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.
Built in 1891 by D. & W. Henderson & Co. Ltd. in Meadowside, Glasgow, the SS Numidian was a British steel steamship used originally as an Allan Line Trans-Atlantic passenger ship, able to carry 1180 passengers (100 in first class, 80 in second class, and 1000 in third class).
She made her maiden voyage as a passenger ship on the 20th August 1891 carrying passengers from Liverpool to Quebec, Montreal. Her final voyage to Boston was made in 1914 shortly before she was sold to the Admiralty to be used as a blockship.
The SS Numidian was scuttled in Kirk Sound on 30th December 1914.
Kirk Sound was reopened after World War I, and in 1923 the extensively salvaged remains of the SS Numidian were turned to their current position. The wreck now lies parallel to Holm Shore with the stern towards what is now Churchill Barrier 1.
The wreck sits on a rock and mud bottom in approximately 3m - 7m of water. Although the remains are well broken down, there is still plenty to see, with the bow section to the west of the site better preserved than the stern.
There are numerous steel ribs and hull plating sections, most of which are flush to or standing no more than a metre off the seabed. At the stern end (to the east of the remains) there are several wire hawses but there is no evidence of either a propeller or a propeller shaft. It is possible that the wire hawses were used to connect the blockships while they were in position.
There are many short sections of steel piping and rock amongst the debris, in the area of thea aft hold, likely the remains of ballast material. Midships there is a portion of a ladder and some modern rope and chain sections.
There are various bits of machinery and structural remains (cogs and gears, engine room walkway gratings) in the area of the engine room, but the engine is no longer visible. It is possible that this was removed with the boilers when the SS Numidian was salvaged.
Towards the bow there are some more substantial sections of wreckage where the shape of the hull is more clearly defined. There are more piping and ballast remains in this area, likely in the location of the forward hold and a mast section can be seen collapsed to the port side. The lowest part of the bow is comparatively well preserved and there is a section of ladder in the associated debris.
Side Scan Data
The side scan image confirms that the wreckage is 115m long by 12m beam, suggesting the SS Numidian broke down with the confines of her original dimensions. The image indicates that the remains are oriented east to west with the bow to the west. The mast section which lies to the south off the bow is visible.