Maritime Monday for February 27th, 2012 – “Wir sind in Scapa Flow!!”

Monkey Fist
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February 27, 2012


Kapitänleutnant Günther Prien in 1940

Kriegsmarine Commander of Submarines Karl Dönitz devised a plan to attack Scapa Flow by submarine within days of the outbreak of war. Its goal would be twofold: firstly, that displacing the Home Fleet from Scapa Flow would slacken the British North Sea blockade and grant Germany greater freedom to attack the Atlantic convoys.  Secondly, the blow would be a symbolic act of vengeance, striking at the same location where the German High Seas Fleet had surrendered and scuttled itself following Germany’s defeat in the First World War. Dönitz hand-picked Kapitänleutnant Günther Prien for the task, scheduling the raid for the night of 13/14 October 1939, when the tides would be high and the night moonless.

On the surface, and illuminated by a bright display of the aurora borealis, the submarine threaded between the sunken blockships Seriano and Numidian, grounding itself temporarily on a cable strung from Seriano. On entering the harbour proper at 00:27 on 14 October, Prien entered a triumphant Wir sind in Scapa Flow!!! in the log and set a south-westerly course.

At 00:58 U-47 fired a salvo of three torpedoes from its bow tubes, the fourth lodging in its tube. Two failed to find a target, but a single torpedo struck the bow of Royal Oak at 01:04, shaking the ship and waking the crew. At 01:16, three more struck the battleship in quick succession amidships and detonated.  Royal Oak quickly listed some 15°, sufficient to push the open starboard-side portholes below the waterline. She soon rolled further onto her side to 45°, hanging there for several minutes before disappearing beneath the surface at 01:29.



(full size 1280×948 on F Yeah Norsemen)

imageScapa Flow (Old Norse: Skalpaflói—”bay of the long isthmus”) is a body of water in the Orkney Islands of Scotland.

It has a shallow sandy bottom not deeper than 60 metres (200 ft) and most of it about 30 metres (98 ft) deep, and is one of the great natural anchorages in the world, with sufficient space to hold a number of navies. Viking ships anchored in Scapa Flow more than 1000 years ago, but it is best known as the site of the United Kingdom’s chief naval base during World War I and World War II.

The Viking expeditions to Orkney are recorded in detail in the 11th century Orkneyinga sagas and later texts such as the Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar. King Haakon IV of Norway anchored his fleet, including the flagship Kroussden that could carry nearly 300 men, on 5 August 1263 at St Margaret’s Hope, where he witnessed an eclipse of the sun.

image: N. C. Wyeth – The Viking Ship, 1922 (via F Yeah Norsemen)

Extracts from Hydrograph: The tidal currents are weak in this small inland sea. No high sea except the local one which rises from shore to shore and is bad, in fact, when the wind is strong. (French Navy Records)


The German Fleet at Scapa Flow; 28 Nov 1918 – (full size)

Following the German defeat in the First World War, 74 ships of the Kaiserliche Marine’s High Seas Fleet were interned in Gutter Sound at Scapa Flow pending a decision on their future in the peace Treaty of Versailles.

On 21 June 1919, after nine months of waiting, the German officer in command at Scapa Flow made the decision to scuttle the fleet because the negotiation period for the treaty had lapsed with no word of a settlement (he had not been informed that there had been a last-minute extension to finalize the details).

After waiting for the bulk of the British fleet to leave on exercises, he gave the order to scuttle the ships to prevent their falling into British hands. The Royal Navy made desperate efforts to board the ships to prevent the sinking, but the German crews had spent theie idle months preparing for the order; welding bulkhead doors open, laying charges in vulnerable parts of the ships, and quietly dropping important keys and tools overboard so valves could not be shut.

Of the 74 German ships in Scapa Flow, 15 of the 16 capital ships, 5 of the 8 cruisers, and 32 of the 50 destroyers were sunk.  (list of ships)

more on wikipedia


upper-works of the battle-cruiser SMS Hindenburg above water at Scapa Flow
(21 June 1919)


Queens of the Sea in Unique Jubilee Salute

Isle of Wight County Press:

THOUSANDS of sightseers are expected to converge on the Island’s shores to see the spectacle of all three Cunard ‘Queens’ arrive in The Solent on the same day.

imageSouthampton has been dealt a Royal Flush of ships as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. This will be the first time the three ships will have been seen arriving and departing together in formation at their home port.

Islanders will have a grandstand view as Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 approach the port soon after first light on Tuesday, June 5, sailing in single file up The Solent, with a flotilla of small boats expected to welcome them in.

As Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria tie up at their berths, Queen Mary 2 will follow on, turning in the upper swinging ground and then passing each ship in turn, with crew lining the foredeck of all three vessels, and the ships’ whistles sounding in salute of the Queen’s jubilee…

keep reading
Reuters: Diamond Jubilee barge gets figurehead (1:48) Video
top image:


HMS Exmouth with HMS Tuna (N94) alongside at Scapa Flow
British Submarines of World War II; Photo Gallery

HMS Tuna (N94) was a T-class submarine of the Royal Navy, ordered from Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company on 9 December, 1937. Tuna was part of a further three submarines to be ordered, along with Triad and Truant, which were both ordered from another shipbuilder.

She was equipped with diesel engines produced by German MAN SE, which had been delivered before the outbreak of war. Spare parts were rare, and members of the crew often created replacement parts from other equipment whilst at sea.

Tuna had a relatively active career, serving in the North Sea and off the French and Scandinavian coasts, sinking the 7,230 ton Norwegian merchant Tirranna on 22 September 1940.

On 30 November, 1942, she sailed from the Holy Loch, Scotland, transporting Royal Marines to the Gironde estuary as part of Operation Frankton. She arrived at the estuary a day late, surfacing 10 miles (16 km) out from the mouth.

The aim of the operation was for several canoes of marines to paddle 60 miles up the Gironde to attack German ships at Bordeaux. The operation resulted in a success, and was one of the forerunners to the formation of the Special Boat Service.

more on wiki
see also: HMS Worcester At Scapa Flow with HMS Tuna alongside


Salvaging the German High Seas Fleet wrecks of Scapa Flow

Although many of the larger ships turned turtle and came to rest upside down or on their sides in relatively deep water (25–45 m), some—including the battlecruiser Moltke—were left with parts of their superstructure or upturned bows still protruding from the water or just below the surface. They posed a severe hazard to navigation, and small boats moving around the Flow regularly became snagged on them. So, in 1922, the British Admiralty finally invited in tenders from interested parties to begin the salvage of the sunken ships.

So began what is often called the greatest maritime salvage operation of all time, the contract going to a wealthy scrap metal merchant named Ernest Cox, who created a new company, Cox & Danks Ltd, specifically for the venture.

During the next eight years, Cox and his workforce of divers, engineers, and labourers applied all their ingenuity to the painstaking task of sealing the numerous holes in the wrecks, welding huge steel tubes to the hulls and pumping compressed air into the ships to raise them. Workers would row up to a tube, climb down the inside, through the airlocks and work inside the ships whilst they lay on the seabed.  (some photos of the operation)


Salvage work in progress on the German battleship BADEN.
Cruiser FRANKFURT is also in view


Unidentified capsized battleship at Scapa Flow
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard


scuttled German destroyer G 102; official Royal Navy photograph


Bayern (above and below; raised in 1933-34)

She fetched a scrap value of £110,000 nearly half of which was profit.  The salvage operations on the various ships started in the early 1920’s with most of the ships having been raised by the late 1930’s.  Since then fragments of ships have been raised and since Hiroshima they remain an important source of quality radioactive free metals necessary for certain types of sensitive scientific instruments.

more on


more photos of Bayern (not seen elsewhere)
*warning: on (White Pride website)


Trying to get Seydlitz upright


AN EARLY METHOD of salving one of the warships.  A local shipowner bought four or five sunken destroyers from the Admiralty and carried them ashore by using two large old barges lashed together with baulks of timber.  To obtain adequate lifting power, he employed great inflated camels made of canvas


more photos

more photos: Imperial War Museum; Surrender of the German High Seas Fleet

The Surrender: Contemporary reports from the Daily Mail

Contemporary newspaper reports about the scuttle

Background to the German Wrecks


USS South Dakota (BB-57) at Scapa Flow, 1943
Full resolution‎ (3,000 × 2,275 pixels)


HMS Hood as seen from HMS Rodney in Scapa Flow, late 1940
World War II Today: Follow the War as it Happened


A Spectacle of Horror – The Burning of the General Slocum

This week on Smithsonian magazine:

Eleven-year-old Willie Keppler had joined the excursion without his parents’ permission but made it through the flailing of non-swimmers who dragged fellow passengers down with them; he was too scared of punishment to return home until he saw his name among the dead in the next day’s newspaper. “I thought I’d come home and git the licking instead of breaking me mudder’s heart,” Keppler was quoted as saying. “So I’m home, and me mudder only kissed me and me fadder gave me half a dollar for being a good swimmer.”

keep reading
(photo: NY Times; Disaster Fatigue Slideshow)


HMS Carmania (card reads “RMS Carmania of the Cunard Line”)


right: Cap Trafalgar 1899

14 September 1914: The Cap Trafalgar was discovered by the British armed merchant cruiser HMS Carmania, a liner belonging to the Cunard Line which had been converted to a convoy escort and raider designed to flush out German colliers and small warships that might be using the inhospitable island as a base against British merchant shipping.

Carmania spotted Cap Trafalgar‘s smoke early in the morning and some hours later was able to surprise the German ship with two colliers in the island’s only harbour.

By ironic coincidence the Cap Trafalgar was disguised as the Carmania; while the Carmania was disguised as the Cap Trafalgar

more on wiki:

SMS Cap Trafalgar  —  RMS Carmania


On 14 October 1939, Royal Oak was anchored at Scapa Flow in Orkney, Scotland when she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-47. Of Royal Oak’s complement of 1,234 men and boys, 833 were killed that night or died later of their wounds. The loss of the old ship — the first of the five Royal Navy battleships and battle cruisers sunk in the Second World War — little affected the numerical superiority enjoyed by the British navy and its Allies, but the effect on wartime morale was considerable.

more on wiki


Sonar image of HMS Royal Oak; sunk while at anchor in 1939
– image via pistonheads
More images

A war hero who survived a German U-boat attack that claimed 833 British lives has had his dying wish granted, after his ashes were laid to rest on the hull of his sunken ship…

Navy divers placed a casket containing Fernleigh Judge’s remains 90ft beneath the North Sea on the wreck of HMS Royal Oak at Scapa Flow, Orkney, on Monday. The battleship went down after being torpedoed in 1939. Mr Judge, 88, had wanted to return to the site, but was unable to make the journey from his home in Peterborough, Cambs.

Survivor Kenneth Toop, 85, carried his ashes: “I was honoured to fulfill his wishes.”

from the Mirror
(by way of The Daily Undertaker)


‘Plan tres exact et vüe de la ville, baye, et des nouvelles
fortifications de Gibraltar..’
by Albert C Suetter, 1760

“Spain formally recognized British rule of Gibraltar in the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) but, throughout the 18th century, periodically sought to reassert its territorial claims. The cartouche presents a graphic argument for an end to hostilities by featuring Mercury with his caduceus (the staff of entwined serpents, which symbolized commerce) and a cornucopia (horn of plenty). Whatever is decided by the human arbiters of destiny, the sea (Neptune) will continue to determine the fate of ships sailing through the Pillars of Hercules.”

‘Going for Baroque – The Iconography of the Ornamental Map’ –on Bibliodyssey


Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad, 1941–1945

Pavel Petrovich Sokolov-Skalia – Russian, 1899-1961
Fascist Reports, False Reports, August 17, 1942

During World War II, the Soviet Union’s news agency, TASS, enlisted artists and writers to bolster support for the nation’s war effort. Working from Moscow, this studio produced hundreds of storefront window posters, one for nearly every day of the war. Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad, 1941–1945 is a monumental exhibition centered on these posters, which have not been seen in the United States since the Second World War.



Scapa Flow; 21 June 1919 (marine artist Bernard Finnigan Gribble)


Southern Railway – Plan of Southampton Docks, 1930

A detailed plan of the ‘old’ Docks at Southampton, c1930, with the wharves and docks clustered around the old town at the confluence of the Rivers Test and Itchen. At this date the new Western Docks were under construction that would radically increase the port’s facilities.

–posted by mikeyashworth

(4800 x 6204)  –  cover


Souvenir: (4666 x 5904)  —  Empire Docks: (3882 x 5256)


panoramic view c1930  —  (5982 x 4728)

see also: A souvenir of the Southern Railway Co’s Southampton Docks, c1935



Photo of the Month on National Geographic
top: Red Sea Reefs by Thomas P. Peschak
from the March 2012 story “The Seas of Arabia”

left: A huge water-themed resort rises on Dubai’s coast
right: A relic of the Iran-Iraq war, this oil tanker was scuttled near the Kuwait-Iraq border on Saddam Hussein’s orders, to block access by sea to southern Iraq. Kuwaiti authorities are reluctant to remove the vessel for fear of damaging the wetlands of nearby Bubiyan Island, an important fish nursery and seabird breeding ground.


London, Greenwich Pier Area showing a Paddle Ship; circa 1890
Old Photos of Greenwich in the City of London, England

…Take high abstracted man alone; and he seems a wonder, a grandeur, and a woe. But from the same point, take mankind in mass, and for the most part, they seem a mob of unnecessary duplicates, both contemporary and hereditary…
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

via drtuesdaygjohnson


LIFE magazine, October 9, 1944*see also (via thegildedcentury)
Byron Thomas (artist 1902-1978) article, front page
Byron Thomas on AskArt.comLIFE, Jun 23, 1941 article


Construction of the Churchill Barrier, Scapa Flow

The Churchill Barriers are a series of four causeways in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, totaling1.5 miles (2.3 km) in length. They link the Orkney Mainland in the north to the island of South Ronaldsay via Burray and the two smaller islands of Lamb Holm and Glimps Holm.

The barriers were built in the 1940s primarily as naval defences to protect the anchorage at Scapa Flow, but now serve as road links, carrying the A961 road from Kirkwall to Burwick.

On 14 October 1939, the Royal Navy battleship HMS Royal Oak was sunk at her moorings within the natural harbour of Scapa Flow in a nighttime attack by the German U-boat U-47. Shortly before midnight on the 13 October the U-47 had entered Scapa Flow through Kirk Sound, then launched a surprise torpedo attack on the unsuspecting Royal Navy battleship while it was at anchor.

In response, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill ordered the construction of several permanent barriers to prevent any further attacks. Work began in May 1940 and was completed by September 1944. However the barriers were not officially opened until 12 May 1945, four days after the end of World War II in Europe.

more on wiki


RMS Campania on the Mersey – Old Photos of Liverpool

RMS Campania was a British ocean liner owned by the Cunard Steamship Line Shipping Company, built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Govan, Scotland, and launched on Thursday, 8 September 1891.

Campania and her sister ship Lucania were partly financed by the British Admiralty. The deal was that Cunard would receive money from the Government in return for constructing vessels to admiralty specifications and also on condition that the vessels go on the naval reserve list to serve as armed merchant cruisers when required by the government.

Sunk in a collision with HMS Glorious 5 November 1918. Wreckage at 56°02′N 03°13′W

more on wikipedia


St Clement’s Church, Rodel, Isle of Harris, Western Isles

St Clement’s Church at Rodel on Harris dates from the 16th-century and it is one of the finest examples of a late medieval church in the Western Isles. Built into one of the walls inside the church is a tomb dedicated to Alexander MacLeod (known in Gaelic as Alasdair Crotach of Dunvegan).

It was built in 1528, 20 years before he died, and it contains some of the best examples of late medieval sculpture in Scotland. There are many examples of carvings of galleys on, for example, grave slabs but not many showing the ship in such a detail as this one…

more on Scotland’s Favourite Archive Images


Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Jules Verne. Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1873

The year 1866 was signalised by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and puzzling phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten. Not to mention rumours which agitated the maritime population and excited the public mind, even in the interior of continents, seafaring men were particularly excited. Merchants, common sailors, captains of vessels, skippers, both of Europe and America, naval officers of all countries, and the Governments of several States on the two continents, were deeply interested in the matter.

For some time past vessels had been met by “an enormous thing,” a long object, spindle-shaped, occasionally phosphorescent, and infinitely larger and more rapid in its movements than a whale. –Part One, Chapter One

This is the true American first edition. This Osgood edition, although dated 1873, was actually published in November 1872, the same month as Sampson Low’s British edition.

more on book-aesthete


Telegraph UK: The Dictionary of The Vulgar Tongue

imageA runaway success when published in 1811 by soldier Francis Grose, but now the Dictionary Of The Vulgar Tongue can be viewed online. Here is our round up of the best words:

  • GOSPEL SHOP: Church
  • PIECE: Wench. A girl who is more or less active and skilful in the amorous congress
  • QUEER PLUNGERS: Cheats who throw themselves into the water in order that they may be taken up by their accomplices, who carry them to one of the houses appointed by the Humane Society for the recovery of drowned persons, where they are rewarded by the society with a guinea
  • SHOOT THE CAT: Vomit from excess of liquor


(image source) — (article via mabelmoments)


Fairey Swordfish (via coldisthesea)

It was a large, slow biplane with a low wing loading, ideal for actions off carrier decks. The structure was largely metal, covered with fabric. The first machine was powered by a Bristol Pegasus IIM air-cooled, nine cylinder radial, developing 635 hp. These were severely underpowered. The next, much improved, prototype used a Pegasus IIIM3 with 775 hp. First flown in 1934, this aircraft exceeded the governments demands, so an order was placed for the first 86 production examples in 1935. The first deliveries were made in the following year, further orders continuing well after the beginning of the war.

more on Dieselpunk


Ship-turned-hotel buried underneath San Francisco’s financial district

The Niantic was one of many ships that brought eager gold-seekers from around the world into Yerba Buena Cove (now San Francisco) during the frenzied times of 1848-1849.

Originally a whaling ship, the amount of money to be made ferrying gold hungry hopefuls to Yerba Buena Cove was staggering, and the Niantic made over 38,000 dollars – over a million dollars in today’s money – on its single trip bringing gold seekers to California. Upon arrival in Yerba Buena, the aspiring miners would abandon the ships, stock up on supplies, and race out to take their chances panning for gold in the foothills…

more on Atlas Obscura
see also: Pratt Institute Engine Room; A Haven for Steampunks and Archie the Giant Squid


Ship Janson Cut Through by Texel River Ice by Jan Mooy

This artist took a serial approach in a single scene presenting three different views of a merchant ship sinking off the wintry coast of Holland.  —Peabody Essex Museum (via thingsihappentolike)


Air raid on Scapa Flow kills first civilian in Britain

James Isbister, 27, an Orkney resident became the first British civilian to be killed in an air raid on March 16th 1940. Fourteen Ju-88 Luftwaffe bombers attacked the British fleet at Scapa Flow and hit HMS Norfolk but some bombs hit cottages on the Mainland.

more on World War II Today; Follow the War as it Happened


Sentinels of Scapa Flow; St. Margaret’s Hope
– photo by Norman Bews –

Scapa Flow Today

Scapa Flow is one of the transfer and processing points for North Sea oil. The Scapa Flow visitor centre, at Lyness on the island of Hoy, is located in the former naval fuel pumping station and a converted storage tank. Exhibits include a large, three-dimensional representation of the island and of the German ships as they were prior to scuttling. The island is accessible by local ferry several times daily from Houton.

Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum
Scapa Flow Marine Archaeology Project


Broken British Navy teacupGerman pottery shard


Mardi Gras Designs: Mistick Krewe of Comus 1873
‘Missing Links’ Parade Costume Designs

– on Bibliodyssey –


England 19th century, mysterious object with twelve different views of painted boats, one in ivory bas-relief. Unidentified hallmark. *see image below, middle shelf
Wunderkammer Objects (via bluewaterblackheart)


Domenico Remps, Cabinet of Curiosities, detail, 1690-99
(via theshipthatflew)


Netherlands; 1650 nautilus shell, copper-gilt
more curiosities




(Source: olderoticart)

Monkey Fist

Monkey Fist is a smack-talking, potty mouthed, Yankee hating, Red Sox fan in Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to compiling Maritime Monday, she blogs about nautical art, history, and marine science on Adventures of the Blackgang.

Submit story ideas, news links, photographs, or items of interest to her at [email protected]. She can also out-belch any man.


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