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20.01.17

First images of HMS Vanguard in Scapa Flow

A group of divers, lead by Ben Wade and Emily Turton of Orkney dive boat MV Huskyan, are conducting an extensive survey of the wreck of HMS Vanguard in Scapa Flow under special licence from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). The initial findings and very first images of the ship have been released.

The St Vincent Class Battleship was at anchor in Scapa Flow on 9 July, 1917. At approximately 23:20 she exploded and sank with the loss of 843 men. There were only two survivors.

Today HMS Vanguard lies just off the north coast of Flotta in Scapa Flow at a depth of approximately 34m. The diver survey began in October and will continue into the spring of this year. HMS Vanguard is a protected wreck under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 and no diving is permitted on the site except under licence from the MoD.
The survey team is made up of specialist divers, most of whom were part of the HMS Hampshire diving survey in June 2016. A full sidescan sonar survey of the wreck site has been conducted in partnership with Kevin Heath of Sula Diving. The aim is to complete a full photographic, 3D photogrammetry and video survey of the site. The team also welcome experts in munitions, explosive effects and weapons engineering, WWI naval history, marine biology, and underwater 3D visualization.
Emily Turton describes the site: "The main wreck is complicated with an extensive debris field. Surprising, given the nature of her loss, both the bow and stern are intact despite large pieces of wreckage having been thrown hundreds of metres away. HMS Vanguard was legally salvaged during the second half of the twentieth century and much evidence of this remains.

"It is accepted that the likely cause of the disaster was an accidental magazine explosion. Eye witness accounts on the night of her loss describe a large explosion immediately behind the bridge. We can reveal that our initial survey results support this. The largest explosion appears to have been in the P and Q turret magazines. Today there is little wreckage left in this area and both P and Q turret have been displaced by approximately 40 metres."
A report will be compiled and made available to the MOD, Historic Environment Scotland, Orkney Marine Services and other interested organisations. The full survey results will be made available to the wider public via the Scapa 100 website, www.scapa100.org.
Ms Turton added: "The purpose of the survey is to tell the story of HMS Vanguard at 100 years underwater. We also hope to offer a sensitive contribution to the centenary commemoration in July this year. We are very sensitive to the historical importance of this wreck and are very aware of the loss of life, and the strict terms of the MoD licence granted to us, which prevent intrusive activity. As we commemorate WWI and in particular the 100 year anniversary of her sinking, we hope that this survey data will add to our historic knowledge of this era of warship construction and help maintain the memory of HMS Vanguard and the sacrifice made by her crew."
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