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

Sandra Henry (Marine Archaeologist, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute) Tel : 01856 569223 e-mail

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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Western Isles Submerged Forest Community Site Visit and Workshop.

meeting place Saturday 7th MayDr Scott Timpany of The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute will be conducting a community visit and workshop to the submerged forest at Eilean an Dunain, Berneray in the Western Isles on the 7th and 8th May 2016.

This is a community outreach project in collaboration with The SCAPE Trust and if you are in the area on the 7th and 8th May then you are most welcome to attend the visit and workshop.

The outline plan for the weekend:

Saturday 7th May 10am – visit to the submerged forest at Eilean an Dunain, Berneray with Dr Scott Timpany. Meet at the old cemetery at teh end of the road at 10am. We`ll spend a few hours on site and then examine further sites down the west coast. See map below….

5pm to 7pm – Identification and recording session with Scott at the University of the Highlands and Islands College Benbecula.

Sunday 8th May 10am – meet at the RSPB Balranald visitor centre where we`ll look at some sites there and then go on to Bailesear.

Background Information

The remains comprise a series of thin peat (or mud) matrix sections c. 300mm thick extending out from below the machair sand dunes into the inter-tidal zone between the dune face and nearby tidal island of Eilean an Dunain. Study of satellite imagery and mapping shows considerable changes in the coastline in this area since it was first surveyed by the OS in 1878, a process that appears to have accelerated in recent years. (See location/context plan). This suggests that whilst some sections of the matrix nearer the HWM may have been exposed for a while, those nearer the island have remained buried by sand until relatively recently.

These exposures, which cover an area c.20 X 8m, differ from those further NW in that they have embedded within them a significant quantity of timber remains including brushwood, twigs, thin branches and whole trunks with bark intact up to 150mm in diameter. The distribution of the timber remains is not even; the areas to the E and SE including large quantities of smaller sized material fully embedded within the matrix (see image 2). Further E is a higher concentration of whole tree trunk sections, around a dozen in total, all roughly 100-150mm in diameter and 1 – 1.5m long and embedded in the matrix surface. 6 of these are located in a line at roughly the same E-W orientation, the others scattered about nearby (see location plan and image 3). In two places similar size tree trunk sections can be seen lying underneath and at right angles to those on the surface.

Detailed study of the timber suggests the most likely species is Silver Birch and a cut through a recovered loose trunk section suggests an age of perhaps 15-20 years. One trunk section has a possible notch cut.

In general finds like this are believed to be the remains of submerged forests buried in peat which is believed to have happened around 4-5,000 years ago as sea levels rose and the climate cooled and became wetter. Despite that, at this location there is the possibility of a different explanation, in that perhaps these are the remains of a manmade timber track leading between an old lake shore and Eilean an Dunain where several cist burials were recorded in times past (SCHARP 9047), though now washed away.

(Thanks to SCAPE web page


Secrets of the Sea Exhibition

The Secrets of the Sea: Underwater Archaeology Around Orkney 

  • When: From 6 – 27 February 2016.
  • Time: Monday – Saturday, 10.30 am – 12.30 pm, 1.30 – 5.00 pm.
  • Venue: The Orkney Museum ,Tankerness House, Broad Street, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1DH. Tel: 01856 873191.
  • Admission is free.

6th February sees the opening of a new exhibition at the Orkney Museum which gives a glimpse of Orkney’s hidden heritage. ‘The Secrets of the Sea: Underwater Archaeology Around Orkney’ looks at some of the wrecks that are to be found in Orkney waters and some of the artefacts that litter our seabed.

The exhibition is a collaboration between Sula Diving, Seasearch, Orkney Historic Boat Society, ORCA (Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology) through the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and the Maritime Studies Department at University of the Highlands and Islands.

Sandra Hendry, Maritime Archaeologist with ORCA, said: “Various facets of Orkney’s rich maritime cultural heritage are represented within this exhibit from the oar to the sail; this exhibition displays the work of a number of groups invested in the recording, protection and promotion of Orkney’s maritime cultural heritage.”

“Orkney’s rich maritime heritage has the ability to tell the stories of the people who first inhabited these islands, to the dramatic events of war represented within the World War I and World War II wrecks around Orkney, whilst still bringing us through to the present day and the way we continue to interact with the maritime space.”

Tom Muir, Exhibitions Officer at the Orkney Museum, said: “I am indebted to Kevin Heath of Sula Diving for first approaching me to put on a display about the shop boat, Lizzie Bain, which was lost in Scapa Flow in tragic circumstances in the 1880s. As well as the story of this wreck there is a chance to find out more about the techniques used to uncover the hidden world of marine archaeology, from the wrecks of the German High Seas Fleet to crashed wartime aircraft that lie hidden on the seabed. ”

Mark Shiner of the Maritime Studies Department – University of the Highlands and Islands, has put together a display on sail making, a course unique in Scotland that the department has offered in the past, to knot-work. The Orkney Historic Boat Society will highlight the work that they have done to preserve traditional boats and save them from being destroyed. It all comes together to create a fascinating insight into Orkney’s maritime history.