Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands was the destination of a group of Sheephaven Divers last weekend, to what is probably one of the most iconic dive locations in these northern waters.
Until the advent of the Red Sea dive locations Scapa Flow was a considered to be the pinnacle of a diving career at the time.
The Orkney Islands are a few miles from the north of Scotland, just across the turbulent Pentland Firth.
Scapa Flow is steeped in Neolithic, Viking and contemporary history and it is a superbly sheltered anchorage inside the archipelago of islands.
Before it became a key British naval base in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries it was the primary landfall for both outgoing and returning vessels to the Artic North, with Login Well in Stromness being the source of fresh water in these circumstances.
Indeed the last place that the Franklin Artic Fleet was seen was in the Orkney’s when HMS Erebus and HMS Terror took on fresh water for their ill-fated journey in 1848 – never to be seen again.
After the armistice of the First World War the German Grand Fleet was sent to Scapa Flow and remained interned there with their crews by the summer of 1919.
In a final act of defiance the German crews carried out the single largest intentional sinking of shipping, when over 70 of the ships were deliberately scuttled at day break on the 21st June 2019.
From then into the 1970’s the ships were raised and towed away for salvage, with only 7 left behind, which are now the reason for diving in these waters nearly 100 years later.
The Sheephaven divers arrived in Stromness after three days driving from Donegal and are the guests of Ian and Fiona Trumness on board MV Invincible, which is a 27 metre timber built trawler, launched in 1962 and driven by a Carlston engine.
Over the next week there will be two dives a day, to an average depth of 35 metres in waters conditions quite similar to that at home – 14 degrees Celsius and an in-waste visibility of nearly 10 meters horizontally.
Diving commenced on Sunday with first the Coln II in the morning and then followed by the Bremmer in the afternoon. Both are in 35 metres of water and were dived as no-decompression dives on 32% nitrox.
The SMS Colm II was a Light Cruiser of 5,600 tonnes and 155m in length, while the SMS Brummer was a Bremse Class Light Cruiser of 4,308 tonnes and 139 metres in length.
Both were armed with 150mm guns (5.9 inches) and in the case of the Brummer capable of making 34 knots on her twin turbine oil fired engines.
Meanwhile back in Donegal there was a very challenging night dive undertaken by Sheephaven divers off Torneady Point on Wednesday evening, which is a part of the lead-up to an Instructors examination at a later time.
On Sunday morning the remaining Sheephaven divers were back in Burtonport on a dive at a reef appropriately named the Scotie – located between Burtonport and Arranmore Island – where they got a depth of 30 metres for 40 minutes in good visibility.