# wreck

SMS Seydlitz

The following presents new data collected as part of a recent Historic Scotland funded project – the Scapa Flow 2013 Marine Archaeology Survey – which aimed to assess the extent and condition of some of the sites around Scapa Flow.


Vessel History

Launched on 30th March 1912 and commissioned into the German Imperial Navy on the 22nd May 1913, SMS Seydlitz participated in several naval battles during World War I including the Battle of Jutland. The vessel was interned in Scapa Flow with other vessels in the German High Seas Fleet in November 1918 and was scuttled on 21st June 1919.


Cox and Danks made several unsuccessful attempts to salvage the remains attempting to raise the remains as they lay, by sealing several sections with patches and filling them with air to provide buoyancy.


Although initially successful, one of the pressurized bulkheads collapsed and the wreck once again sunk, turning turtle and settling in deeper water on the deck. Cox and Danks made a further 40 salvage attempts before the vessel was finally raised on 2nd November 1928. SMS Seydlitz was towed to Rosyth to be scrapped (Macdonald 1993: 44-45)


More information about the salvage activities in Scapa Flow can be found in the history section.


Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES) surveys were completed over the salvage site of the SMS Seydlitz as part of the ScapaMap project. As shown in the gallery, these surveys documented four distinct mounds oriented east to west covering an area of approximately 90m. Two of these sit approximately 50m apart to the north and to the south of the main debris scatter at the western end. There are two further mounds about 50m west of the main debris field.


Side Scan Data

The side scan images show a large quantity of wreckage comprising six prominent contacts, several lesser contacts and the remains of miscellaneous wreckage.This included a 14m long linear feature thought to be part of a mast or davit. One contact appears to have a raised feature that is in the area where there is thought to have been the remains of light armament. The main contacts are aligned east to west extending approximately 120m by 45m. There are numerous smaller contacts outwith this. Most contacts are close to the seabed, with items standing at various heights between 1m and 2.5m proud of the seabed.


These contacts form a similar pattern to those seen in the ScapaMap MBES data but can be seen at a much higher resolution, making them easier to distinguish. 


The six prominent contacts are numbered in the image and are described in the text below

Seydlitz Side Scan

Diver Surveys

Each of the six prominent contacts shown on the side scan image were targeted for diver surveys. The corroded, well broken up remains lie on a sand and mud bottom in 17m – 21m of water in an area of slight tide. The site is occasionally visited by recreational divers who tend to focus on the area around Contact 6.


Contact 1: This was the crushed remains of a Normand style boiler on its side, associated with wood, a wire hawser with two pipes and valves. This boiler is believed to have been used as part of the salvage and is not part of the original wreck remains. Written records indicate that boilers waiting to be scrapped were taken from Lyness to prop up the Seydlitz during the salvage operations (Bowman 2002)


Contact 2: This was the remains of a large crushed barge or pontoon which were associated with several large sections of wood remains. Several hawsers, anchor chains, ballast rocks, a hatch and a hatch cover with reinforcements can be seen in the wreckage. These could be the remains of an old barge also used in the salvage efforts. The timber may have used to seal the ship in the first salvage attempt, but these blew off when Cox and Danks first attempted to pressurise the compartments.


Contact 3: The remains of a small steel vessel, full of rock ballast visible through rotted decking can be seen in this location. This was associated with ribs, a keel and steel plating in the shape of a rounded hull. A large boom extends to the north of Contact 3. Close to this was a circular steel disc and a large pulley block with hook and wires. It is possible that the vessel is part of Destroyer G38. Raised in 1924 and subsequently deleted from the chart, the UKHO record for G38 notes that it was used in the salvage of the Seydlitz in 1928.


Contact 4: This is the remains of a funnel associated with lots of funnel grating and a large platform structure with rounded ends and wire hawsers. There is a section of mast to the west of contact 4 which has the remains of a crows nest and there is a copper box protruding from the seabed.


Contact 5: The remains of a large circular structure can be seen. This was associated with numerous pieces of funnel grating, pipework, wires and davit mast and stands proud of the seabed at a slight angle. This is interpreted as the remains of a second funnel.


Contact 6: Often dived by recreation divers, this is an area of miscellaneous wreckage,which includes three copper search light irises and two small guns, one of which is in an emplacement.


Back to Scapa Flow 2013 Marine Archaeology Survey Project



  • Nationality: German
  • Built: 1913
  • Type: Battle Cruiser
  • Tonnage: 28,550 tons
  • Length: 200.6m
  • Beam: 28.8m
  • Date Sunk: 21st June 1919
  • Date Raised: 2nd November 1928