The Scapa Flow Scuttling: Supporting a Community Centennial Review of its Past, Present and Future
Following its surrender and internment, the German fleet was scuttled in Scapa Flow, Orkney on 21 June 1919. Salvage operations raised most of the ships; seven remain on the seabed. The wrecks have been extensively dived, and a series of multi-beam sonar mapping exercises have attempted to measure the wrecks’ changing structures over recent years. What has not been researched is how these wrecks have changed over time, both in terms of physical decay and in terms of their changing meanings for the public. Nor has full consideration been given to what this site will mean in the future. Visited by thousands of divers from around the world annually and of great significance to local communities, the wrecks provide a charismatic vehicle for connecting a wide variety of people to WW1 history, heritage and legacies.
Preparations for the 2019 centenary provide a perfect opportunity to explore what has happened to the ships since their scuttling; the role they can play in the commemoration of WW1, and how this important element of our maritime heritage can best be conserved and presented to different publics.
The ‘Scapa 100’ initiative, aims to bring together existing data and new projects. The project aims to enhance local research initiatives by ensuring that robust data management underpins continuing wreck modelling and mapping efforts, providing a lasting technical framework within which community members and diver volunteers can contribute to research.
The motivation behind the project is to work with the community to create realistic virtual models of the wrecks using new 3D photogrammetric techniques, trying to understand how they are eroding structurally and preserving their current state for the future. The Newcastle team has the relevant expertise, and brings together maritime archaeology, cultural landscape management and historic seascape characterisation, plus distinctive capabilities from the School of Marine Science and Technology, including acoustic mapping, photogrammetry, 3D-modelling, and reading structural plans (in all of which the community partners and volunteers would receive training). Working with colleagues at the University of the Highlands and Islands, Fitzsimmons has experience of diving at Scapa Flow with all proposed partner organisations. Newcastle is a node in the AHRC-funded ‘Living Legacies’ Centre for the Commemoration of WW1.