NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

New images reveal sunken Royal Oak battleship

Big gun Image copyright Marjo Tynkkynen/HMS Royal Oak 80
Image caption A massive casement gun encrusted with sea life looms out of the wreck

A volunteer team has been given special permission to dive on the wreck of the Royal Oak in Orkney's Scapa Flow.

The ship - which was sunk by a U-boat in Scapa Flow in October 1939 with the loss of more than 830 men and boys - is protected as a war grave.

But the divers have been allowed to gather images and information for use in 80th anniversary commemorations.

It follows similar projects by the same group on the wrecks of the Royal Navy ships HMS Hampshire and HMS Vanguard.

Image copyright Chris Rowland/Crown Copyright
Image caption Four torpedo holes are visible in the hull of Royal Oak

Stromness-based dive boat owner Emily Turton told BBC Radio Orkney "diving was banned on Royal Oak in 2002" to protect it.

"Very little access is given to British war graves, and it has to be by special licence," she said.

She said she had been working closely with the Royal Navy northern diving group and the Royal Oak Association.

"We asked what they would like to see," she said.

Image copyright Marjo Tynkkynen/HMS Royal Oak 80
Image caption What at first looks like part of the structure of the ship is a double bass, complete with its bow
Image copyright Marjo Tynkkynen/HMS Royal Oak 80
Image caption Divers found what seems to be a supply of spare navigation lamps

Ambitious plans to produce video and 3D images were delayed following the theft of a laptop and two external hard drives from the team.

The equipment was taken during a break-in at a flat in Stromness, which prompted a £1,500 reward for its return.

Emily Turton said the theft had been "devastating", but she said she hoped it would be possible to recover the raw data, and recreate the processed images.

Gareth Derbyshire, chairman of the Royal Oak Association, said the project was "an important means of ensuring that the history of the ship and the circumstances of its loss were available to future generations.

The last of the survivors of HMS Royal Oak died in December 2016.

Image copyright Kieran Hatton/HMS Royal Oak 80
Image caption The site of the wreck in Scapa Flow is protected as a war grave
Image copyright Orkney Library and Archive
Image caption The Royal Oak was sunk by German U-boat U47 in October 1939

Diving work on the wreck is now almost complete.

The next phase of the project will see all the data that has been gathered being collated and processed.

A comprehensive survey report is due to be produced before the end of the year.

The dive team will also present their findings to the public.

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