Researchers from the University's Orkney campus are taking part in a maritime archaeology project surveying shipwrecks of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow and the war graves HMS Hampshire, HMS Vanguard and HMS Royal Oak.
We are pleased to be working collaboratively with such a wide range of specialists to provide high quality data which will contribute to the understanding of these important marine archaeology sites.
The project, led by ORCA (Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology), University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and Kevin Heath of SULA Diving, is run under the licence from the Ministry of Defense. The data collected will be used to continue to monitor, protect, conserve and promote these impressive ship wrecks, as well as to provide visualisations.
The Heriot-Watt team will provide marine biological surveys of the wreck sites by ROV survey and by Scientific Diving. The archival research and archaeological remote evaluation surveys of the project will lead to a full understanding of the condition of the wreck sites, contribute to enhanced heritage displays, provide data for academic research and support activities and material for public engagement.
The High Seas Fleet was the battle fleet of the German Imperial Navy in World War One. On 21 June 1919, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter gave the order to scuttle the 74 ships of the High Seas Fleet located in Scapa Flow. 52 vessels were successfully scuttled, although during the interwar period salvage operations lifted 45 of these vessels from the seafloor. Today the wrecks of three battleships and four light cruisers remain on the seabed of Scapa Flow.
HMS Hampshire was an armoured cruiser assigned to transport Field Marshal Lord Kitchener to Archangel in northern Russia for a meeting with Tsar Nicholas II. During this assignment the ship struck a mine off Marwick Head, on the west coast of Orkney. She sank in twenty minutes with a loss of 737 men including Lord Kitchener.
HMS Royal Oak was a revenge class Battleship, sat at anchor when struck by torpedoes fired from a U-boat, resulting in the loss of 833 lives.
HMS Vanguard was a St. Vincent class dreadnought battleship destroyed at her mooring by a series of explosions. 843 men were lost out of the 845 people on board.
Paul Sharman, ORCA Senior Projects Manager, added that, “We are proud and feel privileged to be involved with this important project. We are pleased to be working collaboratively with such a wide range of specialists to provide high quality data which will contribute to the understanding of these important marine archaeology sites and commemorate the sacrifice made by the personnel who were on board HMS Vanguard, HMS Hampshire and HMS Royal Oak.”