JANUARY 2011: My Surface Interval named one of the best scuba diving blogs

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Scuba Diving Scapa Flow Day 5

As the SMS Konig powered its way through the waves she would have been a daunting sight.
Face on in battle, the two decks of 12in guns that adorned the ocean-going leviathan would have rightly sent a shiver down the spines of British sailor even though in her only major encounter, the Battle of Jutland, she was battered by her enemy.
Beneath her thick armour skin, there was a hive of human activity needed to power 25,000 ton dreadnought through the choppy seas and keep the guns moving as they belched out fire and death on a grand scale.
Miles of cable and pipework criss-crossed around her insides, taking steam to power her giant turbines or messages between the fighting men around her many decks.
Thanks to the destructive salvage operation, the Konig now sits exposed, like a murder victim on a mortuary slab, her inner workings there to see.
The other battleships, the Markgraf and the Kronprinz Wilhelm, offered an insight into the scale, the Konig a glimpse of the machinery needed to power something so huge through the waves.
Dropping down the shotline that appeared to disappeared into infinity straight down to the wreck some 40m below, we followed the rear of the port side towards the damaged stern and bent rudder.
But it was as the six of us headed shallower over the damaged hull that the wreck came to life.
Amongst the wreck, there was an unnatural shape, unnatural in that it stood out by its perfectly curved structure.
This was part of the Citadel, the giant armoured box of engines that powered the boat. It must have been 12in thick. Beyond were the remnants of the engine machinery and a giant turbine. A perfect circle, where the gun turret mountings were.
The dive ended over the whale-back of the unpturned hull and we fired up our SMBs and made our way slowly to the surface above.
Though she may be broken up and upside down, the dive on her offered an insight into the technical engineering of such a dreadnought.
Dive Two took us to the SMS Brummer and another deep dive.
Thirty metres down the shotline, the concave bow of the wreck lying on its port side slowly started to take shape before our eyes.
She has changed considerably over the years and, recently, the weight of the heavily armoured conning tower has peeled the deck back like the lid of a can on tuna.
Now resting on its roof on the seabed, the conning tower pointed the way to the ornate railings of the bridge. Now twisted and turned, they still looked impressive.
Behind was one of the 5.9in guns that defended the light cruiser.
Eventually, the recognisable structure gave way to the tangled mish-mash of the rear of the ship left behind by the salvors.
Turning back, Junior and I ventured inside a passageway, following the light streaming in through a line of portholes that led our way.
Turning round we made our way back on to the deck, sitting at 90 degrees on the seabed, and hunted for a unique feature on the Brummer, railway tracks.
The ship had an extra deck to other cruisers of her class for her work as an early minesweeper and the railway tracks were used to move the giant spheres into place.
A hatch led the way inside with the railway tracks on the wall - or what should have been the floor - ahead of us. Following the tracks, we completed a short swim through and back onto the starboard side of the hull and headed back to the shotline.
The ascent was slow, after clocking up a bit of deco and then it was back to the boat.
Having dived all seven of the German wrecks, it is hard to say which was our favourite. Each has captured us in a different way. With four dives to go, it is now a challenge to pick the ones we want to return to.
Decisions, decisions.

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