Scapa Flow 2013 Trip Report

Thanks to PaulR for organising a great trip – even the weather was perfect!  All of the daily updates and photos from the dive trip have been pulled together into the archive below:

Day 1

At eight ‘o’ clock, the chip-fat fuelled, day-glow orange mini-bus (with no windows!)  departed Barnsley on its collection round of assorted divers including: PaulR, MarkR, MarkH, RobM and ChrisH followed by the backup support vehicle driven by WayneH).

The team battled it way through a Yorkshire monsoon to rendezvous with the support vehicle at Scotch Corner. After a quick caffeine fix and toilet break, the team pressed on to Stirling services to re-fuel with food (but not diesel!).

On into the Highlands the team stopped to replenish the day-glow orange mini-bus with the contents of a deep fat fryer complete with chip shop scraps. Then onwards and upwards to the luxury Inverness Premier Inn arriving at 6pm for a well deserved shower, hot meal, beer and bed.

Day 2

The day-glow orange team bus struck out from Inverness at 8:15 following a swift breakfast aiming to make the 12pm ferry from Scrabster. The chip-fat fuelled team bus and support vehicle negotiated the winding country lanes and arrived at the end of Scotland ahead of time at the ferry terminal.

Dive kit and luggage safely on-board the cargo containers, the team settled into a small corner of the ferry to gorge on stew and dumplings. Despite a choppy crossing, all team members successfully retained their food. The ‘Old Man of Hoy’ was sighted along with the wakes caused by the block ships guarding the entrance to Scapa Flow. And the sun finally came out!

Once on-shore, the dive guide ‘Dougie’ met the team at the Stromness Ferry terminal. The dive gear was duly unloaded into the boat and the remainder of the the kit transferred to accommodation. With the rest of the day to itself, the team headed off in the new blue team bus to the ancient village of Skara Brae for a spot of sight-seeing and exploration.

A fantastic day ended with a visit to the local hostelries with the team full of excitement and anticipation of the diving ahead…

Day 3

First day of diving on a perfect sunny Orkney morning. All aboard the John L at 9 o clock after a hearty breakfast to start fettling our kit whilst the skipper filled the cylinders.

First dive was the SMS Dresden at a depth of 24m (top) to 38m (bottom). Visibility was unbelievable… Sea temperature was surprisingly warm at a balmy 13 degrees. A good shakedown dive to iron out all the equipment tweaks made much easier by the diver lift.

Following de-kitting and debrief, the John L headed for the Scapa Wartime museum on Hoy for off-gassing, soup, and sight-seeing. A cracking museum – well worth the visit!

Back onboard the John L, the team made its way back into the ‘Flow to experience the triple wrecks of the ‘F2’ German Corvette, Salvage Barge, and a sunken dive boat, the ‘Mara’ – all less than 18m. Lots of Wrasse, Starfish, Ling, Horse Mussels and visible wrecks!

Mark R collected a bag full of Horse Mussels to cook in butter, garlic, white wine and seasoning (which, after much Googling, no-one in the team had the nerve to eat). The seagulls in the Orkneys were well fed though. The team opted for a fish supper in Stromness along with a taste of the local Ale.

Day 4

The team arose this morning to the best weather so far – a balmy, calm sunny day perfect for diving. Reminder to self – remember sun-cream tomorrow! Today was Percy the Posing Puffin’s inaugural dive.

First dive of the day was on the SMS Coln – 38m to the bed, 25m from the top of the wreck. This was the most intact wreck so far and all team members thought they found guns! Large holes and entry points offered many opportunities for penetration. Vis was much improved over previous dives. Rob, Wayne and Percy were the only team members that avoided deco.

Second dive was on the SMS Karlsruhe – the most broken up ship of the German fleet in the ‘Flow which exposed the inner workings of the ship. All of he wrecks so far have had loads of sea-life, but this wet scrapyard was the best yet with abundant anemones, fish, and all kinds of starfish.

The day ended with a team visit to ancient stone ring of Brodgar and Wideford Hill (panoramic views over the Islands). The team finally headed back to base to experience a WayneH special chilli-con-carne with lashings of red wine.

Day 5

Congratulations to Chris Hill who has successfully qualified as Dive leader on this trip!

The first dive of today was the SMS Brummer – a light mine-laying cruiser laying at 36m. The weather was overcast and cooler with a light swell. Similar to most of the German Fleet wrecks this was a dark wreck which makes photography challenging! Descending the shot line brought the divers to one of the six inch guns with its firing mechanism exposed. The bridge was identifiable, but other areas were very broken tempting the divers to identify every girder as a gun!

The second dive was totally different – the block ship ‘Goberanada Boris’ at a depth of only 16m. Because block ships are swept by tides the team was given a strict limit of 30 minutes bottom time. Visibility was incredible and in excess of 20m!!! (see the pictures). The wreck was rich in marine life – conger eels, wrasse and a very large lobster. Note to MarkR, buddy lines must be fastened at least at one end (Rob was offered a loose piece of string)!!

Unfortunately, the party became five following Wayne’s planned early departure – on the positive side Rob doesn’t get disturbed by Wayne’s midnight pillow(ck) talk, and, Aiden the cabin boy will have an easier life!

Paul’s Post-Dive Tours today took the team to the wonderful Italian Chapel (or ‘painted allotment shed’ according to Chris) and Churchill Barriers. These are feats of wartime engineering built by the Italian PoW’s, however the late Mr Rushton would have had them re-lay every course a lot straighter!!

Day 6

The team set out from a slightly drizzly Stromness full of anticipation for the first dive on one of the big three German Fleet Battleships – the gigantic SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm (the Beast). Descending the shot line the team passed a rudder the size of a semi-detached house! Reaching the seabed at 38m the massive, ‘unmissable’ 12” turret guns came into view (for some of us…). Unfortunately the low light made photography difficult, but the team was amazed by the sheer scale of the ship.

The afternoon slack tide gave the team the opportunity to dive the ‘Tabarka’ (the Beauty – a small upside down block ship). As this wreck had current and no shot line, the team was required to make a negative entry (immediate descent on entering the water). MarkH demonstrated this perfectly by plummeting to end up spread-eagled on the seabed, blending in with surrounding starfish!

The ‘Tabarka’ lies upside down on the sea bed and the dive takes place inside the hull giving the feeling of being inside a cathedral with windows all around. Our photos do not give this dive justice. Because this dive is in the tidal flow, it was frustratingly time-limited to a strict 35 minutes, but all team members could have happily remained there all day!!

Post-dive notes: MarkH (aka ‘the Deco King’)– its no good just testing your Nitrox gas mix, you must also enter the value into your dive computer!

Percy the Posing Puffin now has his own dive logbook and is standing for the committee in January.

Pre-dive notes: Chris was found in bed with a strange bird and may have some explaining to do!

Day 7

Today was the day of repeats – the team re-visited the SMS Coln and the Block Ship ‘Tabarka’.

First dive was the SMS Coln for which the team had set itself the objective of finding and photographing the three sets of guns – the 88mm high elevation gun, and, the two sets of stern mounted 6” guns. The dive went completely to plan with all team members visiting all three sets of guns. The big 6” guns were far too big for still photography, but some motion photography was attempted.

Following the dive, the team had several hours of surface time in order to wait for slack water in order to re-dive the block ship ‘Tabarka’. This gave the team a couple of hours shopping in Stromness to buy lobsters and lamb for the evening meal.

By the time the team dived the ‘Tabarka’ the skies had clouded over which unfortunately made it a slightly darker dive than yesterday, but still no less than impressive. The current picked up quicker than yesterdays dive which resulted in a high speed drift whilst ascending on DSMB’s, but the skipper was once again in the right place to pick up all divers quickly.

Life is tough in the Orkneys – the team had to eat in and make do with roast lamb, lobster and scallops.

Percy the Posing Puffin will return…

Day 8

The team decided to finish its last day of diving on more relaxing dive sites of the SMS Seydiltz debris field, and a return visit to the WW2 German Corvette ‘F2’ and the 1995 wreck of the dive boat ‘MV Mara’.

The first dive was onto the Seydlitz debris field at 20m (the remains of the botched salvage operation of the SMS Seydlitz). The first highlight for divers is one of the gun turrets, which is made easy to find due to the shot-line being attached to the gun barrel. This ensures that the gun turret is impossible to miss (hey Paul and MarkH?).

This site consisted of numerous lumps of hardware separated by stretches of seabed. The whole site was heaving with all types of marine life – dancing clams, starfish, eels, wrasse, scorpion fish and scallops (Yum)! One of the surprises on this dive was coming across a large cylindrical vessel (oil tank?) with several large holes that was awash with hundreds of small fish – just like a tropical aquarium!!

The Seydlitz debris field dive demonstrated that there is more to diving in Scapa Flow than just big German warships.

In between dives the team took the opportunity to re-visit the Scapa Flow museum on Lyness on the island of Hoy. This time the team visited an excellent exhibition held in a converted oil storage tank.

The final dive of this trip was the MV Mara dive boat which is near to the F2 WW2 Corvette. The Mara is an upright wooden vessel where many of the timbers have rotted away allowing good views of the internal structure and fittings. The Mara is teeming with life. The team saw Conger Eels, pipefish, wrasse, and shoals of small fry.

There is a convenient 130m guide rope linking the Mara to the F2 which the team used to pull itself against a cross-current to the middle of the F2. ALL of the team found the guns on the F2 (eventually!).

Following a fulfilling day of diving we all returned to Stromness for a team photo with Angus the skipper, Aiden the cabin boy, and, Hector the canine dive marshall. This was followed by superb meal and a few beers at the Ferry Inn.

Share this page: