Input sought for Scottish wreck-protection plans
Diver on the Queen of Sweden wreck. (Picture: HES)
A double consultation has been launched in Scotland, seeking public views on new protection status for the Scapa Flow wrecks off Orkney and an historic ship off Shetland, the Queen of Sweden.
Marking the centenary of the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow, Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which advises the Scottish Government on Historic Marine Protected Area (HMPA) designations, has recommended that it recognise and protect Scapa as a repository of historic assets of national importance.
“Orkney has one of the most outstanding collections of First and Second World War naval wreckage remains, both above and under water,” says HES. “Since 2001, the remains of three battleships and four cruisers of the German High Seas Fleet scuttled in Scapa Flow in 1919 have been protected as scheduled monuments.
“The change to an HMPA is a more appropriate way to manage this fragile part of our history.”
4 March 2019
At the end of WW1, with Germany required to surrender most of its fleet, 74 ships arrived in Scapa Flow for internment. On 21 June, 1919, mistakenly believing that peace talks had failed, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter ordered the scuttling of the fleet. Fifty-two ships were sunk, the greatest shipping loss ever recorded in one day. The wrecks were heavily salvaged up to the 1970s.
“The launch of this consultation follows extensive public engagement with stakeholders over the past few years regarding Scapa Flow, from our online survey to meetings with those who live and work in and around the site,” said Philip Robertson, HES Deputy Head of Designations. “It’s important that the public have their say in how best to manage the site for the future.”
The HES survey was said to show “a hugely diverse range of archaeological material on and in the seabed and that, just like landward archaeological sites, this fragile heritage is prone to deterioration and decay”.
In the same online consultation HES is also seeking to preserve the 18th-century merchant ship believed to be the Queen of Sweden. The vessel was the flagship of the Swedish East India Company, which traded mainly in tea and silk with China.
She left Gothenburg for China on 9 January, 1745, but within days had fallen foul of sustained blizzard conditions. Unable to maintain course in poor visibility, the captain sought shelter in Bressay Sound in the Shetland Isles. The shore was in sight when the Queen of Sweden struck rocks on 12 January. The crew survived the sinking.
Lying near Twageos Point at the southern entrance to Lerwick Harbour, the wreck is regarded by HES as one of the best-preserved East Indiamen in Scottish waters.
“The sinking of the Queen of Sweden was a significant event in the history of the Shetland Isles, and the wreckage that remains is a marine heritage site of national importance that can greatly enhance our knowledge and understanding of the Swedish East India Company and its trading activity around Scotland’s coasts during the 18th century,” said Robertson.
There is no suggestion that either of the proposed HMPA designations would affect standard “look don’t touch“ recreational diving activities.
The double consultation closes on 17 April.