Posted on June 20, 2019
The vessels, which were part of the German High Seas fleet, were deliberately scuttled 100 years ago. When the listing first appeared on online auction site eBay, some assumed the advert was a hoax.
But the seller explained that they had been bought from a defunct salvage company. The vessels will now be sold to the highest bidder. The ships – the Markgraf, Karlsruhe, Konig and Kronprinz Wilhelm – are scheduled monuments, which recreational divers are not supposed to enter.
But Drew Crawford, agent for retired Tayside diving contractor Tommy Clark, said the owner of the wrecks would be allowed to access them. They cannot be removed from the seabed. Mr Crawford told BBC Radio Orkney it might be possible to obtain licences to retrieve artefacts from the ships, although the commercial salvage of the wrecks themselves would no longer be allowed.
He said: “The wrecks ended up under the ownership of Scapa Flow Salvage. That company went into receivership and they were put out for tender at the time, and Mr Clark purchased them from the receiver. There’s a sense of pride associated with these absolutely iconic vessels, but ultimately he’s come to a time in his life where he’s not going to do anything further with them, so it’s a case of passing the baton on to the next owner.”
The fleet had been interned in Scapa Flow after surrendering in the Firth of Forth. Admiral Ludwig von Reuter ordered the deliberate sinking of his ships in WW1 because he feared either the resumption of hostilities if treaty negotiations in Paris broke down, or the seizing of the fleet by the Allies as war reparations.
During the 1920s and 30s a number of the vessels were lifted from the sea bed by commercial contractors, and broken up.
Some historians argue that saved Orkney from the worst effects of the post-war recession.