The latest technology is being used to reveal more about the wrecks lying in Scapa Flow and events that took place in the waters around Orkney 100 years ago.
Scapa 100 was launched on Wednesday 17th of October, 7pm at a packed Stromness Museum.
This small but important museum in Orkney’s second town has an amazing collection of artefacts salvaged from the wrecks from World War 1 lying in Scapa Flow.
The Scuttling of the German Fleet
With the signing of the Armistice on November 11th 1918 the surrendered German fleet was eventually moved to the sheltered waters of Scapa Flow, Orkney. On the 21st of June 1919 the German’s scuttled the ships. Nine Germans were shot and killed and about sixteen wounded aboard their lifeboats rowing towards land. Their graves can be found in Lyness Naval Cemetery, Hoy.
A huge salvage operation took place but those that remain have made Orkney a popular place for divers. As well as the wrecks of those ships scuttled there are also remains of vessels, from both sides, which sank due to enemy or accidental action.
As part of Scapa 100 the Stromness Museum has on show a pop up exhibition about the sinking of HMS Vanguard.
HMS Vanguard blew up on 9th of July 1917 due to an internal explosion. There were only 2 survivors out of the crew of 845. The site is a war grave .
New photographic digital technology is revealing more about the tragedy and the condition of the wreck.
UB116 – Talk by Simon Brown
Using a scooter on his diving expeditions Simon Brown took thousands of images of the remains of UB116. Along with archival research the aim is to try to understand what had happened to this German U-Boat.
On 28th of October 1918 UB 116 entered Hoxa Sound. It had managed to make its way through boom nets which had become seriously deteriorated. Unbeknown to its crew it had been picked up on the hydrophone system which detonated a remote controlled mine field. It was sunk with the loss of all lives. In the morning it was depth charged.
The work being done by Simon Brown and colleagues has revealed more of the story as it was rumoured that the crew was all of the officer class which would be highly unusual. The Admiralty’s own divers ‘The Tin Openers’ went inside to see what of importance could be retrieved. They took away the log book and other information. Diver Dusty Miller reported that every one of the crew was in officers’ uniforms.
The tale of the UB116 became something of a sensation and C.S. Forester wrote a play based on its fateful journey entitled “U97”. Never performed in the UK it did, however, become popular in 1930’s Germany.
The wreck of UB116 was only recorded on a chart for Hoxa Sound in 1940 – during World War 2. By the 1960s it had been sold for scrap and salvaging took place until an explosion from some of the armaments still on board.
Today the remains of UB116 are scattered over the immediate sea bed. With the building of the Flotta Oil Terminal and its infrastructure with the boom in oil coming in from Scotland’s North Sea the remaining armaments on the wreck were blown up.
You can read more about Simon’s work in his ibook “The Story of UB116”
Digital Heritage: Visualising the Wrecks of Scapa Flow
Professor Chris Rowland of Dundee University’s Djcad (Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design) and his colleague Professor Kari Hyttinen have been diving and using the 3D visualisation approach to survey the wrecks in Scapa Flow including HMS Royal Oak.
The technology at Dundee’s 3DVisLab is producing more accurate measurements and higher resolution images of the wrecks. This increases our knowledge of the vessels but it is also of use to divers planning a dive. Additionally it is a means of recording the changes taking place over time.
The wrecks of the German fleet have a lot of damage due to past salvage operations and the effects of the many divers who enjoy exploring them. This is not the case with the Royal Oak, a designated war grave, which has had a limited number of visits by divers.
Artefacts taken from the vessels are also being recorded using 3D digital techniques and the team are collaborating with Historic Environment Scotland on this project.
Professor Kari Hyttinen explained the techniques used to produce the amazing detail that can now be recorded. 3D photogrammetry captures colour, lighting and 3D form. It requires taking tens of thousands of individual images. The detail is outstanding and he demonstrated this with incredible 3D images of HMS Vanguard. This different and more detailed way of showing things results in different information coming from it. A VR (Virtual Reality) experience means people can visit the site by the use of a headset. It is hoped that more of the wrecks will be modelled in this way for the centenary of the scuttling in 1919.
If you visit the Stromness Museum there is also a timeline in the foyer.
Download the free App, follow the instructions and enjoy.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame