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 âNorthern Islesâ 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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