Divernet

AS SISTER-SHIP OF THE CRUISER SMS KOLN (Wreck Tour 13, March 2000), it would be easy to picture the wreck of SMS Dresden II as being the same, only lying the other way up.
Easy, but wrong, especially as the wrecks have deteriorated and started to break up in very different ways.
Because of salvage operations to recover non-ferrous metals from the engine-rooms, the wreck of the Dresden II has been well broken about two-thirds of the way aft, with the break extending through the deck.
On the Köln, the salvage damage is further towards the keel and less extensive at the deck. Scapa Flow charter skippers consequently maintain two buoys on the Dresden II, one close to the bow and a second just aft of the break.
The Dresden II rests with its starboard side uppermost, so our Wreck Tour begins where the buoy is tied in to the starboard side of the bow (1). We will come back to more discussion about the break and the second buoy later in our tour.
A few hull-plates are missing to leave a notch where the buoyline is tied in, 10m or so back from the bow.
Like most of the Scapa Flow wrecks, this area of the hull is covered in a nice garden of plumose anemones.
The direction of the bow is downhill along the hull, past the starboard anchor hawse pipe and on to the tip of the bow in 30m. Raised on the hull just back from the bow is the Dresden crest (2). This is a unique feature, because only the lead ship in the class carries such a crest.
Below the bow, the chain from the port anchor (3) dangles to the silty seabed at 35m and leads off in a north-westerly direction. The other end of the chain extends from the top of the hawse pipe, and also dangles to the seabed along the length of the wreck.
The starboard edge of the bow deck (4) has peeled away from the hull, as if someone has taken a giant tin-opener to it, so that it is actually curved over to leave the underside of the deck uppermost from the port anchor capstan (5) back to the armoured conning tower (6).
The Dresden II class of cruisers had two 5.9in guns mounted in turrets side by side on the bow deck, but there are no signs of these on the seabed below.
The curved edge of the deck now rests against the armoured conning tower, which is still firmly fixed in place. At the top of the conning tower, the range-finder that would have been fitted is missing.
To the starboard of the conning tower and a little bit aft, a 5.9in main gun turret is recessed into the side of the hull (7).
The turret is really just a shield with sides, but open at the back, providing only limited protection for the gun crew.
Below the gun position, the raised bridge position (8) and the forward mast (9) have slid downwards to rest on the seabed. The decoration of anemones prevalent at the bow is now starting to wane. Something about the movement of water (or lack of it) in this part of Scapa Flow makes it much tougher for anemones to survive further towards the stern of the Dresden II.
Behind the mast, much of the upper works of the ship is a tangled mess of debris. There would originally have been secondary 3.4in gun positions interspersed with funnels above armoured flues from the boilers.
The only notable item among the debris is a ventilator (10). Looking up, the derricks (11) from one of the ships boats and the cut-out for stowing the boat are intact at the starboard side of the deck.
For those wanting to split a tour of the Dresden II into two dives, this is a convenient point to turn back and follow the starboard side of the hull back to the bow, remembering that the buoyline (1) is tied into a notch about 10m back from the actual bow.
For those aiming to see the whole wreck in one longer dive, our route continues aft along the starboard side of the deck past a raised box-section of ribs (12), then jumps across the break to point where the second buoy is tied in, just down from the actual deck level (13).
Before going further, it is worth checking the location of the line as you pass, because it will save time spent searching later when its time to ascend. Here is where those splitting the tour into two dives rejoin our route.
Cutting across the hull, both propeller-shafts are in place on A-frames either side of the keel (14), with the single rudder between them.
The pair of bronze propellers must have been the first items commercially salvaged after the Dresden II was scuttled.
Returning to the main deck right at the stern, a small kedge anchor (15) is pulled tight into its locker, a loop of anchor chain (16) dangling to a capstan offset to the port side of the deck.
While the twin gun turrets at the bow would have been located side by side, the two aft 5.9in gun turrets are mounted in line (17, 18), with the second-to-aft gun (18) on a raised deck so that it could fire over the aftmost gun (17).
The barrels of both guns point slightly to starboard. Like the turret examined earlier, the shields are open at the back.
Continuing forwards, the aft mast (19) has fallen to the seabed just where the break begins.
From the base of the aft mast, climbing the valley formed by the debris leads to the armoured section of flue (20) that would have protected the boilers from shells plunging from above.
The starboard side of the hull overhangs the break, so from here ascending to the overhanging hull should lead to the aft buoyline (13), which can be used for the rest of the ascent.

Thanks to Andy Cuthbertson, Kieran Hatton, Kevin Heath, Simon Powell and various divers from Swansea and Leeds.


TOUR GUIDE
GETTING THERE: Northlink Ferries operates services from Scrabster to Stromness and Aberdeen to Kirkwall, www.northlinkferries.co.uk, 0845 6000 449.
HOW TO FIND IT: GPS co-ordinates are 58 52.969N, 3 08.526W (degrees, minutes and decimals), with the bow to the north-west. The Dresden II is easy enough to find from the co-ordinates with a GPS and echo-sounder, especially as there are buoys attached at the bow and just aft of the break.
TIDES: Dresden II can be dived at any state of the tide.
DIVING & AIR: Most diving in Scapa Flow is from large hard-boats, many offering liveaboard floating bunkroom accommodation. Boats are generally based in Stromness, but may tie up overnight at other harbours. On-board compressors provide air, and nitrox can be mixed on most boats for an extra charge. Air, weights and cylinders are usually included in the price, so travelling light and using the boats equipment is always an option. Scapa Flow Charters operates the boats Jean Elaine and Sharon Rose, 01856 850879, www.jeanelaine.co.uk.
ACCOMMODATION: Sleep on the boat, or stay ashore in a local hotel or B&B. There is a campsite in Stromness, but camping is not recommended in the Orkney climate. Orkney Islands tourist board, 01856 872856, www.orknet.co.uk.
QUALIFICATIONS: You must be able to dive to 35m and ideally do a few minutes decompression to get the most out of Dresden II, so BSAC Sports Diver or PADI Advanced Open Water with Deep Speciality are minimum qualifications. This is an ideal depth for extending bottom time with a nitrox mix.
LAUNCHING: If you want to ferry your own boat across, there are a number of small slips in Scapa Flow. The nearest to the Dresden II is at Houton. Scapa Flow is a working harbour, and you will need to arrange permission to dive in advance with the harbourmaster.
FURTHER INFORMATION: Admiralty Chart 35, Scapa Flow and Approaches. Ordnance Survey Map 6, Orkney - Mainland. Ordnance Survey Map 7, Orkney - Southern Isles. Dive Scapa Flow, by Rod Macdonald. The Wrecks of Scapa Flow, by David M Ferguson. The Naval Wrecks of Scapa Flow, by Peter L Smith. The Wrecks of Scapa Flow, by Lawson Wood.
PROS: A dive to complement the Köln, showing a different aspect of a similar ship.
CONS: Scapa Flow is a long way to travel for most UK divers.




Second
Second aft gun turret

Anchor
Anchor capstan

The
The bow of the Dresden II

Grille
Grille across a ventilator.

Kedge
Kedge anchor pulled tight into its locker.

Divernet


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SCUTTLED AT SCAPA
DRESDEN II, light cruiser. Built 1917, SUNK 1919

SHE WAS LABELLED AS ERSATZ from the moment they laid down her keel at Kiel until they launched her on 25 April, 1917. The Allies called everything that came out of Germany during the world wars ersatz, meaning a poor substitute for the real thing, but in the case of the Dresden II the term was not precise.
She was a replacement for the earlier Dresden light cruiser scuttled by her crew off Chile when trapped by British cruisers in 1915, writes Kendall McDonald.
But there was nothing cheap and nasty about the Dresden II. She was more heavily armed and bigger at 7486 tons than the first one. She was 30m longer at 155m, and at sea provided a home to 550 officers and men. She was the best-designed and built of all the German light cruisers in WW1.
Even so, her first task in 1918 was the training of new crews for the 10 U-boats being churned out each month to replace the massive losses in the submarine flotillas.
Her first real war service came in August, when she took on board 120 mines to be launched over her stern to the west of the mouth of the Ems River in order to protect Emden from British attacks from the sea.
However, she never completed that mission. She was torpedoed by a British submarine and had to be escorted back to harbour for major repairs to her flooded boiler-rooms and damaged turbines.
Dresden IIs hull design saved her from much worse. A 2.5in band of steel armour plate covered two-thirds of her hull and ringed a steel citadel inside the ship that enclosed the steering gear and the 5.9in gun magazines.
The citadels periscope was protected by 4in steel plate. Her bulkheads below the waterline were sealed. No doors, hatches, pipes or cable ducting were allow to pass through them and spoil her watertightness.
Even so, after the surrender Dresden II reached Scapa Flow only after her repairs were completed on 6 December. She dropped anchor east of Cava, where she stayed until the secret German plan to scuttle its fleet had been arranged.
Her crew used the time to drill through her watertight bulkheads to make sure that she flooded, which she did dramatically on 21 June,1919.
She capsized violently to port at 1.30pm, amid huge gushes of air and fountains of spray, before sinking swiftly to the seabed.