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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Wartime shipwrecks are surveyed
Royal Oak marker
The wrecks of German warships are in Scapa Flow
A study of seven shipwrecks which lie in the sea off Orkney has begun.

The survey will take place around the warship wrecks of the German High Seas Fleet scuttled in Scapa Flow, Orkney, in 1919, over the next two weeks.

It is organised by Heriot-Watt University's Orkney-based department of civil and offshore engineering and international centre for island technology.

The study will use multibeam sonars to produce images of the vessels and what lies around them.


The naval wrecks of the Scapa Flow form a unique underwater record of one of the great periods of British and German maritime history

Bobby Forbes of Heriot Watt University
Divers will then go down and verify the seabed images produced by the technology.

The information collected will be used for the ScapaMAP, a Heriot-Watt University research initiative, aimed at promoting better management of the archaeological and historical heritage resources submerged in the Scapa Flow.

Bobby Forbes, the university's diving officer, said: "The naval wrecks of the Scapa Flow form a unique underwater record of one of the great periods of British and German maritime history.

"The ships of the German High Seas Fleet, in particular, fought through the Great War ending in Scapa Flow in internment and scuttling on June 21 1919."

He said seven wrecks of major warships remain in the Scapa Flow in an area of 8km square flat, muddy seabed in a depth of between 30 and 50 metres.

Unrealised potential

In between are parts of other wreckage associated with salvage activities on the existing wrecks and with vessels which were raised and subsequently scrapped.

Mr Forbes said the remains of the German High Seas Fleet represented an archaeological and historical resource of "unrealised potential".

He said they were of great interest to a range of people from salvage to recreational diving.

"Despite the archaeological potential and sensitivity of the remains of the High Seas Fleet, neither basic maps of the area nor the baseline data on which to build effective monitoring strategies of these sites in the future are currently available," he said.

In addition to Heriot-Watt University, the Joint Hydrographic Center (JHC) of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire, USA, Reson Offshore Ltd of Aberdeen and the Archaeological Diving Unit of the University of St Andrews are involved in the survey.

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