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New marine survey reveals Scapa Flow wrecks in unprecedented detail

12 July 2012

                                         Burra Sound at Scapa Flow

A new sub-sea survey of Scapa Flow at Orkney has mapped nearly twenty important historic wrecks, revealing previously unseen detail and contributing valuable information about the history of this important wartime naval base.

Historic Scotland commissioned Wessex Archaeology to carry out the survey over two days in partnership with Netsurvey, contractors for the Ministry of Defence. Remarkable new details have been found on scuttled merchant ships from 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, available online at were derived from high resolution sonar surveys on the sea bed, and build on earlier work from the ScapaMap project in 2001 and 2006, and Ministry of Defence studies undertaken to record the wreck of the battleship HMS Royal Oak.

Philip Robertson, Historic Scotland’s Deputy Head of Scheduling and Marine 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.

“We hope the results will be of interest to the thousands of recreational divers who visit Scapa Flow every year, and that those who don’t dive will also enjoy this insight into the heritage that survives beneath the waves.”

Paul Baggaley, Wessex Archaeology’s Head of Geophysics, said:

“We hope this survey of 18 sites has helped bring new information to light, and that it will provide a useful basis for efforts to monitor the condition of the wrecks in Scapa Flow, and conserve them for future generations to enjoy.”

The survey findings will help Historic Scotland to consider the case for a Historic Marine Protected Area, to improve protection for Scapa Flow’s most important marine heritage sites under the Scottish Parliament’s new marine legislation.

Any proposals to create a Marine Protected Area for sites in Scapa Flow would be subject to discussions with stakeholders in Orkney, and formal consultation processes.

Notes for editors

  • 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 cruiser/ battleship wrecks of the High Seas Fleet, designated as scheduled monuments, the salvage sites of the German High Seas Fleet north and west of the Cava island, and the Royal Navy anchorage, including remains of the 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 this wreck.

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with ensuring that our historic environment provides a strong foundation for a successful future for Scotland. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

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  • The Year of Creative Scotland began on January 1, 2012 and will spotlight and celebrate Scotland’s cultural and creative strengths on a world stage. Through a dynamic and exciting year-long programme of activity celebrating our world-class events, festivals, culture and heritage, the year puts Scotland’s culture and creativity in the international spotlight with a focus on cultural tourism and developing the events industry and creative sector in Scotland. More information about the programme can be found at:

  • The Year of Creative Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative led in partnership by EventScotland, VisitScotland, Creative Scotland and VOCAL. More information and resources to help businesses engage with Year of Creative Scotland are available at

                                                  Year of Creative Scotland 2012

For further information

David Gray
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8588 or 07854 366 805