High Seas Fleet Salvage Sites Report (Phase 2)

This report was compiled by SULA Diving and ORCA Marine, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, on behalf of Historic Environment Scotland

This report represents the second phase of work (see Henry et al. 2018 for the report on the first phase) to gather data on the seabed remains left behind following the salvage of the German High Seas Fleet, which was interned and subsequently scuttled in Scapa Flow, Orkney, in June 1919. The salvage process that followed the scuttling was an unprecedented achievement and represents another fascinating aspect of Scapa Flow’s maritime heritage.

Phase 2 continued the ground-truthing process for the remaining sites detected in Phase 1 sonar surveys. Phase 2 ground-truthing surveys focussed on the remaining primary salvage sites associated with the following vessels:

  • SMS Moltke
  • SMS Printzregent Luitpold
  • SMS Derfflinger
  • SMS Friedrich der Grosse
  • SMS Kaiserin
  • SMS Kaiser
  • SMS König Albert
  • SMS Grosser Kurfürst; and Miscellaneous contacts, including a German diesel pinnace discovered in 2017 and subject since to disturbance (reported separately in SULA Diving, 2018), SMS Bremse, SMS S36, SMS B109 and SMS V78.

The overall aim of the Scapa Flow Salvage Sites Project was to determine what remains of the many vessels of the German High Seas Fleet that were salvaged in the years that followed their scuttling in June 1919. Phase 1, undertaken over the winter of 2016/17, involved a side scan sonar survey of the main anchorages and other areas thought to have been involved in the salvage process. A process of ground-truthing the sonar contacts started in Phase 1 was completed in this Phase 2 project. The overall result of this process is that the vast majority of salvage sites in Scapa Flow have been located and the remains at each site have been directly investigated and recorded. Archive research throughout Phases 1 and 2 has underpinned both the approach to fieldwork and the interpretation of its results. The combination of side scan sonar with direct ground-truthing (by diver or remote video) worked effectively. The involvement of volunteer archive researchers and recreational volunteer divers brought added detail to the project, as well as engaging divers with the importance of the submerged historic assets. Salvage remains included a wide range of artefacts from vessels that have been long removed from Scapa Flow. It has been possible to dovetail the artefacts found at each site with archive accounts of the salvage, generally on a ship by ship basis. The original requirement to determine what remains of the salvage process has been successfully achieved and should help to protect these sites as physical reminders of the inter-war salvage effort, which is another important part of Scapa Flow’s maritime history.

Downloadable Resources

Salvage Sites Report (Phase 2)

salvage sites 2019


A variety of people and organisations supported the extensive archive research and field work involved in Phase 2 of the Salvage Site Project. The authors are grateful for time, effort and contributions made by all those listed below, which have been invaluable.

  • members of the Orkney Maritime Archival Research Group: Edd Baxter, Jim Bright, Michael Ferguson, Laken-Louise Hives, Tom Hunter, Alette Kattenberg, Andrew Prentice, Jasmijn Sybenga, Frank Forrester and Linda Heath. Marsden Samuel and Gary Staff for their support in the analysis of ground-truthing data and image contributions.
  • Colin Bullen (grandson of salvage diver Herbert Bullen) for the contribution of images.
  • Members of the Orkney Sub-Aqua Club (OSAC), including Ivan Houston and Amy Houston.
  • Members of the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) for their survey of several sites during two visits to Orkney: Andy Hunt, Fiona Hunt, William Schwartz, Ernie Dewhirst, David Hopkins, Steve Jakeway, Rob Sewell, Danielle Kalczynska, Dave Lucas, Murdo MacKenzie and Neil Richmond.
  • European Scientific Diver Conference divers: Jo Porter, Mohammed Alaa, Jack Sheehy, Piotr Balazy, Cath Quick, Tim Clements, Minna Koivikko, Andy Hunt, Richard Stanulla and Richard Walker. Other volunteer divers who contributed images and video footage to the project, including Wayne Allen, Bob Anderson, Ben Wade, Simon Brown, Rachel Priest, Ainsley Hatt, Jen Smith, Malcolm Thomson, Bertrand Taylor and Keith Rendall.

Thanks also go to Sandra Henry and Mark Littlewood for their work in Phase 1, on which Phase 2 was built.

The authors are very grateful to Philip Robertson for his input throughout this project.

Finally, the authors are grateful for the support of the following companies and organisations: Huskyan Charters, Orkney & Shetland Charters, Orkney Library and Archive, Department of Marine Services (Orkney Islands Council) and the Orkney Hyperbaric Trust.