SATURDAY MORNING Heritage management II



Chaired by Prof Colin Richards, Archaeologist & Trustee of Stromness Museum



The German Fleet Today: Orkney’s Salvage Legacy

Keynote Speaker EMILY TURTON – Dive boat skipper & Founding member of the Scapa 100 Initiative

This talk will explore the impact of blast salvage on the remaining wrecks in Scapa Flow and its lasting legacy within an Orkney context. It will also look at the development of the diving industry from commercial salvage divers to recreational diving today.



The German Fleet Salvage Sites:  A marine archaeology survey of what was left behind

MARK LITTLEWOOD – Project Officer (Consultancy), AOC Archaeology Group

This paper will present the current state of ongoing research into the underwater sites of scrapping of the German World War One High Seas Fleet.

The two-phase Scrap Sites Project commissioned by Historic Environment Scotland, and undertaken by ORCA Marine and SULA Diving, utilised a team comprising marine archaeologists, Orkney Dive Boat Operators, international teams of avocational divers, wreck researchers, Orkney marine scientists and an ongoing archival research group. This diverse group utilised historical records, marine geophysical surveys and diver ground truthing and recording to piece together the history of the scuttling of the High Seas Fleet and its subsequent salvage over the decades that followed that momentous day, establishing and documenting the extent and nature of the remains that are still in-situ on the seabed of Scapa Flow.



Decompression Illness in Scapa Flow

DR ANDREW TREVETT  – Orkney Hyperbaric Chamber

Scapa Flow is a major destination for recreational diving with around 15-20,000 recreational dives each year. In addition there is considerable commercial diving in Orkney waters including shellfish, salmon farms, marine energy and maintenance. The Orkney Hyperbaric Unit treats around 20 divers with decompression illness (DCI) each year and is one of the busiest emergency hyperbaric facilities in the UK. Since the opening of the unit in 1999 more than 400 cases of DCI have been treated in Stromness. Decompression illness was also a significant problem during the salvage of the German Fleet, both associated with diving and with Caisson work. It would appear that this was simply seen as an occupational hazard of what was very dangerous work. This talk looks at what we have learned about decompression illness presenting in Orkney and also a look at personal records from 100 years ago.  




Diving into the Archives: Desk-based assessment of dangerous wrecks and environmental hazards

BEN SAUNDERS – Wessex Archaeology Coastal & Marine & MATT SKELHORN Ministry of Defence SALMO

The Ministry of Defence Salvage and Marine Operations (SALMO) team have been pioneering the in situ removal of trapped oils and hazardous material from sunken wrecks since the mid 1990s following reported oil leaks from HMS Royal Oak (sunk in Scapa Flow in 1939). With the reporting of oil leaks from the fleet oiler RFA Darkdale (sunk just off St Helena in 1941 and previously thought to be empty of fuel oil) it became clear that the issue extended beyond the purely naval/military wrecks and that the information held by the MoD on wrecks in military service was incomplete and occasionally incorrect. Given the huge range in armaments, fuel and engineering oils required on naval vessels across the 20th century, it was equally clear that the assessment of these wrecks would be equally complex. 

Wessex Archaeology Coastal & Marine was contracted to prepare desk-based assessments of wrecks identified by the SALMO team as having potential to contain significant quantities of hazardous materials. These included aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, fleet oilers and tankers. The desk-based assessments would look into the manufacture of the ship, the history of the vessel, the history of the sinking or loss, any salvage or assessments of the ship after its sinking, the quantities of hazardous material onboard and then bring these aspects together in a general assessment of the ship’s hazardous potential. From this work it became clear that a better understanding of naval oils was required, due to different and changing chemical compositions over time and around the world. This presentation will work through the process of desk-based assessment of wrecks with a local example: HMS Vanguard (sunk in Scapa Flow in 1917) which was assessed in 2017. The presentation will also present the findings of the study into naval oils completed in 2018.


Divers 1983.23 crop-2

Clio (II) & Aorangi: The Forgotten Blockships of World War One

MARK LITTLEWOOD – Project Officer (Consultancy), AOC Archaeology Group

This year, Historic Environment Scotland are consulting stakeholders on a proposal designating several Historic Marine Protected Areas (HMPA) within Scapa Flow and along the four Churchill Barriers; the four areas along the barriers encompass ships and barges that were sunk to block the eastern entrances to Scapa Flow during World War One and World War Two. Excluded from the proposed HMPAs are the World War One blockships, Aorangi and Clio (II); on the basis that they are no longer in-situ in their intended positions. 

Clio (II) has never been moved; the scuttling charge failed and the intended blockship drifted with the current before finally sinking at its current position. As a result of the failure to scuttle it in the correct position additional alternative resources had to be invested to fill the gap. 

Aorangi was originally scuttled in Kirk Sound on the 10th of August 1915, abutting the Numidian. Subsequently re-floated, Aorangi was moved and re-sunk in its current position in 1920 to re-open Kirk Sound for fishing. Numidian was also re-orientated in 1923 to increase the size of the navigable channel in Kirk Sound. This had serious implications in the Second World War as the gap left by the movement of Aorangi and the alteration in the orientation of Numidian was used by Prien in U-47 to access Scapa Flow and torpedo HMS Royal Oak.

12:00-12:30pm QUESTION TIME

images:  Orkney Library & Archive