Scapa Flow !! What can I say but the dream destination for drysuit wearing , cold water adventure divers. Wrecks and history “flow”ing from every nook and cranny of the Orkney Islands makes it an unforgettable dive destination! The Flow is home to the scuttled German fleet captured back in World War One and sank by their own crews to stop the British Navy using the ships. Theres history galore and If you want to know much more then please follow this link for a fantastic resource far better than I could ever do here … SCAPA FLOW WRECKS
I was lucky enough to get a chance to live on a boat diving the Flow with my friends the madcap Glasgow dive crew of Grant, John, Karon,Neil, Davie and Donnie , along for the ride with me was Undersea Wull and a special guest appearance by Laura from London and the sidemount magician Luca from IL Grande Blu in Portofino all made for an incredible dive trip way beyond what I had been expecting.
Wull and I dragged our arses out of bed at 4:30am and headed North for for the Orkney Islands in what can only be described as inclement weather. Wind and rain battered us all the way to Thurso and we arrived at Scrabster half expecting the crossing to be cancelled but not up there in the North, oh no! on we went, boarding as normal, rough crossing aye aye sailor !! Holding down my dinner for most of it and sleeping the rest we survived the stormy crossing and as we hit the headland the mist opened up to give me the view I was waiting for, the Old Man of Hoy standing erect and proud against the headland welcoming us.
We docked at Stromness harbour and met up with the rest of the troops. Heading dockside to board the MV Sunrise, a converted deep sea fishing vessel that was to be our lodgings for the week. Geordie was the captain and Chris his son was our 1st mate/main man aboard ship, both are characters of the highest degree so good times were sure to ensue. Downstairs in the small small cubicles that were to be home for the week we unpacked our kit , I barely fitted into my bunk and couldn’t help wonder how my giant of a friend Neil Farmer would get on as the week passed 😀
Day one was a rough sea and a baptism by fire to the Flow. Thankfully the MV Sunrise has a sheltered gear-up so despite bumping my head a million times on the iron roof I was dry and wind free. The boat has a diver exit hatch with limited visibility and a long drop into the sea , as we approached the dive entry point a siren would sound and off we went like parachutists through it … exciting when all you can see is a big dark pitching sea! We were in good hands though with Geordie and Chris in charge. My first dive was with John on the SMS Karlsruhe , a battle cruiser with its large guns still intact. We exited nicely and dropped down to the wreck at 30m hunting for the guns to grab a photo opportunity or two. Our dive went to plan and soon we were daydreaming on a 35 minute decompression stop before surfacing to a quick pick up by the MV. Sunrise. After all the divers were onboard we headed for our next dive site the F2 Barge sank in Gutter Sound. Karon and Grant were in charge of lunch, hot dogs and soup on the surface interval menu. The F2 was a worthwhile dive and a good end to day one .. Our teeth were sunk and time to dial it up on day two.
Day 2 saw Neil and I dive the 150m long battle ship KronPrinz Wilhelm and the cruiser Coln Wreck , it was amazing to dive a huge battleship and appreciate the massive scale of it just lying there on the sea bed. Our first dive was rough but the forecast was for the weather to break in the afternoon and true to its word it did just that , we cruised back to port in flat calm conditions.
That night we headed to Marwick cliffs, visited the Kitchener monument and I braved a “tree”on the cliff edge looking out at the most beautiful sea vista I have ever seen.
Day 3 was an early start to a morning sun like I have never seen before, blazing orange with the birds following us out to sea swooping and crying over us. Every day the sky treated us to show of grandeur but this morning it had outdonr itself! Our intention was to dive the light cruiser SMS Dresden and return to the SMS Karlsruhe . Everything went to plan and we dived in dead flat sea.
Day 4 another early start to the famous Bayern gun turrets and onto the mine layer SMS Brummer. This day was one of the best , the turrets have fallen out from the upturned wreck and landed turtle in the sand at 47m deep.Laura joined Neil, Karon and I as we dropped down the shot line into the darkness. There are 2 huge identical turrets next to each other, it was a fantastic sight to see.
After the turrets and everyone was accounted for we headed for the port of Lyness. Its where the Scapa flow Naval museum is and well worth the visit just to see the big defence guns and a cinema inside a huge gas storage cylinder running a loop of “The history of Scapa Flow”. Sat alone in there watching the movie on a 100 foot high projection on the wall listening to the reverberating commentary, it was surreal, very surreal !
The SMS Brummer was next on the horizon and what a dive !! Neil and I descended to the huge hull of the 140m long mine laying cruiser, following along , exploring and chilling until our dive plan required us to surface , loved that wreck ! that night we headed to Twatt and the cliffs of Yesnaby. Another place everyone must visit !!
Day 5 was to be the gargantuan SMS Markgraf sat in 47m of water, and it was indeed huge!! This has to be the largest wreck in Scapa and with our good visibility we could really take in the enormity of it. This is what its all about I thought as we cruised along its bow. Next up we had a visit to the Seydlitz salvage site and dived around all the broken wreckage. Not the best dive but huge shoals of fish spinning around in huge bundles made it a gem anyways.
Day 6 and our last day in the water had us choose to return to a couple of favorites from the week, the Bayern Gun turrets for another exploration and the Koenig to finish the week. Man Those turrets really were a sight sat upside down on that sandy bottom.
Sadly it was our last night but we hit the pub in town for a meal, inviting Geordy and his wife to join us . Steak, fish, Beer and great stories ensued, just as they should when 12 excited and battle seasoned adventurers get round a table.
Scapa Flow I will be back !
Another stunning adventure Mark – great underwater pics! Good stuff mate!
cheers Kenny , those Orkneys rock ! 😀