the Scapa Flow Maritime Archaeology Project

ScapaMAP, a research project based in the Department of Civil and Offshore Engineering, Heriot-Watt University, promotes the better management of the archaeological and historical heritage resources submerged in Scapa Flow for the benefit of present and future generations. The project is supported by Historic Scotland and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland. Initial survey work is being carried out in co-operation with the Archaeological Diving Unit, University of St Andrews.

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 21st June 1919. Seven wrecks of major warships remain, up to 25,000 tons and over 200m in length, in an area of 8 km2 of relatively flat, muddy seabed, in 30-50m depth. In between them lie concentrations of other wreckage associated with salvage activities on the existing wrecks and the vessels which were raised and subsequently scrapped.

German fleet at Scapa Flow just before scuttling

The remains of the High Seas Fleet represent an archaeological and historical resource of hitherto unrealised potential, having been the subject of a wide range of interests in the past from salvage to recreational diving. Recent proposals to schedule the German wrecks as historical monuments under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 represent a further stage which will require a high level marine environmental information to maximise their value, promote future protection, and encourage access by the widest possible community.

The sites themselves lie in an environment which is itself constantly changing and subject to a variety of natural and man-made impacts. Effective maritime archaeological management requires base maps of the archaeological resource and quantified data on associated marine environmental parameters such as habitats, corrosion potential, sediment characteristics and behaviour, water quality, and factors such as impacts from visitors and nearby development. Although the archaeological potential and sensitivity of the remains of the High Seas Fleet is regarded as being significant, basic maps of the area and the individual sites are not available. Secondly, the baseline data on which to build effective monitoring strategies of the condition of these sites in the future is similarly unavailable. Thirdly, no periodic monitoring programme has been put forward which would provide quantitative data on processes affecting the sites.

This project aims to fill some of these gaps and it is expected to significantly enhance our current knowledge using techniques common to other marine sciences including the production of site specific Management Plans and the use of Geographical Information Systems. The project will also form a useful test case for historic shipwreck management in Scotland’s waters.

Possibilities for co-operative research would be welcome from anyone interested and further information about ScapaMAP can be obtained from:

Ian Oxley
Centre for Environmental Resource Management
Dept of Civil & Offshore Engineering
Heriot-Watt University
Edinburgh EH14 4AS
Tel. +44 (0)131 449 5111 x4438
Fax. +44 (0)131 451 5078

June 2000

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