Exploring Orkney’s Early harbours, Landing Places and Shipping

Volunteer divers will join a team of archaeologists from the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology in Gairsay on Sunday to start the second phase of an archaeological project to explore Orkney’s early maritime heritage.

The project involves a programme of marine survey fieldwork which will record early maritime sites, structures and artefacts in Orkney.  The recording of material remains, along with the use of historical, place name, ethnographic, cartographic and marine geophysical survey data sources, will help to preserve some of Orkney’s maritime cultural heritage.

This second phase of fieldwork will continue to concentrate on Gairsay, due to the presence of possible ballast mounds or collapsed jetty supports found in Milburn Bay during an earlier phase of the project. Other possible maritime features noted around the edge of the bay will also be investigated over the weekend. The marine archaeologists and volunteers are also hoping to find other maritime features as Milburn Bay has a recorded history of early maritime activity.

It is hoped this project will expand to other areas in Orkney, focusing to begin with on natural harbours with sediments (good for preservation) and involve outreach training, community work and link to other projects.

Being coastal, and in many cases situated directly on the foreshore, maritime sites and structures are most vulnerable to erosion and much information on maritime structures dating before the modern period has probably already been lost to the sea. There is therefore an urgent need for survey and fieldwork that  will help prevent further loss of information.

Thanks to Sula Diving for the video taken for Phase One of the Project.

ORCA staff, Paul Sharman, Senior Projects Manager and Sandra Henry, Marine Archaeologist, will be leading the project.


Community Marine Archaeology Project in Sanday – Surveying The Utrecht

Diving is to start on Phase Three of The Utrecht Community Marine Archaeology Project. This phase aims to involve the community in further surveying of the wreck and contribute to the growth of dive tourism in Sanday.

Built in Rotterdam as the Irene by Glavimans, The Utrecht was a 38-gun frigate that was owned by the Dutch Navy. Several sources (Canmore; Ferguson, 1988; Larn and Larn, 1998; Whittaker, 1998) offer contradictory information regarding the number of cannon on the vessel with numbers ranging from 32 to 44. The first phase of the project can confirm she had 38 cannon comprising twenty-six 12-pounders, four 6-pounders and eight 20pounder carronades

On the 15th February 1807, The Utrecht was sailing to Curacao from Helvoetsslus, near Rotterdam, to reinforce the Dutch garrison stationed there against the British. In addition to her complement of 190 crew and passengers, she carried with her 220 artillery men to help in this endeavour.

En-route she was driven off course in a blizzard and was stranded off the North coast of Sanday in the early hours of the morning of the 26th February 1807. The remains of The Utrecht represent a unique resource in Orkney waters. Orkney has a rich submerged maritime resource that brings in substantial economic revenue to the islands through diving tourism each year; much of the research into this diverse heritage has focused on the extensive wartime remains (WWI and WWII) within Scapa Flow.

Historic evidence suggested The Utrecht remains were in shallow water in a comparatively sheltered environment and, as such, discovery and recording of the remains would greatly enhance the potential for dive tourism outside of Scapa Flow.

The second phase of the project took place earlier this summer, and involved volunteersExif_JPEG_PICTURErecording an Iron cannon, identifying various extents of the wreckage debris field surrounding this 12 pounder cannon. . The assessment of the remains of the vessel also contributed to local and national heritage management strategies and provided some protection to the remains by producing a detailed and accurate record of the nature and extent of the wreckage and associated artefacts that were present on the seabed.

Desk based research confirmed a thought provoking timeline of the stranding and abandonment of the vessel:

  • 5am – Vessel struck the shore reported to be on an uninhabited part of Sanday.
  • Dawn – Waves break over the side of the ship and was “driven into a sort of bay with rocks on both sides”. Rear-mast cut down and a cutter [smaller vessel from the ship] launched. The launch was destroyed as the current swept the cut mast into it.
  • Mid-Morning – Orders to cut down the fore and mid-mast could not be carried out in light of huge seas. Waves take the ship of the rocks turning her until she hit the rocks on the other side of the bay.
  • Midday (approx.) – Fore and mid-masts were cut down. Fire noted in portside stern cabin and subsequently extinguished.
  • 3pm – Tide ebbs, islanders arrive to assist in the rescue. Lines were passed to the ship. Those strong enough come ashore via the lines.
  • Sunset – 366 men ashore, 54 had died.

Further research also provided evidence to confirm actual number of hands lost (54 in total) – compared with the previous vague accounts of losses ranging from 50 – 100 men. The burial ground for these men still remains unknown and would be an avenue for future research.

The successful identification of the site will allow for the development and promotion of the site of The Utrecht, and the maritime archaeology of Sanday and Orkney’s North Isles.

This third phase will initially record the site extent and condition, building on earlier phases of work undertaken by the UHI Archaeology Institute and SULA Diving. This project offers a platform for community engagement through volunteer programs, displays, talks and online outreach, utilising such mediums as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube.

This community project aims to involve the local diving community through the delivery of training programs such as the Nautical Archaeology Society courses.

In effect the site of The Utrecht is part of a shared history between Sanday, Orkney’s North Isles and the Netherlands and this new phase will help to generate dive tourism in Orkneys North Isles through community involvement.

Thanks to Sula Diving Photographs courtesy Ken Kohnfelder.


The Utrecht Project is supported by:




Marine Archaeology Fieldwork starts in October – Gairsay, Orkney

img_1782Get involved in a marine archaeology project in the waters around the Island of Gairsay, Orkney.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute have an opportunity for diving or snorkelling volunteers to take part in underwater fieldwork in Milburn Bay, Gairsay as part of the ongoing project searching for Orkney’s early harbours, landing places, anchorages, maritime infrastructure and shipping.

The fieldwork will involve surveying the underwater features already observed in the bay and will be taking place during the week commencing 3rd October to the 7th October for a total of 3 days, the exact days will be finalised closer to the time dependent on weather forecasts.

The aims of this year’s underwater fieldwork will be to investigate the underwater mounds further, potentially these mounds may represent ballast mounds or collapsed stone from caissons supporting jetty foundations

Please register your interest by contacting Sandra Henry via Sandra.Henry@uhi.ac.uk

Marine Archaeology Side Scan Sonar Course – 24th September 2016


Clio II side scan capture -Annotated

The NAS MAC Introduction to Side Scan Sonar course is now open to professionals working in the maritime industry and students of marine archaeology. The one day course is held in Stromness, Orkney on the 24th September 2016.

Course Aims and Objectives
This introductory course will provide an insight into the equipment, survey
strategies, processing and interpretation of side scan sonar data in maritime
archaeology. During the course, students will learn how to plan and execute a
side scan sonar survey, determining which survey methods are most appropriate in
different situations. They will gain practical experience processing and interpreting the
resulting data and will be made aware of protocols for disseminating the results.
Throughout the course side scan surveys will be considered in light of other survey
strategies available. Practical exercises will take place during the afternoon on both days and will include survey mobilisation, demobilisation, GPS positioning, data collection, data processing and reporting. During the two-day course students will be introduced to:
• Introduction to site types, targets and anomalies –which sites are best suited to
side scan surveys
• Designing a side scan sonar survey project: considerations and survey strategies
• Types of side scan mounts and devices
• Positioning: locating your sites
• Practical: completing a side scan survey
• Overview of other survey data processing packages, focussing in particular on
Sonar Wiz 5 and Max View
• Post processing and interpretation– guidance and recommendations
• Practical: process ing and interpreting survey data
• Reporting and dissemination
Learning Outcomes
• Participants will complete the course with an understanding of the principles and
practice of side scan sonar surveys
• The students will be able to identify the most suitable equipment and survey
strategy appropriate to specific site types and conditions
• The students will have participated in the design and execution of a small side
scan sonar survey
• The student will have undertaken some basic data processing and will be aware of
national guidance for the processing and interpretation of side scan sonar data.
NAS Credit Allocation
10 credits will be awarded to NAS members under the module Fieldwork National Occupational Standards for Archaeology Units:Unit code CU2099: Contribute to non
-intrusive investigations
CIfA Endorsement
This course has been endorsed by the Charted Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) to
count towards the required hours of continual professional development. Please note this timetable is provisional and subject to change
Cost for the course is £150

For more information and to reserve a place e-mail: studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk

Marine Archaeology Course, Orkney

Remote Sensing Survey

Nautical Archaeology Society MAC Introduction to Side Scan Sonar Survey course. Orkney. Scotland.

  • 2 day course
  • 24th and 25th September 2016
  • Stromness, Orkney
  • Cost £249

This two day course is organised by ORCA (Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology) and provides an overview of Side Scan Sonar surveying and the application of remote sensing in archaeological surveys.

Students will gain practical experience of designing, completing and interpreting Side Scan Sonar surveys in one of the most exciting marine archaeology environments in the UK. Click through to the Scapa Flow Historic Wreck website for details of the wrecks present around Orkney’s coastline.

This course is suitable for professionals wishing to undertake continuing professional development or for those interested in the remote sensing aspect of marine archaeology.

For more information or to book your place on the course, contact Sandra Henry studyarchaeology@uhi.ac.uk or ring 01856 569225


Visiting the Wreck of German Destroyer B98

As part of Battle of Jutland Commemoration Day, staff from Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, gave a presentation concerning the B98 German destroyer wrecked at Lopness on the island of Sanday, Orkney.

Later that day a visit was made to the wreck site.

The B98 is a World War One German destroyer that has the distinction of delivering the last mail to the interned High Seas Fleet within Scapa Flow on the 21st of June 1919; the fleet itself had just been scuttled.

The B98 was one of two units of the B97 class of destroyer built at the Blohm Und Voss yards at Hamburg. Completed in 1915 she saw action as part of the 2nd Flotilla at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.  Engaged by cruisers and destroyers B-98 was hit once losing her after torpedo mount, 2 of her crew and 11 wounded.

During Operation Albion, a German land and naval operation to invade and occupy the Estonian islands of Saaremaa (Osel), Hiiumaa (Dago) and Muhu (Moon) which were then part of Russia in September and October 1917, B-98 boarded Russian destroyer Grom capturing five prisoners and securing a code book. Unfortunately, the towing of Grom had to be abandoned and she capsized shortly thereafter. During the night whilst proceeding to anchor near the wreck of Grom, B-98 hit a mine. She lost her bow with 14 killed and 7 injured but was able to limp back to port in Libau.

The B98 was to be assigned to one of the allied powers.  It is unclear whether a decision had been made as to which allied power the B98 had been assigned to. It is also unclear whether any decision had been made as to whether she would have been scrapped or re-used in the navy of an allied power.

She is reported as breaking her tow on the 17th of February 1920 and running aground off Lopness Bay, Sanday. The majority of the ship was subsequently cut up for scrap in the 1940s; it is unclear how much of the B98 remains beyond what can be seen visually.

One of the guns of the B98 is now on display at the Maritime Museum in Lyness, Orkney.

If you want to know more about the wrecks in Scapa Flow then click below:

Scapa Flow





Remembering The Hampshire

Marwick Head Orkney. Kitchener Memorial. Thanks to Scott McIvor

Illustrated talk: Remembering The Hampshire 

Date: Wednesday 1st June

Venue: Birsay Hall http://www.birsayhall.com/

Time: 7.30pm

Free admission

As part of the First World War Commemorative Cultural Programme, The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute are giving a talk detailing some of the findings from the ROV survey of HMS Hampshire conducted two weeks ago. Edited footage from the ROV survey will be shown in addition to photographs of the wreck.

This survey forms part of an archaeological project to assess the condition and record the wreck and surrounding seabed and was recently undertaken by the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute working in partnership with Seatronics – an Acteon Company, Teledyne RESON, Roving Eye Enterprises Ltd and Triscom Marine Ltd.

Thanks to Roving Eye Enterprises for ROV footage and images.

Further survey work using the Seatronics Predator ROV is in the planning stage.

This project has received funding and sponsorship from Interface, Orkney Islands Council and NorthLink Ferries.

Permission to undertake this remote survey was granted under licence by the MOD.

For further information

Sean Page (Marketing Officer, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute). Tel: 01856 569229 e-mail sean.page@uhi.ac.uk

HMS Hampshire Initial ROV Images

Initial images from the ROV Survey of the HMS Hampshire wreck site. 25th May 2016

HMS Hampshire sank on the 5th June 1916 when she struck a mine laid by German U-Boat U75. The wreck is located in approximately 60 metres of water off the west coast of Orkney and sank while en-route to Archangel in Russia. She was transporting Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, to a meeting with Tsar Nicholas II.

The first archaeological condition assessment and recording of the wreck and surrounding seabed was recently undertaken by the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute working in partnership with Seatronics – an Acteon Company, Teledyne RESON, Roving Eye Enterprises Ltd and Triscom Marine Ltd. This work offers new information and data concerning the wreck and provides insights into the mine damage at the bow of the vessel, the impacts of salvage activities on the wreck, and the natural deterioration caused by the marine environment.

The Roving Eye Enterprises ROV survey confirmed previous findings that HMS Hampshire capsized as she sank and lies with an upturned hull on the seabed in approximately 60m of water. The superstructure itself is compressed and is buried in the soft silt of the seabed. The hull is damaged in places throughout the length of the vessel, exposing various elements of the interior, including torpedo tubes and machinery. Guns from the ship’s secondary armament were also identified on the surrounding seabed at a distance of up to 30m from the main body of the wreck. The location of these breech loading 6-inch MK VII guns may be related to the sinking event or salvage activity on the wreck.

Sandra Henry, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute said that “This remote survey has provided many new insights into the sinking and wreck of the HMS Hampshire. Ongoing work will continue to develop our knowledge base, revealing new information as we continue to gather and process data, creating a record of the Hampshire in 2016”

Keith Bichan of Roving Eye Enterprises Ltd commented that, “It was a real privilege to be involved with this project. I am an Orcadian who has had had an ROV business in Orkney for nearly 20 years and the HMS Hampshire was a wreck I always wanted to visit, due to its importance to First World War history, and the mystery and controversy that still surrounds it.”

Further survey work using the Seatronics Predator ROV is in the planning stage.

This project has received funding and sponsorship from Interface, Orkney Islands Council and NorthLink Ferries.

Permission to undertake this remote survey was granted under licence by the MOD

For further information

Sean Page (Marketing Officer, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute). Tel: 01856 569229 e-mail sean.page@uhi.ac.uk

Sandra Henry (Marine Archaeologist, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute) Tel : 01856 569223 e-mail sandra.henry@uhi.ac.uk

ROV Survey of HMS Hampshire Wreck Site

ROV Survey of HMS Hampshire Wreck site

Saturday 7th May 2016

HMS Hampshire condition assessment

HMS Hampshire struck a mine at 19.40 on the 5th June, 1916, while transporting Lord Kitchener, the secretary of State for War to Archangel in northern Russia for a meeting with Tsar Nicholas II. She sank within twenty minutes, with the loss of 737 lives, including Lord Kitchener. Only 12 of the company survived. The German U-boat U-75 laid the mine on the 29th of May, 1916 off Marwick Head in Orkney.

HMS Hampshire, a Devonshire class armoured cruiser, was completed in 1905. Joining the Grand Fleet in January 1915 she played a minimal role in Battle of Jutland from the 31st May to the 1st June 1916, before being assigned to the transport of Lord Kitchener.

Presently, the wreck lies upside down in approximately 60 meters of water, surrounded by a large debris field. The HMS Hampshire site was designated in 2002, under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. There have previously only been two remote surveys of the wreck since the salvage activities of 1977 to 1983.

The condition assessment of HMS Hampshire will be the first extensive mapping of the wreck site since her sinking in 1916. It is a collaborative project between ORCA Marine, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and Seatronics, an Acteon company. It aims to assess the condition of the wreck a hundred years after she tragically sank, documenting the impact of salvage activities and environmental factors on the integrity of the remains.

Sandra Henry, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, Marine Archaeologist, said “It is really significant in the run up to the centenary of the HMS Hampshire to carry out a condition survey and map the extent of the wreck site. This survey is being undertaken as a mark of respect and remembrance for those who lost their lives aboard, and all those who lost their lives at sea during the First World War”

Alistair Coutts, Senior Sales & Business Development Manager, Seatronics, said “We are delighted to be collaborating on this exciting project on this historic anniversary. Our aim is to use our Predator inspection class ROV to survey the wreckage along with the latest 2D & 3D scanning technology to identify key areas of interest, providing informative imagery and insight into the current conditions of the site“.

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