Marine survey uncovers the hidden secrets of Scapa Flow naval graveyard

A sonar mapping of the Urmstane Grange

By Alistair Munro - The Scostman

The seabed of Scapa Flow is a shipwreck graveyard – an underwater maritime museum – with wrecks from the two World Wars.

The former naval base in Orkney was the scene of the largest intentional sinking in seafaring history when, in 1919, a German fleet scuttled 74 ships at the end of the First World War to prevent them from falling into British hands.

Now, a remarkable new sub-sea survey has mapped 18 sites revealing previously unseen

detail of wreckage and contributing valuable information about Scapa Flow’s immense history.

Historic Scotland commissioned Wessex Archaeology to carry out the survey over two days in partnership with Netsurvey, a contractor for the Ministry of Defence.

Unprecedented detail has been found on merchant ships from both the First and Second World Wars, a German submarine, and a trawler used to operate boom defences at the entrance to Scapa Flow.

The results, which have been posted online, were derived from high resolution sonar surveys on the sea bed.

They build on earlier work from the ScapaMap project in 2001 and 2006, and MoD studies undertaken to record the wreck of the battleship HMS Royal Oak, torpedoed at the beginning of the Second World War with the loss of 833 lives.

Philip Robertson, of Historic Scotland, said: “The surveys are adding significantly to our understanding of what remains of the famous history of the wartime naval base of Scapa Flow, and the defence of the naval anchorage.

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