Scapa Flow: Explore the Battleships of the Deep

Considered to be one of the most impressive and memorable diving destinations, Scapa Flow is a 120 square mile water space that homes wrecks dating back a century ago. Encompassed by the South Isles and Orkney, Scapa Flow is easily accessible from the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The name ‘Scapa Flow’ translates from The Old Norse Skalpaflói, to ‘bay of the long isthmus’.

This reflects the thin strip of land that lies between Scapa Bay and the neighbouring town of Kirkwall.Scapa Flow is a worldwide recognised dive-site of excellence. The area offers a variety of wrecks, with a site to cater for all abilities.

With the stunning land setting and fascinating waters, Scapa Flow encourages visits from divers from all over the world. The area has attracted competitive divers, novice divers, archaeologists and marine scientists for years and offers an abundance of fascinating areas for all.


As part of the Armistice Agreement, 74 ships of the German High Seas Fleet arrived in Scapa Flow in November 1918 for interment. The fleet was scuttled in June 1919 following mistaken beliefs that peace talks had been unsuccessful.

52 of the fleet’s ships were sunk, making it the greatest loss of ships in a single day ever to be recorded. These wrecks are amongst some of the most heavily visited within the area.

HMS Royal Oak

One of the greatest attractions to the area is the wreck of HMS Royal Oak. The ship was located at Scapa Flow during WW2 and one evening in October 1939, whilst at anchor, HMS Royal Oak was attacked and sunk by a German U-Boat.

The wreck has been given statutory protection as a designated war grave. This protection allows for divers to explore the wreckage, but it is illegal to tamper with or steal from it.

Previous to the sinking of HMS Royal Oak, HMS Vanguard was destroyed whilst anchored in Scapa Flow. The cause of was determined to be an internal explosion and all but 2 of the ships 845 crew were killed. Still considered to be one of the Royal Navy’s most devastating occurrences, a large investigation of the wreck was carried out in the 1970s.

The results confirmed that an internal error had led to a massive explosion, destroying the majority of the ship’s ordnance and technological capabilities. This wreck too was granted statutory protections as a war grave.

Other wrecks

Not all of Scapa Flow’s wrecks were accidental or enemy sinkings. A favourite exploration area for many divers is the Tabarka, a ship that was purposefully sunk in order to protect Scapa Flow from incoming enemy submarines.

The colourful wreck is one of the area’s most fascinating and enjoyable sights and considered to be many divers’ most unforgettable wreck.The minelaying cruiser, SMS Brummer, is a firm favourite amongst divers as the wreck is largely intact. Although subject to countless dives and investigations over the years, the preservation of this ship is hugely impressive and a definite favourite amongst visitors to the area.

This beautiful warship has suffered collapses in recent years, though experienced guides will happily direct divers through a safe exploration and the wreck is considered to be one of the most easily accessible as more basic equipment is required.

Scapa Flow is not only an attractive destination because of the multiple wrecks on offer, the area is home to a fantastic array of wildlife also. Marine life accompanies divers throughout all wrecks, which have each become an eco-system in their own right over the years. Crabs, lobsters and starfish are amongst the highlights for divers and it is not uncommon to hear tales of seals and basking sharks being spotted and photographed by a lucky few.


Image 1: Source:

Image 2: Source: SMS Dresden –

Image 3: Source: The Battleship SMS Markgraf at Scapa Flow – YouTube

Image 4: Source: HMS Royal Oak Scapa Flow –

Image 5: Source: Wreck of the Tabarka –

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