SS Ilsenstein

  • Nationality: British
  • Built: 1904
  • Type: Steamship
  • Tonnage: 8212 tons
  • Purpose: Cargo, Passenger
  • Length: 136.5m
  • Beam: 17m
  • Date Sunk: 18th February 1940

SS Ilsenstein

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

A British steel steamship registered in Bremen, the SS Ilsenstein was built in 1904 by Workman, Clark & Co. Ltd., Belfast, as Matatua, for Shaw, Savill & Albion Co., Ltd., Southampton. The Matatua was renamed SS Ilsenstein in 1928 when purchased by Arnold Bernstein. Sold to Metal Industries, Ltd in June 1939 for scrapping. The vessel was subsequently requisitioned by the Admiralty and was scuttled as a Blockship in Skerry Sound on 18th February 1940 as a replacement to the SS Cape Ortegal. 


Historical photographs clearly show the SS Ilsenstein in position next to the SS Emerald Wings which can be identified from her distinctive forward mast. The 1972 Undermarine Operations surveys suggest that the SS Ilsenstein was sunk next to the SS Elton. This is inaccurate as the SS Elton is further to the east. The SS Ilsenstein is also much larger than the tonnage recorded in the UKHO report. She was 8212 tonnes, compared to the reported 1508 tonnes.  


The SS Ilsenstein can be dived easily from both the north and south shores of Barrier 2, with the stern slightly to the southeast of the MV Lycia. Much of the stern section has now been covered by sand, with the wreckage starting just aft of the engine and boilers.


Diver Surveys

The wreck lies on a sandy bottom in about 5m – 7m of water. To the west of the site, there is a large triple expansion engine that is partly covered with sand and four Scotch boilers can be seen. An additional donkey boiler lies to the east of the main wreck.


While the midships section is well broken down, the bow is well preserved. Standing about 5m proud of the seabed and is listing to port, the bow railings are intact a small section of it is visible above the water at low tide.


Side Scan Data

The side scan images confirm that the wreck is partially buried, with the remains measuring only 92m long by 19m beam compared to her recorded length of 136m. The remains are oriented north to south with the bow to the south, and the boilers and engine are clearly visible to the stern.


Ilsenstein  Side ScanIlsenstein Engine


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