Furness Diving Clubs trip to Scapa took place 27th June this year on the MV Karin, a 24m live-aboard charter vessel with seven twin berth cabins two roomy walk in showers and toilets and a large heated day room.
We drove up to Scrabster on the north coast and took the early morning ferry to Stromness passing by the old Man of Hoy on the way.
Two dives were undertaken on each of the six day charter. Whilst water visibility was not great due to the amount of plankton around at that time of the year we were blessed by sunny calm weather and relatively warm waters (11C).
Dives were typically in the 30-35m range for approximately forty minutes or so but also a number of really interesting shallower dives too. Generally the sites had shot lines in place though DSMBs were often used for ascent.
Multiple deep dives made deco stops inevitable but water temperatures made these comfortable and tidal currents were only slight. Most were diving with twin sets but a couple with single 15L and ponies.
The wrecks themselves provided much interest however the sea bed and ships themselves were covered in life. Many sea stars, Deadman’s fingers, anemones, sea urchins ad well as numerous fish of all sizes.
Plenty of time between dives to rest and relax and in the evening we returned to Stromness giving time to wander through the village and visit a few hostelries.
Scapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands in Scotland at the tip of the UK. The waters in Scapa are sheltered by the Islands that surround this body of water forming a natural harbour which used to be one of the main anchorage spots of the Royal Navy. If historic wreck diving is a type of diving that you think might interest you then Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands is a must. It was once hailed as ‘Europe’s‘by the Independent.
The main ship wrecks are all part of a German fleet which were taken to Scapa at the end of the First World War in 1919 whist Armistice Negotiations took place including a decision on what was to become of the fleet. Prior to a conclusion of the talks the German Commander Admiral Ludwig von Reuter on 21st June 1919 secretly ordered the scuttling of the fleet scuttled the fleet. Of the 74 ships present 52 sank. Many have been salvaged over the years leaving the ‘big eight’ significant wrecks largely intact including:
SMS Dresden (Köln Class Light Cruiser), SMS Köln (Köln Class Light Cruiser), SMS Karlsruhe (Class Cruiser), SMS Brummer (Mine Laying Cruiser), SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm (König class battlecruiser), SMS Markgraf (Battleship), SMS Konig (König class battleship) and V-83 (Destroyer). Other wrecks in the area include the deliberately sunk block ships of the Churchill Barrier built to protect the home fleet from attack by German U boats.
Dive 1 As a shakedown dive we chose the SMS Karlsruhe which sits in 26m of water on its starboard side. The depth to the uppermost hull plates is approximately 15m. We descended the bow shot went out onto the mast to find the foreword lookout and explored the foreword gun turrets and fire control tower.
Dive 2 on the F2 Escort vessel and YC21 salvage barge took place in the afternoon in 17m of water. The sunken barge was being used to salvage parts of the Escort vessel and contains a couple of anti-aircraft guns in its hold. The two vessels in shallow water were covered in Marine life and hosted a large number of fish.
Dive 3 on the SMS Köln lying in 35m of water on her starboard side. The east depth over the hull plates is 20m. An impressive vessel with portholes along the upper side of its hull.
Dive 4 a drift dive in about 20m of water initially on a block ship then along a kelp and boulder sea bed.
Dive 5 was on the Dresden. The stern of SMS Dresden sits at about 38 metres some 155 metres away from the bow.
Dive 6 was on the submarine U116 in 30m. The submarine itself had exploded and there were scattered remains across the sea bed. The conning tower was clearly visible and the site was host to a large number of fish and conger eels.
Dive 7 was on the Brummer
Dive 8 Karlsruhe again this time from the stern shot
Dive 9 was on the Kronprinz Wilhelm. The majority of this immense wreck is in less 30 metres of water. The top of the hull is standing is in just 12 metres of water. The wreck has turned turtle and to see any deck features you need to swim along the sea bed and peer under the hull.
Dive 10 YC21 and F2 again
Dive 11 Dresden (stern)
Dive 12 on the V83 Torpedo boat destroyer, a boat which was beached now lying in 15m of water with its stern largely intact and with a memorable anti-aircraft gun in situ with its barrel pointed skyward.
Another trip to the far north is planned in 2023 this time to the Shetlands.