Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Bid to stop divers from plundering shipwrecks


By John Ross
August 20, 2005

NEW measures are being considered to protect wartime shipwrecks in Orkney from plundering divers.

Talks have been held over the last two days between police, boat operators, coastguards, Historic Scotland and the Receiver of Wrecks over the ongoing issue caused by a minority of divers.

About 3,000 people a year travel to Orkney to dive on wrecks of the German High Seas Fleet which was scuttled in Scapa Flow.

The wrecks were scheduled as ancient monuments in 2001. Although divers are allowed to visit the vessels, the legislation makes it illegal for them to be tampered with or for any items to be removed.

The most recent incident was three weeks ago when it was discovered that attempts had been made to remove the engine room telegraph from the warship, Markgraf. The equipment was found in lifting bags ready to be taken away.

Niall MacLean, an acting Northern Constabulary inspector based in Kirkwall, said: "We are keen to work with the dive boat operators and Historic Scotland to try to ensure that sufficiently strong legislation is in place to prevent the unauthorised removal of these artefacts.

"The vast majority of dive-boat operators working in Scapa Flow are legitimate and carry out a tremendous service. There is a small group [taking artefacts], but we are talking about important wrecks and if they are plundered the future enjoyment and historic importance could be lost forever."

Insp MacLean said some problems could be caused by foreign visitors who are not aware of the protection offered to the wrecks. Highlighting the issue in diving magazines was being considered.


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