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Images of Scuttled German Fleet Revealed

8 November 2006

The most detailed 3D images available of the wrecks of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow have been recorded.

A week-long survey of the seven remaining vessels, scuttled in 1919, has just been carried out by ScapaMAP (Scapa Flow Maritime Archaeology Project), a consortium of organisations including Historic Scotland, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), NetSurvey, the University of New Hampshire and SULA Diving.

The survey used the latest, high resolution multibeam sonar to record the wrecks and the surrounding seabed. This sonar generates 3D images which will be compared to similar maps compiled by ScapaMap in 2001.

Bobby Forbes of SULA Diving has been supervising the project aboard the MCA’s vessel the Anglian Sovereign.

He said: "Having Brian Calder from the Centre for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM) at the University of New Hampshire, who had been involved in the 2001 survey and NetSurvey, who operate the system for the MCA, was a huge bonus to the project.

"Over the last few years data analysis processes have advanced significantly, allowing high quality imagery. By reprocessing the 2001 data using these new techniques we should be able to look at structural changes at the sites.

"Divers will detail these changes using high resolution video and stills photography to provide a baseline for future survey work looking at how large iron vessels deteriorate. Not only will this information be of value to the ScapaMAP project but also in monitoring some of the numerous wrecks around the coast of the UK that are of historical or environmental interest.”

Phillip Robertson, Inspector of Ancient Monuments with Historic Scotland, added: "By comparing this year’s work with previous surveys from 2001, we will begin to understand the extent to which these wrecks are deteriorating and how we approach their continued management.

"In the short term, the images from the ScapaMAP work will hopefully enhance understanding and appreciation of these monuments by charter boat owners and divers whose vigilance we depend on to assist in the protection of the scheduled wrecks.’

Rob Spillard, Hydrography Manager of MCA, said: "The MCA was pleased to be involved with this project. The survey really brought the story of the scuttling of the German fleet to life and enabled us to fully test the capabilities of the state-of-the-art multibeam echosounder fitted on the Anglian Sovereign.

"In addition, the hydrographic survey data will help us keep UK nautical charts in the area as  up-to-date as possible."

In the longer term, it is hoped that these images will be incorporated into a CD-Rom that will be available to divers intending to visit the wrecks off the coast of Orkney or anyone with an interest in one of the great periods of British and German maritime history.

The wrecks are the only remains of the large vessels of the German High Seas Fleet, scuttled on June 21, 1919, to have survived commercial salvage activity and are legally protected as scheduled ancient monuments of national importance.

Notes to Editors
  • Images from the survey are available from Lesley Brown at

  • Scientific Underwater Logistics And Diving (SULA Diving) is based in Orkney and can be contacted on 01856 850285 or 07793 225479

  • Rob Spillard of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency can be contacted on 023 8032 9341 or 07776 454688.

  • The three battleships are the Konig, Kronprinz Willhelm and Markgraf. Each is about 175 metres long and originally weighed over 25,000 tons. All lie to the northeast of the island of Cava.

  • The four light cruisers are the Brummer, Dresden, Karlsruhe and Köln. They range from 142 metres to 155 metres long and weigh from 4,308 tones to 5,531 tons. Three lie to the northeast of Cava, while the Karlsruhe lies to the northwest.

  • The wrecks became legally protected in 2001 when Historic Scotland, acting on behalf of Scottish Ministers, scheduled them as monuments of national importance under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Divers do not require a special license to visit the wrecks but it is a criminal offence to damage a scheduled ancient monument.

For further information

Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07788 923873