Scapa Flow Wreck Diving – MV Valhalla – September 2022
The Seahorse Dive Club will be visiting the historic natural harbour of Scapa Flow in September 2022 to dive the WWI scuttled shipwrecks from the German High Seas Fleet. From Old Norse Skalpaflói (bay of the long isthmus), the sheltered waters have played an important role in travel, trade and conflict throughout the centuries. Vikings anchored their longships in Scapa Flow more than a thousand years ago. It was the United Kingdom’s chief naval base during the First and Second World Wars, but the facility was closed in 1956.
Scapa Flow has a shallow sandy bottom not deeper than 60 metres and most of it is about 30m deep. It is one of the great natural harbours and anchorages of the world, with sufficient space to hold a number of navies. Since the scuttling of the German Fleet after WWI, its wrecks and their marine habitats form an internationally acclaimed diving location.
A Little WWI Scapa Flow History
The Ships Today
A quantity of 44 ships were raised for salvage after the war, however eight shipwrecks remain that scuba divers now spend time exploring. These eight remaining ship wrecks are:
Our home and dive vessel for the trip will be aboard the MV Valhalla. She was built for the Royal Navy as RNAS Loyal Factor but was quickly converted into a patrol boat and commissioned as HMS Vigilant to serve in Northern Ireland where she remained until the 1990s when she was handed back to the RNAS (Royal Naval Auxiliary Service) and served as the training vessel Sultan Venturer for the Naval engineering school in Gosport. An all steel construction makes her a great diving platform and her luxurious interior makes living aboard more than just comfortable.
Life On Board
The Valhalla has 6 cabins. Five of these are on the lower deck, each with twin bunks and en-suite shower and washbasin and 1 cabin with twin bunks and an adjacent toilet and shower on the main deck. A spacious lounge and inside changing room with charging area, make up the rest of the forward accommodation, while a galley and mess are situated towards the stern.
For this trip, each diver will be allocated his/her shared cabin with one other diver. Accommodation is on a B&B basis and we will arrive back in port each night. Any catering booked other than breakfast is not included in the charter fee and is payable at the end of the charter. Prices to be confirmed. Breakfast is served in a self catering format between 07.00am and 08.00am each day. Lunch and dinner times (if chosen) will depend on diving activities. No meals are provided on Saturdays. Alternative diets are catered for however guests are responsible for alerting the chef to any requirements at least 7 days before the commencement of their charter. Surcharges may apply.
A typical day will commence after breakfast with ropes off and travel to the chosen dive site. Kit checks and setup should be made before, during or straight after breakfast. Dive one will be sometime around 09.30am to 10.00am after an in-depth dive briefing. After the first dive you will be served with hot drinks while you disassemble your kit for gas refills. Once all divers are back on board, we will navigate to the second dive site and after the next dive briefing and agreed surface interval, dive two should commence around 12.00noon to 13.00pm. Warm drinks will be again served post dive and when all divers are back on board, we will make our way back to Stomness harbour, lunch being serviced en-route or back at port. Dinner will be served early evening.
The afternoon and evening will be at your leisure. There is plenty to do in Stromness. There are a number of scenic walks, an art centre and a visit to the Stromness Museum is a must. On your itinerary should be a visit to Scapa Scuba’s Red Shed shop to buy any dive related souvenirs including novelty hoods or items of kit you inadvertently forgot to bring.
There are a number of pubs and restaurants in Stomness including a Co-op supermarket which is open between 07.00am and 22.00pm. The supermarket is ideal for buying lunchtime snacks and drinks for those who are not partaking in the full or half board catering.
Unless otherwise agreed, diving will consist of two dives per day, weather conditions permitting. Further dives can be arranged as a group but additional charges will apply. Air and mixed gas fills are between 200 bar and 220 bar depending on filling conditions. Responsibility for checking that the gas mix and pressure is within tolerance for the dive rests with the diver.
If you’ve read this far, you will have seen that Scapa Flow is between 30 and 60 metres in depth. You will have noted that the maximum depths are between 20 metres to 47 metres to the seabed and between 8 metres and 31 metres minimum to the wreck.
I have only been to Scapa once and made only six of 12 dives due to an ear issue. Of these six dives, my average maximum depth was 31 metres and my average average depth was 21 metres. These were all recreational non-stop dives with run times of between 34 and 48 minutes.
This trip is therefore open to experienced recreational and technical divers. We will be diving the same wreck site, no matter whether you are diving a single cylinder, sidemount, twinset or CCR. The only difference is that those recreational divers will be supping a hot mug of cocoa with marshmallows while those technical junkies are sitting it out on the shotline for a few minutes more.
With water temperatures between 10 and 12 degrees centigrade, it goes without saying that every diver should dive in a drysuit and be competent and efficient in deployment and use of a DSMB. Each diver should have a primary torch and ideally a backup.
Within the PADI schema of training, you should be a minimum of Advanced Open Water (30m) or similar with a 40m Deep Diver Speciality (or equivalent) and Nitrox certified.
That said, it would be prudent that divers consider some practicalities. It would seem a shame to travel that far without some prior thinking and perhaps additional training to maximise your time underwater.
Diving Scapa is not about depth, it’s about an extended bottom time. This is far from a pre-requisite, but get the most out of your trip, some divers may wish to progress their diver training to a PADI Tec40 (40m) or equivalent certification such as the IANTD Advanced Nitrox Diver (42m) or TDI Advanced Nitrix and Decompression Procedures Diver (45m) to take advantage and extend bottom time with accelerated decompression.
[+] Calculations for using iDeco Pro for demonstration purposes only.
Not withstanding if you wish to extend your time on the Orkneys to top or tail your trip with some sightseeing, the normal logistics are to arrive in Stromness on the Saturday afternoon and depart the following Saturday morning. Accommodation aboard MV Valhalla is Saturday to Friday (seven nights) with diving Sunday to Friday (six days).
There are multiple ferry crossings to suit your journey plans. You can cross as a foot passenger only or in a vehicle. If travelling as a foot passenger, you will need to haul your kit in one of the dive trolleys from the ferry to Valhalla. My recommendation is a car share to cross as hauling kit from the ferry to the dive boat can be convoluted.
Arriving in Stromness, we can load the dive boat and allocate cabins. Boarding MV Valhalla is from 13.00pm on Saturday 24th September with departure by 09.00am on Saturday 1st September. There are a number of long stay and free car parks around Stromness where vehicles can be kept for the week. We will sleep on board this evening.
Our last night on board will be Friday 30th September and unless you are extending your stay, we will depart on the crossing back to Scrabster on Saturday 1st October 2022. Again, there are multiple crossings that day to suit your journey plan home.
Some die hards will want to make the trips from Swindon to Scrabster and Scrabster to Swindon in one trip. This is certainly doable if driving is shared between two or more drivers, though others may wish to consider stopping off on both journey legs. I’m sure we will consider these travel plans nearer the time, though one night on the mainland near Scrabster or John O’Groats is recommended.
We have a discounted price of £675.00 per diver for this trip. This price includes seven nights B&B accommodation on a twin shared cabin basis on MV Valhalla, air, weights, and two dives a day. Nitrox and trimix gases are excluded from these prices, so is lunch and evening meals. These extra costs will be advised closer to our trip, including catering requirements. In addition you will need to budget for travel to and from the Orkneys, including fuel, ferry crossing, mainland accommodation, beer and whisky.
Charter bookings for these type of trips need to be made years in advance and the Seahorse Dive Club is happy to be able to agree this September 2022 date with Orkney and Shetland Charters. To secure this charter date, a £3,000.00 deposit needs to be paid by 30th June 2021.
To this end and to secure your place, a £250.00 (two hundred and fifty pounds) non refundable deposit will need to be paid by each diver before this date. You will then be obliged to pay the two staged payments as per the payment plan.
The Seahorse Dive Club recommends the following payment plan:
- Deposit £250.00 by 30th June 2021.
- First staged payment £225.00 by 30th November 2021
- Final alance £200.00 by 31st May 2022
Each of the deposit, staged payment and final balance will be non refundable. Please see “Travel Insurance, Cancellation and Reassignment” below.
Terms and Conditions
The Seahorse Dive Club will be contacting directly with Orkney and Shetland Charters in agreement to their General Terms and Conditions in booking this trip. You should familiarise yourselves with these terms as these T&Cs will be implicit in your booking a place with the Seahorse Dive Club. On payment of your deposit, your place will be confirmed and you will be obligated to pay the remaining £425.00 (four hundred and twenty five pounds) in line with the payment plan.
Travel Insurance, Cancellation and Reassignment
Neither the Seahorse Dive Club nor the organiser are acting as a travel agent or tour operator. They are not acting as an aggregator or similar for associated travel services. Other than coordinating this event as a point of contact, collecting payments and liaising with the operator for the group booking, no other aspect of this event is organised by the Seahorse Dive Club or the organiser. It is up to each and every diver to make their own way to Stromness and be there on time. The Seahorse Dive Club and the organiser wish to make it clear that their only agreement is to act as proxy and group booking coordinator for the divers attending this trip on behalf of Orkney and Shetland Charters. The Seahorse Dive Club and organiser will make all reasonable actions to ensure that the trip runs as smooth as possible, being liaison with the operator. The Seahorse Dive Club and organiser will not be held liable in any circumstance whatsoever.
Your options will be to reclaim this £675.00 cost from your travel insurance or reassign your place. Should you wish to reassign your place, then first refusal should be made to the Seahorse Dive Club in case any other member may wish to take your place. If the reassignment is to a diver outside of the Seahorse Dive Club, then that new diver should meet with the approval of the cabin share.
Both the Seahorse Dive Club and the organiser has made best efforts to organise this event and publish as accurate information as possible and can be reasonably expected. With such a long lead time to the commencement of the trip, changes and amendments maybe required and/or demanded by the operator (Orkney and Shetland Charters) to the schedule of this trip. To this end, any guarantee or promise of accuracy to the content or schedule of the information contained on the page cannot be given. Price details for consumables and catering will be provided closer to the event date.
It’s a long way to the Orkney Islands and for sure, this is a very picturesque part of the country. There is a wide range of sightseeing and attractions, including a visit to the Scapa Flow Distillery, Skara Brae, the Old Man of Hoy, Ness of Brodgar and the Italian Chapel. You may therefore wish to consider spending an additional couple of nights or so on the islands. These are some of the shots taken while circumventing the main island.
Any FAQs will be answered and published here.