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Scuba Diving in Scapa Flow, Scotland, UK, Europe
Dive Site: SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm
Location: 58°53.39N; 03°09.46W
Description: 26 000 ton battleship
Length: 177 metres (581 feet)
Depth: 12 - 37 metres (39 - 121 feet)
Visibility: 15 metres (50 feet)
Lying nearly upside down, the hull is the first thing you encounter on this wreck, which is covered in so many brittle stars that from a distance they look like netting. Because the deck of the ship is nearly on the sea floor and due to the immense size of the ship, expect to clock up a lot of decompression. Much of the wreck is buried but the consequently disguised shapes make interesting viewing. This is a picturesque dive and if you get well under the wreck it is possible to see the large guns still mounted on the deck. Starfish, sponges and sea anemones are abundant, especially on the rudder covering 99% of it. Leave the stern until the end of the dive and ascend up the rudder, which is very beautiful and reaches up to only 12 metres below the surface.
I dived the Kronprinz Wilhelm in August 2006. The ship is massive and would take numerous dives to look at everything. We started from a shot line about half way along the hull. Unfortunately the day we dived was overcast so the visibility was way down on what it normally is. We followed the hull down to thirty metres looking in the various holes that abound. The ship is almost completely covered in bright coloured sponges and has lots of almost tame fish life. When we were down to four minutes no stop we turned round and let the current drift us gently back up to our starting point, a very odd sensation drifting over a ship. We went a little way past the shot and saw something which could have been a gun turret before it was time to ascend. I want to do this one again.
Jef Proudfoot, SAA Dive Leader
June 2008 Update
To describe this wreck is going to take a lot of dives, and like the comments before, the description is on what was dived at the time! This giant leviathan is a towering castle of steel, impressive and at the same time can be dangerous if you become in awe of it. Dives should be planned carefully and executed accordingly, going to a specific area. There are many large salvage blast holes in the hull that I saw, and in lowered vis. they could ensnare the lax diver. I would say 'be on your metal, on the metal'!
It is possible to rack up decompression, but providing it's planned properly you can get 50 minute no-decompression dives and still get to the seabed, as we did, diving on 30% nitrox from 12 ltr tanks. The wreck is so vast and stands so proud, that multi-level diving is easily achieved. For those who haven't dived it, the 26,000 ton German WWI battleship, modern at the time, is now lying upside down on its superstructures and guns, with a slight list so the port side is several metres above the seabed at 30m. This allows exploration of what once was the main deck.
The shot (permanent I believe) is located just forward of 'D' turret well below it. The shot hits the keel at 15m and another line from here leads over the bulbous hull port side to a nodule of rope tied off, on the edge of the main deck of the wreck, at around 30m. Various ropes dangle off and some netting is visible. The seabed is 5m or so below (we reached 37.5m). The nodule is the locator for the 'D' turret (aft) and one of its 12" guns, which is a swim under for 5-6m. The gun lies partially embedded in the seabed, following it out (to stern), the end can easily be located. Bottom time, air, buddy, narcosis and buoyancy (as the silt can easily be stirred) should be monitored.
Looking up (to the main deck), 'E' Turret can be seen, and the start of one of its guns. The wreck and gun disappear into the silt in the narrowing gap, so don't venture here. Instead, retrace steps to go out, taking care not to get entangled! These guns are one of the last examples of those fired at the Battle of Jutland. Depending on time, air etc., either make your way back up the shot lines, or better, to the stern where many numerous blast holes can be found. Much of the metal looks like seabed, colonised by sea beard (Nermetesia), and even smaller creatures can be found such as sea hares, pipefish & nudibranchs - 'Davids' to the 'Goliath'! We found one of the propeller shaft ends, where the propeller would have been, in a vast 'dip' of metal.
The keel here rises to around 15-18m, and seems endless with twisted anemone-covered metal everywhere. As we are going sternwards, the hull starts to drop away curving downwards, the upperparts form a 'point' for pollack to congregate. We didn't jump to the rudders. Descent is not recommended at this latter stage of the dive, and a gentle drift back along the shallowing keel is preferable. More blast holes at 15m can be seen, before bagging off.
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