns 4 batteries of 50mm AA guns & 120 mines.
As she is so shallow & broken, access to her interior is relatively easy for those qualified to do so, smothered in anemones, sea squirts, starfish a fish, her ruined shell is a pleasure to dive on.
The Brummer, Is unique in that it has a viewing platform mounted on the top of the bridge, this is not found on any other ship in the flow.
Also lying on her starboard side, we find one of the deck guns, looking along the barrel to the shielding, one can imagine how sailors felt knowing that firepower such as this was pointing at them.
The Coln, Officially classed as “A Small Protected Cruiser”?? 510″ long, 5620 ton, armed with 8x 5.9″ guns, 2x 50mm Anti Aircraft guns & 4x Torpedoes.
As the most intact of the fleet decend down the line to the davits, see the still intact crows nest, even some of her iron portholes are intact!
Swimming along to the bow, to see it’s graceful curve arcing away from you is a humbling sight,
then back along the vertical deck, viewing the gun emplacements, a officers accommodation, towards the midsection which is quite badly damaged.
The Dresden, Sister ship to the Coln, but with slightly different gun positions, hit by a torpedo from a British submarine, still being repaired when the order to be interred at Scapa was given.
On her port side, different to the other cruisers & fairly intact, the shallowest point is the bridge section at only 16m, her bows in 30m & the stern at 38m.
A lot of the forward deck is slowly peeling away revealing the interior, some penetration is possible, at the stern even though it’s the deepest point are 2 5.9″ guns, one of which is now lying on the seabed, Her bows are relatively intact and make a scenic backdrop for the photographers among us. We also dived a couple of Second world war Motor Torpedo boats, V83 & F2, along with one of the salvage barges (YC21) which sank adjacent to the F2 so we were able to dive this at the same time, an interesting dive as the 50mm AA guns from the F2 are pointing upwards from the YC21’s hold.
The Tabarka, a blockship in Burra sound, sunk to prevent enemy submarines entering the Flow as it was used as safe anchorage for the British Navy.
Inverted on the bottom at about 16m, negative entry used as tidal location, once inside the shelter of the wreck all is calm, disturbed by one of those pesky seals, lots of ambient light comes through, it’s broken in 2 split by the massive boilers you swim between to enter 1 half, back out through the side, around to enter the cavern like opening og the other half, Gin clear water!
Many congratulations to Johan, he completed both his Deep & Wreck Diver speciality qualifications on this trip, I can’t think of anywhere else with such impressive wrecks.
I would like to thank all that joined me on this trip & appreciation for the many photos & video taken by the following guests:
Nicola, David, Nigel, Vince, Johan, Greg.
And our models : Mark, Dave & Nick.
Hope you all had as good a time as I did,