Thursday, July 20, 2006


Policeman's log offers wreck clue


July 20, 2006

The policeman's note was found
in the archives in Wick.

A policeman's handwritten note from 85 years ago may hold a vital clue to a mysterious wreck off Caithness.

Archaeologists hope to confirm the sunken vessel in Sinclair's Bay is that of the German destroyer V81, which was at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

The team from Nottingham University came across the officer's log by chance in archives held in Wick.

A PC Innes reported a German warship getting into difficulty on Friday, 13 February, 1920.

Members of Caithness Diving Club are convinced the wreck is the V81, part of Germany's World War I High Seas Fleet.

Marine archaeologists hope to verify this by comparing the remains with the V81's sister vessel, V83, which lies beneath Scapa Flow in Orkney.

They have made the first in a series of dives to the kelp-covered wreck and taken photographs and made drawings of brass fittings, a turbine and what appears to be a gear box.

The V81 was understood to have been salvaged from Scapa Flow in 1921 and was under tow to a breakers yard in Rosyth when strong winds caused it to founder off Caithness.

It was believed the warship was raised again in 1937.

Simon Davidson, of Nottingham University, said bad weather on a day they were meant to be diving to the ship forced them to stay ashore.

They visited the North Highland Archive in Wick where an archivist found them a note in the Caithness Constabulary Shore Occurrence Book.

Media blackout

An entry for 13 February 1920 told of a German warship under tow coming ashore in the area where the wreck lies.

Mr Davidson said: "We then went through copies of the local newspaper from around that date to see if we could find any reports.

"There wasn't, but that may have been because of a media blackout to prevent illegal salvage.

"But we went back through the papers and found some corroborating evidence.

"There was a report of the navy wanting to get rid of all the Scapa Flow destroyers the week the ship came ashore on Friday 13."

He added: "We are coming close to confirming the identity of the wreck."

The team are still diving the wreck and also plan to return in winter when the kelp dies back to reveal more of it.

Nottingham University's underwater research is one of seven archaeology projects running across Caithness this summer to investigate its Neolithic, Iron Age and war-time history.

The projects are being led by Caithness Archaeology Trust.

The trust said excavations of Iron Age brochs at Whitegate and Keiss Harbour has revealed the stone towers may have been used as stores during World War II.


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