Diving the SMS König wreck
König lies almost completely overturned and has been extensively opened up by the salvage teams. For those with dive experience of other wrecks of her class, this one deserves close attention.
The König was heavily damaged by partial salvaging operations. It is evident the later salvage teams, after World War Two, learned their craft on this wreck. Exploratory blast damage is extensive. The König may not resemble the more intact and instantly impressive Markgraf or Kronprinz Wilhelm, but does offer a unique insight into areas that remain hidden on these other battleship wrecks.
In this condition, and at 38 metres deep, the König tends to be the least visited. However, she can reward curiosity with the sight of remarkable features which remain hidden on the other ships. Diving the König is not about witnessing a statuesque wreck; it is about discovering intricacies.
In contrast to the imposing view of a bow offered by the other wrecks in Scapa Flow, the bow of the König is hard to distinguish, having collapsed onto the seabed due to salvage blasting around the torpedo rooms. As a result, the barbette of the A-gun and what remains of the anchor capstan mechanism have been exposed.
Along the starboard side of the ship the salvage teams removed the high-value armour belt. Consequently the armour deck and the six casemate guns have fallen down. The guns now rest upside down on the seabed. The seventh casemate gun is held in its original position in the hull.
Due to the blasting being so imprecise a lot of wreckage from the depths of the hull has been thrown down onto the seabed. The debris runs alongside the ship in a jumble, although many pieces are discernible as ribs and spars.
The graceful lines of the stern section are not evident, again due to blasting. One of the two rudders can be seen sticking out vertically from the hull. It is possible to see the manual turning wheels amongst the wreckage.
On the bow-side of the rudders, the hull rises sharply upwards. From this point a number of different routes can be followed. Staying at a shallower depth the port shaft can be followed along the wreckage, past a bank of gas cylinders. More centrally, the aftermost wall of the armoured citadel is exposed at this point. At almost 12-inches thick, the steel can barely be spanned by a man's hand, yet the designers have curved the wall to accommodate the last turret and mated consecutive plates with precise dovetail joints.
Continuing on over a wall of wreckage a large circular hole appears. It is about two metres in diameter and marks the bottom of the barbette within which the D-turret (the fourth of five, A to E) would have rotated. The gun turret assembly rotated on a ring of massive ball bearings, which were situated just below the gunhouse floor at deck level. Below this point the descending structure, including the hydraulic room and elevator shafts, would have been suspended. The visible rectangular opening at the bottom of the shaft is where the shell and cordite charges would have started their journey to the gun breaches.
The only other place to see this part of a turret in Scapa Flow is on the guns of the Bayern. The Bayern was part of the German High Seas Fleet scuttled here in 1919 and was one of the wrecks to be raised. However, the turrets fell clear of the ship during the 1933 lifting operation and remain on the seabed to this day.
The engine room of the König is worth a dive in itself. Many parts of it remain, despite the rough salvaging operations. Four of the six turbines are left. Of these, three are buried in wreckage but one is clearly visible, superbly illustrating the scale and precision of the engineering.
Swimming forward leads to another break in the hull where the start of a boiler room has been exposed. One of the aft boilers is visible and now resembles a spider's web of small bore tubes.
The König could be described as a connoisseur's wreck; this can be a brilliant dive for those with knowledge and experience.
Wrecks Protected Status
In recognition of their historical and cultural importance, the wrecks of the Cöln, Dresden, Brummer, Karlsruhe, Kronprinz Wilhelm, König and Markgraf have been protected as scheduled monuments. Divers are welcome to enjoy and respect these wrecks but removal of artefacts from them is illegal. For more information, please visit the: MCA Website