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Surveying in Shetland

Dr Stephanie Arnott and Genevieve Shaw recently returned from conducting geophysical surveys of several wrecks around Shetland, as part of a project for Historic Scotland. Steph tells us about their trip:
“Gen and I travelled to Shetland in late September to survey several wrecks.  Our brief was to survey a number of shipwrecks, covering sites from a variety of ages and types. The wrecks ranged from unidentified vessels with a rough location to well-known wrecks that have frequently been dived. Some were situated in deep water whilst others were located close to the shore in shallow waters.

299 On the boat: surveying the wreck of a 1745 gunship called Drottingen of Swenge (Queen of Sweden).

We surveyed eight wrecks in total, seven on the eastern side of Shetland and one just off the Out Skerries.

300 Gen (left) and I prepare to deploy the
sidescan sonar towfish in Lerwick Harbour.

Collecting the data on the boat could be a challenge, particularly when we surveyed wrecks close to the coastline. For example we surveyed the Wrangels Palais, a sailing ship which ran aground in dense fog in 1687 on the Out Skerries. Its proximity to the cliffs meant that even though the sea was not rough there were still large waves breaking on the rocky cliffs alongside us. 
Inside the heart of Lerwick Harbour we surveyed two World War Two wrecks with a tragic story. In 1943, the decks of these two torpedo boats were loaded with extra fuel for a rescue mission to Norway.  Somehow, a gun accidentally fired, setting light to the fuel on one of the ships, and destroying both.  Sadly, eight crewmembers were lost in the blaze. Today, the engines of one remain above the seabed and there are numerous smaller items at both sites.
Gen has just started to process the data we collected and will be providing detailed interpretations of each of the wreck sites for Historic Scotland.”


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