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Orkney Diving

Scuba diving > UK diving > Scotland > Orkney diving
Orkney dive guide

Orkney diving offfers mainly wreck diving. These rugged islands just beyond the northern tip of scotland mainland offers Scapa Flow, a sheltered expanse of water, in which the remains of the one time famous German First World War Fleet lie. Many individual islands form the Orkney islands and the many miles of coastline create a lot of good diving opportunities. Located on the edge of the Atlantic Gulf Stream Orkney gets clean water that's rich in nutrients and which provides food for the rich marine life.

Always dive according to your level of training. Never enter the water without checking with the local dive center for safety, additional information, level required for each dive site and without being accompanied by a professional. All the information provided is purely informative for our readers and shouldn't be used as is to plan your immersion.

Average air temperature:4 C (39 F) - 12 C (54 F)
Average water surface temperature: 4C (39F) in the month of April. 14C (57F) in September. In this light a drysuit is recommended.
Coldest time:January, February and March
Best time to dive: June - September
Visibility average: 10 - 30 metres (30 - 100 feet)

Since the days of the vikings and through the two world wars Scapa Flow has been used as an anchorage. It's famous for the wrecks of the German fleet that were scuttled here at the end of the first world war.
The wrecks count seven from the fleet and some others that sunk under other circumstances. The size of the German wrecks are impressive and give some really great diving. You can see huge guns protruding from the wreckage. Marine life here includes wrasse, sea urchins, sponges and starfish, brittle stars and large jellysfish spotted in the nearby kelp forests.

A torch will come in handy because although the visibility is excellent for UK water it can be dark at depth. As most wrecks lie over 30 metres (98 feet), Scapa is not suitable for novice divers.

Orkney Islands also has other diving apart from wreck diving with rich marine life including seals, wrasse, conger eels, jellysfish, crabs, sea urchins, brittle stars, starfish and sponges.

Some dive sites on Orkney Islands:

F2 and YC21 barge wreck. The F2, a German escort vessel of world war II sunk in December 1946. The wreck lies on its port side and there's fairly good visibility. Although much of the vessel has been broken up following salvage operations, the fascinating bow, with it's gun (105mm) still in place remains intact in 17 metres (56 feet) of water.
The YC21 situated close to the F2 is the wreck of the big wooden barges that were used to carry parts away from the site. It's said that the barge went down while carrying out salvage operations on the F2 wreck in 1968. Encounters with with lots of pollock, wrasse and conger eels hiding in the wreckage are likely.

SMS Karlsruhe rests in 27 metres (88 feet) of water. She isn't as intact as the other wrecks aroung here. This is because she is at a shallower depth and hence more accesible to salvagers. The Karlsruhe measures 150 metres (492 feet) and has a capacity of 5'400 tonnes.

UB 116 was sunk by an electronically detonated mine while on a delicate mission to enter the Flow and attack Royal Navy vessels. All her crew, 34 members perished in this operation and the site of the wreck was later destroyed further by the Royal Navy divers who, to destroy the live torpedos still on board, blew up the u-Boat. The wreckage, although destroyed lies in 32 metres (104 feet) of water and still makes an interesting dive. One can still make out large compressed air cylinders and remains of bulk head doors among the debris site.

SMS Koln a light cruiser/mine layer of 5600 tons and measuring 155 metres (508 feet), sunk in 919. She lies at 36 metres (118 feet) of water on her starboard side and is still pretty intact. In fact some of her armaments are still in their place.

SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm is 177 metres (580 feet) long and has a capacity of almost 26000 tons. She was intentionally scuttled in 1919 and the the sheer weight of her guns and armoured bridge caused her to turn upside down on sinking. Her superstructure was deeply buried into the soft silt of the Flow bottom. It's one of the three Konig Class Battleships that survived the attempts of salvagers to raise them. The flat keel of the vessel is at a shallow depth of 9 metres (29 feet). You only get to the upturned deck area at a depth of approximately 35 metres (115 feet) which is complete with gun barrels. This wreck dive leaves a great impression on the diver.

Steam Trawler Radiation, a large wooden built trawler lies upright in about 23 metres (75 feet) of water and is still pretty intact. Time and the salt water environment are starting to wear out its wooden hull around her stern area. However this dive is a great dive in relatively shallow waters but beware, the wreck is covered in a thin layer of silt which can easily be disturbed. Careful buoyancy control is required here.

MFV James Barrie wreck, sank in 1969 after running aground on rocks. This was a large ocean ocean trawler made to operate in the difficult Icelandic waters. This is a slack water dive only. She lies on her port side and is intact. The visibility is generally good and the wreck well worth the dive but it's depth, about 42 metres (137 feet), and location in strong tidal waters means that only very experienced divers should attempt this dive.

Burra Sound has three main dives. The Tabarka [2642 tonnes], Gobernador Bories [2332 tonnes] and the Doyle [1761 tonnes] and they all lie at a depth of 12-18metres (39-59 feet). Burra Sound being very tidal means that dives can only be carried out at slack water and the visibility is often excellent. The Gobernador the most broken of the 3 wrecks attracts lots of marine life.The Doyle is pretty intact and is a great dive. Other ships also sunk in Burra sound but are very broken on the seabed today.

Although Orkney is known for its wreck diving a large amount of scenic diving is available outside the Scapa Flow and the many smaller islands that offer the best of Orkney's scenic diving. There are popular dives at sites like

Inganess, the Old Man of Hoy, or the North Shoal. The shallow waters offer excelent marine life but the more experienced divers wishing to dive deeper have the opportunity do so. Encounters with marine mammals like common and grey seals, various types of whales, porpoises and sometimes dolphins are common. Out of the water you may also spot birds like puffins, skuas and guillemots who visit the area yearly.

How to get there:
British Airways and Loganair fly scheduled services to Kirkwall Airport Monday to Saturday from London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and
Wick P&O Ferries operate a daily car ferry from Scrabster near Thurso and weekly from Aberdeen and Shetland to Stromness If you're driving, go North through Scotland to the A9. There is a car ferry from John O' Groats to St Margarets Hope or Kirkwall

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