The Köln

The Köln

This warship’s fighting history might have been unimpressive, says John Liddiard, but as a wreck it is the most intact of all the German Fleet at Scapa Flow

Illustration by Max Ellis

The wrecks of the scuttled German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow include two Dresden II class cruisers, the Köln and the Dresden. Although basically identical ships, the Dresden is one of the more broken German Fleet wrecks, in stark contrast with the Köln, which is regarded as the most intact of all.

Local skippers maintain buoys on all the main Scapa Flow wrecks. On the Köln, the line is usually attached to a boat davit just forward of the break in the hull (1).

Immediately below the line is one of the 3.4in secondary anti-aircraft guns mounted high on a pillar above deck (2). Originally the gunners would have stood on an open platform attached to the pillar from which they could work the gun, but this platform has long gone.

Forward from this gun are the flues from the funnels (3). The funnels have broken off, but some parts are still recognisable among debris on the seabed beneath. As usual with warships, the flues are blocked by armoured grilles, to protect the boilers below from falling shells.

The Köln

This warship’s fighting history might have been unimpressive, says John Liddiard, but as a wreck it is the most intact of all the German Fleet at Scapa Flow

Illustration by Max Ellis

The wrecks of the scuttled German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow include two Dresden II class cruisers, the Köln and the Dresden. Although basically identical ships, the Dresden is one of the more broken German Fleet wrecks, in stark contrast with the Köln, which is regarded as the most intact of all.

Local skippers maintain buoys on all the main Scapa Flow wrecks. On the Köln, the line is usually attached to a boat davit just forward of the break in the hull (1).

Immediately below the line is one of the 3.4in secondary anti-aircraft guns mounted high on a pillar above deck (2). Originally the gunners would have stood on an open platform attached to the pillar from which they could work the gun, but this platform has long gone.

Forward from this gun are the flues from the funnels (3). The funnels have broken off, but some parts are still recognisable among debris on the seabed beneath. As usual with warships, the flues are blocked by armoured grilles, to protect the boilers below from falling shells.

Next comes the bridge and main mast. The mast is spectacularly intact, with supporting cables home to dangling arrays of plumose anemones (4). Two spotting platforms are located a short way up the mast (5).

Beneath the mast, the main bridge area retains its overall structure, but the sides have rotted away to leave a cross-hatched array of supporting beams (6).

Forward of the bridge is the armoured conning tower – a solid-looking cylin-drical structure with slit windows. On the roof is a T-shaped device that, on a modern ship, could be a radar scanner, but is in fact the rangefinder for the ship’s guns (7).

An arrangement of lenses and prisms would be used to calculate range from the parallax between images viewed through opposite ends of the range-finder. The optics from the rangefinder were removed in Germany before the Köln was surrendered to the British. Apparently the Germans regarded the secrets of their rangefinder optics as something worth keeping to themselves when the fleet was interred.

The Köln originally mounted two bow turrets side by side on the forward deck (9), but all that remains are two debris-filled holes in the decking where the turrets used to be, and an armoured locker just behind them, perhaps used to store ready ammunition (8).

The last feature before the bow is a pair of capstans with anchor chain dangling between them (10). Beneath the starboard bow, a length of chain runs out across the seabed, but I have never swum to the end of it to look for an anchor (11).

Back towards the conning tower on the port side of the hull, several missing plates and a gouge in the deck provide easy access to the spaces below deck, with turret mechanisms and drives for the capstans easily accessible (12).

Following the shallower port side of the deck back past the bridge, you come to the remains of one of the main 5.9in gun turrets (13). This turret is unusual in that half of the armour plating has fallen away, leaving the gun mechanism more accessible than on the more intact turrets at the stern. The corresponding starboard turret is presumably buried among debris on the seabed.

Other features along this side of the hull are davits for the ship’s boats (14), the last of which hosts the buoy line (1).

With a maximum depth between 33 and 36m, the route so far gives a relatively brisk no-stop dive or a more leisurely dive with a moderate amount of decompression stops.

Unless you are breathing an optimum nitrox mix, are carrying lots of it, and are prepared for lengthy deco stops, you will probably want to save the second part of the route for a later dive.

Behind the davits and gun pillar, the hull has been broken open for salvage (15). Over a number of years, the weakened structure has collapsed further, leaving a tangled mess of debris, including the aft mast and superstructure.

Crossing the debris, the wreck soon regains its structure, with a raised deck supporting one of the rear turrets. This turret is intact, showing the full armoured shield covering the front, top and sides of the turret, but leaving the rear open (16). The 5.9in gun barrel points about 20¡ to port of aft.

Further back and on the main deck, the other rear turret is also intact (17). It must be something about the balance of the turrets, because the rearmost turret points upward at a similar angle to the previous one, as do similar intact turrets on the other scuttled cruisers Dresden and Brummer.

A few plates have broken free of the deck, leaving holes too small to enter. At the stern, a single capstan and chain hold the kedge anchor in place against the rear of the hull (18). A diversion along the keel reveals the remains of the rudder and propshafts (19). The main life on the hull plates consists of tunicates and brittlestars.

Returning to amidships along the shallower port side of the deck, the break in the hull is soon reached. With decom-pression stops now mounting rapidly, it is probably easier to release a delayed SMB from the start of the break (20) than work across it back to the buoy line.

As mentioned earlier, the Köln is of the same class of cruiser as another wreck in Scapa Flow, the Dresden. The Dresden is similar in layout to the Köln, but lies on its port side, with considerably more damage to the amidships and stern areas. Its bow used to be reasonably intact but, over the past couple of years, the plates have started to fall away from the ribs of the hull.

TIDES: The Köln can be dived at any state of the tide.

GETTING THERE: Ferries to the Orkney Islands run from Scrabster, Invergordon and Aberdeen. The longer ferry routes cost more, but they have the advantage of shorter road journeys. The Scrabster-to-Stromness ferry is accustomed to divers and has a system for carrying dive gear for foot passengers, so you can easily leave your car on the mainland. Coaches from Inverness to Scrabster are scheduled to fit in with the ferry sailings. It is also possible to fly into Kirkwall.

DIVING AND AIR: Most diving in Scapa Flow is from large hardboats, many offering liveaboard “floating bunk room” accommodation. Boats are generally based in Stromness, but may tie up overnight at other harbours. Air is provided by on-board compressors. Nitrox can be mixed on-board most boats for an extra charge. Air, weights and cylinders are usually included in the price, so travelling light to the Orkney Islands and using the boat’s equipment is always an option. Try Jean Elaine, the skipper of which, Andy Cuthbertson, lent a hand with this Wreck Tour (01856 850879) or check out the Classified Ads section of this issue for the many other options available.

LAUNCHING: If you want to ferry your own boat across, there are a number of small slips in Scapa Flow. The nearest to the Köln is at Houton. Scapa Flow is a working harbour and you will need to arrange permission to dive in advance with the Harbourmaster.

ACCOMMODATION: Sleep on board the boat, or stay ashore in a local hotel or B&B. There is a camp site in Stromness, but camping in the Orkney climate is not recommended. Contact Orkney Islands Tourist Board on 01856 872856, website: www.orknet.co.uk

QUALIFICATIONS: Scapa Flow is best suited to experienced sport divers and above who are capable of doing some decompression . Nitrox can be an advantage to get the most out of this wreck.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Admiralty Chart 35, Scapa Flow and Approaches. Ordnance Survey Map 6, Orkney – Mainland, Ordnance Survey Map 7, Orkney – Southern Isles. Dive Scapa Flow, Rod Macdonald. The Wrecks of Scapa Flow, David M Ferguson. The Naval Wrecks of Scapa Flow, Peter L Smith. Shipwreck Index of the British Isles Vol 4, Scotland, by Richard and Bridget Larn.

PROS: A reasonably intact warship that can be dived at any state of the tide.

CONS: Scapa Flow is a long way to travel for most UK divers.

Thanks to Matt Wood, Andy Cuthbertson and many members of Tunbridge Wells BSAC.

HOW TO FIND IT:

Co-ordinates 58 53.83N, 3 08.45W (degrees, minutes and decimals). The Köln is easy enough to find from the co-ordinates with a GPS and echo sounder, especially as there is a small buoy attached.

 

DANGEROUS ONLY IN DEATH

The light cruiser Köln was the last of the 74 ships of the surrendered German High Seas Fleet to reach Scapa Flow, but among the first to obey the order to scuttle. All 5531 tons of her went down, sternfirst with a starboard heel, and all 510ft went out of sight at 1.50pm on 21 June, 1919, writes Kendall McDonald.

The Köln, named after the city of Cologne, did not have much of a war record. She was built at the Blohm and Voss Hamburg shipyard to replace the sunken Cöln (German spellings changed around this time) and launched in October, 1916, but was not completed and taken into service until January, 1918.

She was a high-speed mover with a heavy punch. Her two sets of turbines and twin propellers could drive her along at nearly 30 knots, even when fully loaded with ammunition for her eight 5.9in and two 3.4in AA guns, torpedoes for her four deck tubes, and 200 mines. That is not to mention the weight of a large amount of 2.4in and 3.9in armour. Her crew numbered 559.

The Köln became part of the Second Scout Group, escorting U-boats through the swept channels of German minefields in Heligoland Bight. Sometimes she laid some of her own mines. Her chances of action against the British Fleet diminished as German naval mutinies spread, but she and the Second Scout Group remained loyal and stayed at sea, awaiting orders.

Those orders, when they finally came, were to join not battle but the Internment Fleet. Leaky condensers meant that she finally limped into Scapa Flow behind the rest of the German Fleet.

However, she nearly did sink one British warship. A destroyer went alongside to try to stop her sinking and just missed being taken down by the Köln as she rolled over for her final plunge. 

Would your club or dive centre like to see its favourite wreck featured here? If you would like to help John Liddiard put together the information for a particular wreck, why not invite him to come and dive it with you? Write to John c/o Wreck Tour at Diver.

 

Appeared in DIVER – April 2000.

 

DANGEROUS ONLY IN DEATH

 

Would your club or dive centre like to see its favourite wreck featured here? If you would like to help John Liddiard put together the information for a particular wreck, why not invite him to come and dive it with you? Write to John c/o Wreck Tour at Diver.

 

Appeared in DIVER – April 2000.

The Köln

This warship’s fighting history might have been unimpressive, says John Liddiard, but as a wreck it is the most intact of all the German Fleet at Scapa Flow

Illustration by Max Ellis

The wrecks of the scuttled German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow include two Dresden II class cruisers, the Köln and the Dresden. Although basically identical ships, the Dresden is one of the more broken German Fleet wrecks, in stark contrast with the Köln, which is regarded as the most intact of all.

Local skippers maintain buoys on all the main Scapa Flow wrecks. On the Köln, the line is usually attached to a boat davit just forward of the break in the hull (1).

Immediately below the line is one of the 3.4in secondary anti-aircraft guns mounted high on a pillar above deck (2). Originally the gunners would have stood on an open platform attached to the pillar from which they could work the gun, but this platform has long gone.

Forward from this gun are the flues from the funnels (3). The funnels have broken off, but some parts are still recognisable among debris on the seabed beneath. As usual with warships, the flues are blocked by armoured grilles, to protect the boilers below from falling shells.

Next comes the bridge and main mast. The mast is spectacularly intact, with supporting cables home to dangling arrays of plumose anemones (4). Two spotting platforms are located a short way up the mast (5).

Beneath the mast, the main bridge area retains its overall structure, but the sides have rotted away to leave a cross-hatched array of supporting beams (6).

Forward of the bridge is the armoured conning tower – a solid-looking cylin-drical structure with slit windows. On the roof is a T-shaped device that, on a modern ship, could be a radar scanner, but is in fact the rangefinder for the ship’s guns (7).

An arrangement of lenses and prisms would be used to calculate range from the parallax between images viewed through opposite ends of the range-finder. The optics from the rangefinder were removed in Germany before the Köln was surrendered to the British. Apparently the Germans regarded the secrets of their rangefinder optics as something worth keeping to themselves when the fleet was interred.

The Köln originally mounted two bow turrets side by side on the forward deck (9), but all that remains are two debris-filled holes in the decking where the turrets used to be, and an armoured locker just behind them, perhaps used to store ready ammunition (8).

The last feature before the bow is a pair of capstans with anchor chain dangling between them (10). Beneath the starboard bow, a length of chain runs out across the seabed, but I have never swum to the end of it to look for an anchor (11).

Back towards the conning tower on the port side of the hull, several missing plates and a gouge in the deck provide easy access to the spaces below deck, with turret mechanisms and drives for the capstans easily accessible (12).

Following the shallower port side of the deck back past the bridge, you come to the remains of one of the main 5.9in gun turrets (13). This turret is unusual in that half of the armour plating has fallen away, leaving the gun mechanism more accessible than on the more intact turrets at the stern. The corresponding starboard turret is presumably buried among debris on the seabed.

Other features along this side of the hull are davits for the ship’s boats (14), the last of which hosts the buoy line (1).

With a maximum depth between 33 and 36m, the route so far gives a relatively brisk no-stop dive or a more leisurely dive with a moderate amount of decompression stops.

Unless you are breathing an optimum nitrox mix, are carrying lots of it, and are prepared for lengthy deco stops, you will probably want to save the second part of the route for a later dive.

Behind the davits and gun pillar, the hull has been broken open for salvage (15). Over a number of years, the weakened structure has collapsed further, leaving a tangled mess of debris, including the aft mast and superstructure.

Crossing the debris, the wreck soon regains its structure, with a raised deck supporting one of the rear turrets. This turret is intact, showing the full armoured shield covering the front, top and sides of the turret, but leaving the rear open (16). The 5.9in gun barrel points about 20¡ to port of aft.

Further back and on the main deck, the other rear turret is also intact (17). It must be something about the balance of the turrets, because the rearmost turret points upward at a similar angle to the previous one, as do similar intact turrets on the other scuttled cruisers Dresden and Brummer.

A few plates have broken free of the deck, leaving holes too small to enter. At the stern, a single capstan and chain hold the kedge anchor in place against the rear of the hull (18). A diversion along the keel reveals the remains of the rudder and propshafts (19). The main life on the hull plates consists of tunicates and brittlestars.

Returning to amidships along the shallower port side of the deck, the break in the hull is soon reached. With decom-pression stops now mounting rapidly, it is probably easier to release a delayed SMB from the start of the break (20) than work across it back to the buoy line.

As mentioned earlier, the Köln is of the same class of cruiser as another wreck in Scapa Flow, the Dresden. The Dresden is similar in layout to the Köln, but lies on its port side, with considerably more damage to the amidships and stern areas. Its bow used to be reasonably intact but, over the past couple of years, the plates have started to fall away from the ribs of the hull.

TIDES: The Köln can be dived at any state of the tide.

GETTING THERE: Ferries to the Orkney Islands run from Scrabster, Invergordon and Aberdeen. The longer ferry routes cost more, but they have the advantage of shorter road journeys. The Scrabster-to-Stromness ferry is accustomed to divers and has a system for carrying dive gear for foot passengers, so you can easily leave your car on the mainland. Coaches from Inverness to Scrabster are scheduled to fit in with the ferry sailings. It is also possible to fly into Kirkwall.

DIVING AND AIR: Most diving in Scapa Flow is from large hardboats, many offering liveaboard “floating bunk room” accommodation. Boats are generally based in Stromness, but may tie up overnight at other harbours. Air is provided by on-board compressors. Nitrox can be mixed on-board most boats for an extra charge. Air, weights and cylinders are usually included in the price, so travelling light to the Orkney Islands and using the boat’s equipment is always an option. Try Jean Elaine, the skipper of which, Andy Cuthbertson, lent a hand with this Wreck Tour (01856 850879) or check out the Classified Ads section of this issue for the many other options available.

LAUNCHING: If you want to ferry your own boat across, there are a number of small slips in Scapa Flow. The nearest to the Köln is at Houton. Scapa Flow is a working harbour and you will need to arrange permission to dive in advance with the Harbourmaster.

ACCOMMODATION: Sleep on board the boat, or stay ashore in a local hotel or B&B. There is a camp site in Stromness, but camping in the Orkney climate is not recommended. Contact Orkney Islands Tourist Board on 01856 872856, website: www.orknet.co.uk

QUALIFICATIONS: Scapa Flow is best suited to experienced sport divers and above who are capable of doing some decompression . Nitrox can be an advantage to get the most out of this wreck.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Admiralty Chart 35, Scapa Flow and Approaches. Ordnance Survey Map 6, Orkney – Mainland, Ordnance Survey Map 7, Orkney – Southern Isles. Dive Scapa Flow, Rod Macdonald. The Wrecks of Scapa Flow, David M Ferguson. The Naval Wrecks of Scapa Flow, Peter L Smith. Shipwreck Index of the British Isles Vol 4, Scotland, by Richard and Bridget Larn.

PROS: A reasonably intact warship that can be dived at any state of the tide.

CONS: Scapa Flow is a long way to travel for most UK divers.

Thanks to Matt Wood, Andy Cuthbertson and many members of Tunbridge Wells BSAC.

HOW TO FIND IT:

Co-ordinates 58 53.83N, 3 08.45W (degrees, minutes and decimals). The Köln is easy enough to find from the co-ordinates with a GPS and echo sounder, especially as there is a small buoy attached.

 

DANGEROUS ONLY IN DEATH

The light cruiser Köln was the last of the 74 ships of the surrendered German High Seas Fleet to reach Scapa Flow, but among the first to obey the order to scuttle. All 5531 tons of her went down, sternfirst with a starboard heel, and all 510ft went out of sight at 1.50pm on 21 June, 1919, writes Kendall McDonald.

The Köln, named after the city of Cologne, did not have much of a war record. She was built at the Blohm and Voss Hamburg shipyard to replace the sunken Cöln (German spellings changed around this time) and launched in October, 1916, but was not completed and taken into service until January, 1918.

She was a high-speed mover with a heavy punch. Her two sets of turbines and twin propellers could drive her along at nearly 30 knots, even when fully loaded with ammunition for her eight 5.9in and two 3.4in AA guns, torpedoes for her four deck tubes, and 200 mines. That is not to mention the weight of a large amount of 2.4in and 3.9in armour. Her crew numbered 559.

The Köln became part of the Second Scout Group, escorting U-boats through the swept channels of German minefields in Heligoland Bight. Sometimes she laid some of her own mines. Her chances of action against the British Fleet diminished as German naval mutinies spread, but she and the Second Scout Group remained loyal and stayed at sea, awaiting orders.

Those orders, when they finally came, were to join not battle but the Internment Fleet. Leaky condensers meant that she finally limped into Scapa Flow behind the rest of the German Fleet.

However, she nearly did sink one British warship. A destroyer went alongside to try to stop her sinking and just missed being taken down by the Köln as she rolled over for her final plunge. 

Would your club or dive centre like to see its favourite wreck featured here? If you would like to help John Liddiard put together the information for a particular wreck, why not invite him to come and dive it with you? Write to John c/o Wreck Tour at Diver.

 

Appeared in DIVER – April 2000.

 


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SCAPA SHORE DIVES

SCAPA SHORE DIVES

 

The Churchill Barriers

These sites are mostly used as shore dives but some of the dive boats visit the wrecks at Churchill Barrier number 1, usually as part of a ‘Northern Isles’ dive trip.

Depths here tend to be a lot shallower than in Scapa Flow making it an ideal location for the beginner, the less experienced or those undertaking training courses.

At Barrier number 2 it is possible to dive the Lycia, Illsenstien, Cape Ortegal and the Emerald Wings. This site is best known for the image of a ships mast rising from the surface and it is a popular stopping place for visitors to Orkney. Underwater views are even better and it is possible to swim over large steam engines complete with boilers before passing over the ships hold and then to an intact bow where even the hand rails remain. The maximum depth here is 10m.

At Barrier number 3 the Empire Seaman, Martis and the Gartshore make interesting dives. The Gartshore is the most broken but the large amounts of the engine room remain as well as the propeller and steering gear. The Empire Seaman is probably the most intact wreck at the barriers, individual deck levels can be viewed with hatches and ladders joining different sections together, it also has some very nice swim throughs. The Martis is also reasonably intact and is a great wreck for marine life. Maximum depth here again is just 10m.

At the Churchill Barriers it is usual to dive more than one wreck in a single dive as they lay so close together. The conditions are excellent as there is no tide or current here so dives can be done at any time.

After the Second World War a number of the Blockships were heavily salvaged or removed, yet the majority remain on the seabed in some form or another. Unwittingly, Churchill had given us a series of ideal wreck diving sites within easy swimming distance from the shore! Further to this the Barriers have prevented fast tidal currents that previously raced between the islands and give the dive sites excellent protection from the weather.

Of the four barriers, the best and most accessible wreck dives are at the second and the third Barriers.

On the second barrier, nine wrecks remain. Of these, the Lycia, Ilsenstein and Cape Ortegal are the most enjoyable dives. All 3 are Single Screw Steel Steamers sunk in 1940 to a maximum depth of 12m. They were sunk in order to replace or reinforce the original Blockships sunk in WWI. The seabed here is sandy and visibility superb with Pollack, Cod, Anemones and Crabs frequently sighted.

At the third barrier, the three wrecks, the Empire Seaman, Martis and Gartshore are all Single Screw Steel Steamers lying in water a maximum depth of 12m. The Empire Seaman is possibly the most enjoyable to dive of all the barrier Blockships. She remains relatively intact and as such provides numerous swim throughs and points of interest. The Martis is in similar condition to the Empire Seaman supporting a vast range of sea life. The Gartshore is a Blockship from WWI, she is very broken up yet the propeller, rudder and prop shaft can still be distinguished.

All the wrecks provide homes and shelter for copious numbers of animals and plants. Fish such as Saith, Pollack, Wrasse, Cod and Ling are in abundance as are numerous other species including anemones, starfish and sea urchins. Birds are frequently seen diving for prey items, ‘flying’ past you underwater, and seals occasionally ‘play’ amongst the wreckage.

Diving at the Churchill Barrier Blockships is for everyone!

Before diving in Scapa Flow, it is necessary for any qualified diver who has no dry suit experience to practise in the shallow water at the Churchill Barriers. This allows you to observe and rehearse the techniques necessary for dry suit diving making you confident and comfortable in a dry suit. Scapa Scuba highly recommends the PADI Dry suit Specialty course. This course includes one Confined Water training session and two Open Water dives. After completing the course you will be competent in a dry suit and earn a certification card to prove it! Following this course, Scapa Flow is more accessible to you, as is the other Speciality courses offered by Scapa Scuba.

 


SCAPA SHORE DIVES is a document shared by Mansfield 735 BSAC.
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