Monday 7th October
We arrived at the boat at 8.30 and all suits have been fixed by the Scuba elves and are hanging up ready for another days diving…… The work is so good you can’t see where the excess 2 inches have been removed!
We are quickly under way racing to the dive site. Emily explains that this morning we are going to dive the ‘COLN’, a Dresden class cruiser and sister ship of the Dresden, which we dived yesterday. She lies on her starboard side with a depth of 35 metres but extends up to 22 metres at her shallowest point.
1,2,3….. Grab the shot line, confirm no leaks and we descend. We start by looking around the bridge area. Just forward of the bridge is the conning tower, which still has most of the range finder in place (one arm is missing), with the space between clearly showing the remains of the walkway and structure. The conning tower door is open with interesting paraphernalia viewable along with the muzzle of a gun which was pushed through the side of the tower when the ship settled.
We then move along the deck towards the bow and pass 2 highly impressive gear and pivot mechanisms for the 5.9 inch forward mounted guns (which have been salvaged) before swimming on to the deck winches. Just below and above these, on the edge of both sides of the deck, are what appear to be empty chain boxes. We swim past these and follow the lower rail until we reach the bow post and admire her beautiful curves!
We are getting close to time so head back along the upper rail toward the shot line stopping to admire the smooth anchor shaped indentation on our way by.
We descend the same shot line and move toward the stern along the top rail, past two large lifeboat davits, until we came to a large torpedo storage locker mounted on the deck; this is now empty and you can clearly see from one end to the other. Continuing on we then come to some serious wreckage indicating the point at which salvagers entered into the engine room. As briefed we descend and follow the wreckage spill passing the stern mast laying stretched out on the sea bed. We ascend a little and swim along the roof of the officers accommodation (a deck house) which has one of the 2 stern guns mounted on top of it. This is quite spectacular, the gun is complete and the gun mounting can be viewed disappearing through the floor of the deck house into the ship below. Swimming on the second gun can be viewed on the deck directly aft of the house, carrying on around the stern and back toward the rudders via some rather lovely portholes. We tried looking for an opening that would allow us to view the manual emergency steering wheels, but we have run out of time so ascend onto the upper port rail and swim across the salvage wreckage before being reunited with the shot line.
What an awesome day!
Tuesday 7th October
Today is Battleship Day and we gather excitedly at the quay. There is much discussion about the weather as the wind is getting up and may scupper our Scapa adventures. With one eye on the weather Emily starts the dive briefing…… This morning we will dive the SMS Markgraf, a Konig class ship, 146 metres in length and weighing in at a mighty 26,000 tons sitting almost up turned on the sea bed at 45 metres. WOW! The briefing gives numerous options on how best to spend your bottom time but one of our adventurers decides this is an adventure too far so lets the brave boys explore by themselves.
The Markgraf has 10 x 12 inch guns which are completely buried underneath her in the silt and are not visible at any point. However, her starboard array of 7 x 5.9 inch casement guns are completely visible running down the side of the citadel, just off the seabed at a depth of about 38 metres. The brave decide to ‘do the gun run’ followed by an inspection of the beautiful rear of the upturned hull.
The boys descend onto the hull, just before the bow section and torpedo tube salvage damage. The shot is tied off to the anchor chain which is draped across the hull having wrapped itself around the ship as she rolled over. Having composed themselves at the bottom of the shot, they followed the chain in the wrong direction toward the far port side. Fortunately realising the error of their ways they turn around and follow the chain back across the upturned hull for 30 metres which gives an incredible feeling of just how vast this ship really is.
Dropping over the side into the ever increasing gloom, time is given for eyes to adjust and move forward to attempt to locate the most forward of the casement guns; success, what a sight! The long barrel simply appears out of the darkness. 1,2,3,4,5 guns poking out from beneath the 6.75 inch steel of the rotating turrets. We slowly ascend up onto the keel of this giant dreadnaught to the salvers damage. We spend some time looking round the gaping chasm which drops down through several decks of the engine room and view the prop shafts. Following her curves we continue towards the stern until the hull drops away in the direction of the rudders but these would have to wait for another day……
Safely back on the surface the routine of a pint of tea, warm up and briefing starts again. The wind has whipped up and the water is getting choppy. Emily once again sets about briefing us on our next dive; this was to be the Kronprinz Wilhelm, the sister ship of the Markgraf. She lies upturned in 38 metres with her keel at about 18 and the highlight of this dive would be visiting the 2 stern mounted, 12 inch gun turrets which can just be accessed on the port side of the vessel under the overhanging deck.
Now back at full complement, we descend the line down to about 34 metres before dropping the last few metres to attempt our visit to these huge 12 inch guns. From the outside you could see the upper gun lying alongside what had once been the top of the turret behind her. Moving along towards the stern ascending a little we pass a row of portholes and then give a quick pat of her pert little backside (on Emily’s behalf) before ascending over the stern to the 2 huge rudders still standing proudly above us. Having taken in the enormity of these 2 structures we ascend up toward the bottom of the ship being careful not to get drawn into the salvers wreckage as we go. As we move down the vast expanse of the hull we find a long lattice work of steel supports that held the armour plating in place before the salvers struck. As the cold starts to strike and our air is running low we signal the end of the dive and the SMB is sent to the surface.
As predicted the weather has picked up and it’s now blowing 20 mph gusting to 30 but forecasting worse for tomorrow which could mean no diving at all. Emily decides to offer a third dive in a more sheltered spot so we are in credit….. This would be the F 2, a German 2nd World War escort vessel similar to a destroyer and the YC 21, the barge that was being used in a salvage operation on the F 2 when she also sank in a storm. The F 2 measures 81 metres in length with a beam of 9 metres and displaced 756 tons. She lies on her port side and the stern has been severely wrecked by salvers over the years to the extent that it is barely recognisable as a ship. The two vessels lie 50 metres apart and are joined by a rope.
Feeling a little tired from all the exploring two adventurers decide to rest in the warmth of the Queen and send the single brave soul out to find new buddies! United with new friends the adventurer descends the line to the deck of the barge, which sits upright in 18 metres of water. Her open hold still contains the twin 20 mm anti-aircraft gun that had been salvaged from the F 2 prior to the night of the storm that sank the barge along with another single barrelled gun that lies underneath it. Emily recommended entering the hold to see the work bench with storage racking above and a large engineers vice clamped to its corner.
Having explored the barge the rope is followed to the F 2 and then the bow is investigated. The starboard anchor cable is still in place and runs from the anchor capstans, through the bow hawse and then down to the sea bed. Further along, the barrel of her 4.1 inch gun looms into view with its turret, which has an open back and the breach and inner workings are easily viewable. At such a shallow depth it is perfect for a picture to show the others what they have missed!
Back on the surface getting on the lift is a bit more challenging. Once all explorers are back aboard the Queen speeds back to the safety of the port. There is much discussion and weather checking……
Will we dive tomorrow………