Posted on November 2, 2018
Germany’s High Seas Fleet was interned at the Royal Navy’s base at Scapa Flow at the end of World War One. The fleet’s commander, Admiral Ludwig Von Reuter, believed that his ships were to be seized as spoils of war and divided up between the victorious Allies. He felt duty-bound not to let that happen. This action resulted in the sinking of 50 of the 74 interned vessels. In the years before World War Two, 42 of these vessels were salvaged and various components of the ships’ structures lie on the seabed marking these wreck sites. The latest phase of the survey has concentrated on the debris left behind when the wrecks in deep water around the island of Cava were salvaged. The vessels salvaged included the battleship Kaiser and the battle cruiser Moltke. The project is led by Pete Higgins, senior project manager at Orca, and Sula Diving’s Kevin Heath on behalf of Historic Environment Scotland (HES). Voluntary assistance has also been given by experienced divers from the Scapa Flow diving community, Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University, the British and Orkney Sub Aqua Clubs and divers visiting Orkney from all over the world. Major components of ship structures and equipment such as masts, searchlights, plating, small boats known as steam pinnaces, funnels and spotting tops were identified at the scrap sites. As this wreckage is relatively broken up and lacks statutory protection, the sites are currently vulnerable to modern salvage activity, said Orca.