Surveying the wreck of HMS Hampshire

hms-hampshire-stern-uhi
Stern of HMS Hampshire showing portside bronze propellor. The rudder lies on the seabed. The starboard propellor was previously salvaged (image: Roving Eye Enterprises Ltd)

This week has brought news of two surveys of the wreck of HMS Hampshire, which sank after hitting a mine off Orkney on 5 June 1916. At the time she was taking Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, to Russia for talks. In all, 737 men died, and only 12 survived.

You may have read on our blog about the ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) survey to be carried out by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Archaeology Institute.

That survey went ahead earlier this month – with one of our project’s volunteers, Andrew Hollinrake, on board – and the first results have been announced.

Hollinrake - First sighting of Hampshire on the echo sounder
First sighting of Hampshire on the echo sounder

The survey confirms previous findings that HMS Hampshire capsized as she sank and lies with an upturned hull on the seabed, in approximately 60 metres of water.

The superstructure is compressed and buried in the silt of the seabed. The hull is damaged in places, exposing parts of the interior, including torpedo tubes and machinery.

Hollinrake - Keith Bichan at the ROV controls - looking at remaining propeller
Keith Bichan, of Roving Eye Enterprises, at the ROV controls – looking at the remaining propeller

The UHI Archaeology Institute was working in partnership with Seatronics – an Acteon Company, Teledyne RESON, Roving Eye Enterprises Ltd and Triscom Marine Ltd. You can read more about what was found – and what happens next – on the institute’s own blog: https://archaeologyorkney.com/2016/05/26/hms-hampshire-initial-rov-images/.

Hollinrake - In the engine room - open hatches of one of the upside-down furnaces
In the Hampshire’s engine room – open hatches of one of the upside-down furnaces

Meanwhile, a second survey was announced this week which, like the ROV survey, is operating with permission from the Ministry of Defence.

A  team of specialist international divers will undertake a photographic and 3D-imaging survey of the wreck. They will be diving from MV Huskyan, which is based in Stromness, Orkney.

Expedition leader Rod Macdonald says the objective is to undertake a detailed survey of HMS Hampshire, and to record it using stills and video photography.

A detailed written and visual survey report will be compiled, which will be made available to the MoD, museums in Orkney and Historic Environment Scotland.

There is more about the dive survey in BBC Radio Orkney’s Around Orkney programme, about 12 minutes in…

https://soundcloud.com/radio-orkney/around-orkney-thursday-26th-of-may-2016

Update to blog (28.5.16): On Wednesday (1 June) at 7.30pm there will be an illustrated talk ‘Remembering The Hampshire’, presented by the Archaeology Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands, using some of the dive footage and scans. It’s at Birsay Community Hall  and it’s a free event.

Graham Brown

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ROV survey of HMS Hampshire wreck site

20150814 Postcards-Hampshire
Postcards of HMS Hampshire

It is hard to believe that on Sunday it will only be four weeks until centenary commemorations take place to mark the loss of HMS Hampshire and 737 men, close to the Orkney coast, during the First World War. The restored Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head will be officially unveiled, together with the new HMS Hampshire wall engraved with the names of all those lost.

Meanwhile, we have some exciting news in today from the University of the Highlands and Islands about a survey of the wreck due to take place tomorrow. Their press release below explains all.

Graham Brown

HMS Hampshire condition assessment

HMS Hampshire struck a mine at 19.40 on the 5th June 1916 while transporting Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, to Archangel in northern Russia for a meeting with Tsar Nicholas II. She sank within 20 minutes, with the loss of 737 lives, including Lord Kitchener. Only 12 of the company survived. The German U-boat U-75 laid the mine on the 29th of May 1916 off Marwick Head in Orkney.

HMS Hampshire, a Devonshire class armoured cruiser, was completed in 1905. Joining the Grand Fleet in January 1915 she played a minimal role in the Battle of Jutland from the 31st May to the 1st June 1916, before being assigned to the transport of Lord Kitchener.

Presently, the wreck lies upside down in approximately 60 metres of water, surrounded by a large debris field. The HMS Hampshire site was designated in 2002, under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. There have previously only been two remote surveys of the wreck since the salvage activities of 1977 to 1983.

The condition assessment of HMS Hampshire will be the first extensive mapping of the wreck site since her sinking in 1916. It is a collaborative project between ORCA Marine, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and Seatronics, an Acteon company.

It aims to assess the condition of the wreck a hundred years after she tragically sank, documenting the impact of salvage activities and environmental factors on the integrity of the remains.

Sandra Henry, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, Marine Archaeologist, said: “It is really significant in the run up to the centenary of the HMS Hampshire to carry out a condition survey and map the extent of the wreck site. This survey is being undertaken as a mark of respect and remembrance for those who lost their lives aboard, and all those who lost their lives at sea during the First World War.”

Alistair Coutts, Senior Sales & Business Development Manager, Seatronics, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating on this exciting project on this historic anniversary. Our aim is to use our Predator inspection class ROV to survey the wreckage along with the latest 2D and 3D scanning technology to identify key areas of interest, providing informative imagery and insight into the current conditions of the site.”

This project has received funding and sponsorship from Interface, Orkney Islands Council and Northlink Ferries.

End of UHI press release