Unlocking the history of Scapa flow

Thursday 14 June 2001

A seven-day survey to investigate the final resting place of the seven German warship wrecks at Scapa Flow, Orkney, began this week (beginning Tuesday 12th June, 2001).

In a unique collaboration between leading academic institutions and marine technology companies, the highest quality images ever taken of the remains of the German High Seas Fleet will be gathered to help promote the future protection of the site.

Using state-of-the-art marine survey techniques based on the multibeam sonar, the high resolution images of the vessels and their surroundings will be collected to support the management plans of ScapaMAP (Scapa Flow Maritime Archaeology Project).

From the survey vessel of the University of St Andrews’ Archaeological Diving Unit, marine survey experts are investigating the seven remaining wrecks of up to 25,000 tons and over 200m in length, in an area of flat, muddy seabed up to 50 meters deep.

The fact-finding survey will ensure the availability of the high level of marine environmental information required to maximise the site’s value, promote future protection, and encourage access by the widest possible community.

“We are creating a good framework for future management plans of the site. Scapa Flow is rich in heritage, and an alternative to more traditional historic ‘land’ sites. And with the support of Historic Scotland and the Carnegie Trust, we hope to increase understanding of the site, and promote better access to locals and visitors,” said Ian Oxley of ScapaMAP.

The naval wrecks at Scapa Flow form a unique underwater record of one of the great periods of British and German maritime history. The ships of the German High Seas Fleet fought through the Great War, and ended up scuttled at Scapa Flow, Orkney, on 21st June 1919.

Now in its fourth day, the survey is gathering invaluable high quality images of the wrecks.

“We are getting some truly wonderful images of the wrecks in a far greater resolution than anything we’ve seen before. We can see the ships lying on their sides, and how much damage has been caused over the years,” said Mark Lawrence of the University of St Andrews Archaeological Diving Unit.

“The technology is providing high quality baseline information about the wrecks. Gathering this information now will allow us to perform repeat monitoring surveys to track further changes in the wreckage.

The survey, organised by Heriot- Watt University’s Department of Civil & Offshore Engineering and International Centre for Island Technology, is being provided with marine survey expertise from The Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, the University of New Hampshire, USA, and sonar systems specialists, Reson Offshore Ltd; and assistance from TSS(UK) Ltd and Aberdeen-based GSE Rentals.


NOTE TO EDITORS – Mark Lawrence (University of St Andrews’ Archaeological Diving Unit)and Ian Oxley (ScapaMAP), currently at Scapa Flow, are available to interview by telephone on Friday 15th June (TODAY), 2001. Please call 01334 467227 to arrange an interview.


The Archaeological Diving Unit, based in the University of St Andrews, provides advice and technical support to the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media & Sport, and the heritage bodies in the Home Countries including Historic Scotland.

ScapaMAP (Scapa Flow Maritime Archaeology Project) is a research initiative based in the Department of Civil and Offshore Engineering, Heriot-Watt University, and promotes the better management of the archaeological and historical heritage resources submerged in Scapa Flow for the benefit of present and future generations. It is supported by Historic Scotland and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.

Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Island Technology, a specialist unit of the University’s Department of Civil & Offshore Engineering, was established to carry out advanced research, post-graduate training and consultancy in marine resource management and related issues.

RESON is a global, multidisciplinary systems house specialising in integrated sonar systems for naval, hydrographic and offshore applications. The corporate headquarters are located in Denmark, and wholly owned subsidiaries have been established in Santa Barbara, California; in Aberdeen, UK; and in Kiel, Germany.

The Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (C-COM)/ Joint Hydrographic Center (JHC) is a recently established University of New Hampshire, USA, program aimed at creating a national center for expertise in ocean mapping and hydrographic sciences.

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email [email protected]

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