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New marine survey project target remains on the seabed of Scapa Flow

18 October 2013

New marine surveys to target wartime remains will be taking place in Scapa Flow, Orkney between the 21st October and the 30th November 2013.  

The surveys have been commissioned by Historic Scotland and will provide information on the extent, survival and condition of a number of marine cultural heritage sites that have not been recorded by previous work around the Islands.  

Orca Marine, a Department of Orkney College and Sula Diving, will target sites which will be recorded using a side-scan sonar and then dived on to identify the nature and character of the remains.  The work will focus on  the remains of blockships around the Churchill Barriers and a number of other sites in and around the Gutter Sound.  

It will also help Historic Scotland to consider the case for a  Historic Marine Protected Area focused on the wartime underwater remains in the Flow.

Last year, Historic Scotland commissioned sonar surveys of the sea bed revealing new details of scuttled merchant ships from WWI and WWII.  It also identified a German submarine and a trawler used to operate boom defences at the entrance to Scapa Flow.

Work will focus on the following target sites:

  • The blockships around Churchill Barriers 1-4
  • Prudentia
  • HMS Roedean
  • HMS Rose Valley
  • Clestrain Hurdles, Clestrain Sound
  • Potential Spitfire wreck, Barrel of Butter
  • Geophysical anomalies identified during previous surveys:
  • East of Cava and north of Flotta (4 sites);
  • In Gutter Sound (10 sites) and;
  • Near Crockness and Longhope (2 sites)

This research built on earlier work from the Scapa Map project in 2001 and 2006, and Ministry of Defence studies of the wreck of the battleship HMS Royal Oak.  

Initial discussions with stakeholders took place in Orkney in May 2013.  The outcomes of the surveys will be made available at a workshop in Orkney, which will be organised by Historic Scotland and facilitated by the Marine Archaeology Forum in Spring 2014 as part of consultations around the designation of parts of Scapa Flow as a Historic Marine Protected Area. There will also be a series of community lectures.  

Andrew Fulton, Senior Designations Office said:

“Scapa Flow was used in both world wars as a main harbour for the Royal Navy.  Historians and archaeologists have increasingly recognised the diversity of remains on the seabed.  This work will increase our understanding of Scapa flow’s marine heritage sites and fill the gaps in our mapping.  

“The sites are deteriorating and this makes the case for recording them even stronger.  This will enhance our understanding of the historic marine environment and provide an up-to-date record of important sites”  

Dr Annalisa Christie, Marine Archaeologist, ORCA Marine said:

“As a local company ORCA Marine are aware of the importance of the wartime heritage in Scapa Flow to the local community and the tourism sector.  In leading this project, we are excited to be involved in the recording and potential identification of sites, and helping to preserve these sites to the benefit of local businesses, community members and dive boat operators.”

Notes for editors:

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

  • Scapa Flow, Orkney was the home base for the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet in World War One, the northern base for the Home Fleet in World War 2, scene of the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in 1919 and the largest intentional sinking in worldwide naval history. Previous seabed surveys by the ScapaMap project in 2001-2006, supported by Historic Scotland, have helped to record the remaining light crusier/battleship wrecks of the High Seas Fleet, designated as scheduled monuments, and the salvage sites of the German High Seas Fleet north and west of the Cava island, and the Royal Navy anchorage, including remains of HMS Vanguard.  For information see The Ministry of Defence has also undertaken periodic surveys of the battleship HMS Royal Oak to monitor the condition of the wreck.  

  • 2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland, inspiring our people and our visitors to celebrate Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty, landscapes and biodiversity as Scotland prepares to welcome the world in 2014 and beyond. Find out more about Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty at

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For further information

Laura Shaw
Media & PR Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8588 or 07854 366 805