Scapa Flow – The Results

3D Work in Scapa

At least once a year we take the long drive north to Orkney and Scapa Flow for a week of diving onboard the MV Valkryie. The Flow has been used as a military base during both world wars and the German High Seas Fleet was interred and scuttled there in 1919. History is everywhere and the wrecks are simply world class. Naturally sheltered from the worst effects of the weather diving in the Flow is rarely blown out and this year was no exception.

A Sketchfab collection featuring some of the Scapa Flow work – old and new.

The sites dived were a mix of old favourites, known but rarely visited and…a completely new and previously undiscovered site.

The Mara

This former dive charter boat sits close to the F-2 and YC-21 Barge in Gutter Sound and is rarely dived. The wrecks in Gutter Sound are fairly shallow and tend to be covered in seaweed that occasionally causes havoc with image alignment as it moves around. The weed-infested Mara was no exception but the model built first time:

The Mara wheelhouse and steel superstructure is now collapsing into the wooden deck. Check out where the forward portholes are now facing – right into the forecastle. The 3D model is now geolocated thanks to sonar data kindly supplied by Kevin Heath at Sula Diving.

This wreck will be worthy of a second visit in a few years and will make a great case study for deterioration of wooden wrecks.

The U.B.116

With the 100th anniversary of the sinking of this submarine fast approaching (Watch this space for more news) we were keen to add in the conning tower to the main site. Its been 18 months since the model of the main site was created but the new data aligned well with the old, giving us a full model of the wreck:

The colour shift between the two sets of data is interesting. The first set – 1600 images – was shot in April 2017 under blue skies, sunshine and calm conditions with 20m visibility. The second set shot in October 2018 was under overcast skies, choppy seas and 6m of visibility. No amount of post-processing was going to correct the colour difference – its a bit like trying to make a midday photo look like it was taken at sunset – but it does make the new area obvious.

For such a small area we did not use the Heart of Gold but we did take a scooter. The Suex scooter was loaned for the trip by Brett Thorpe at Nautilus and it really helped when exploring the sonar targets to the east of the main site. The Heart of Gold was used again, but more on that later.

A New Find!

Kevin Heath at Sula Diving suggested we took a look at a sonar target recently found near the SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm. Lying in 39m of water the target was small but stood off the seabed (look for the dark shadow).

Sonar target in Scapa Flow – note the length of the shadow falling to the left of the target. Image © Kevin Heath/Sula Diving.

Valkryie skipper Helen dropped the shot line on the marks and a circular sweep – now scooter powered – found the target. The object, likely not seen for nearly 100 years, is an anchor from one of the German battleships interred in the Flow at the end of the First World War:

From the seabed to the top of the shank measures 2.5m and a bundle of massive chain is on the seabed next to the flukes. Research is ongoing to establish the identify of the ship this anchor has originated from.

The thrill of diving an unknown target is hard to put into words. Sometimes you find nothing or just a pile of junk but that risk is worth taking every time for those moments like this one. Big “Thank you” to Kevin and Helen for helping make this happen.

Topside Find

During the week Simon was asked to present his work and research into the wreck of the U.B.116 at the launch event at Stromness Museum for Scapa 100. It was a great opportunity to see the work of Chris Rowland and Kari Hyttinen and over 140 people attended.

During the evening the museum curator asked us to take a look at one of the exhibits entitled “Brass wheel from WW1 German submarine, Scapa Flow” but with no other details. Whilst we cannot be 100% certain all the evidence points towards the brass wheel originating from the U.B.116 and is a hydroplane control wheel. The full report will be published in due course.

More to come

It has been nearly a week since we returned from Scapa but the pile of data to be processed seems to have dropped only slightly. As the sites are processed they will be published and include some of the salvage sites close to Rysa Little and sections of the SMS Brummer, SMS Dresden and SMS Karlsruhe.