The seas around Scotland are one of the remaining sources of relatively accessible Clean Steel.
Since the detonation of the first atomic bomb in 1945, radioactive fallout from such explosions has resulted in contamination of the atmosphere by traces of radioactive elements previously not found there. The process of steelmaking consumes vast quantities of air, leading to the concentration of such trace elements in the final product. Modern, high-sensitivity instrumentation, such as that used for nuclear radiation monitoring, is susceptible to the signal produced even by these trace elements, and requires material free from such contamination for its manufacture.
World War I provided one such source, when the German fleet was scuttled at Scapa Flow on June 21, 1919, to prevent its capture by the British. Fifty-one ships sank with a loss of nine lives, the last casualties of that war. Because the fleet was deliberately scuttled by Rear Admiral Ludwig Von Reuter, rather than sunk in battle, the vessels were not classed as War Graves, permitting their later salvage.
Such recovered material is not re-processed or melted down, which would result in its becoming contaminated by modern atmospheric impurities, but is cut and reshaped to suit its final application.
Such sources are limited, and many of them have been used. As a result, sources such as the U-Boats scuttled during Operation Deadlight can become viable, even if associated with high recovery costs. Although there was announcement in 1995 that the MoD awarded salvage right to these boats, nothing appears to have happened since. Subsequent reports of objections received from Russia and America suggests the boats may never be salvaged.
09 April 1997 An interesting story out of Dublin
A plan is being finalized to raise the first of 116 German U-boats scuttled more than 50 years ago off the northwest coast of Ireland, British company Masters Marine Salvage (MMS) which as been granted salvage rights to the submarine graveyard said here Sunday. Commander Mark MacIntyre, managing director of MMS, said they hoped to begin work off County Donegal in mid-May in what will be the biggest salvage operation of its kind in the world in terms of volume. The company had planned to move on site during last year's summer "weather window" but only managed to survey the dive sites which stretch for about 150 miles northwest of Malin Head almost to the edge of the Continental Shelf. The submarines are at depths of 50to 200 metres (150 to 600 feet). The British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary body has sought safety guarantees from the salvagers. A subcommittee report said there was no evidence that the raising of the U-boats would be a danger to the public. The company's team will largely be ex-British navy divers and they will be attempting to reverse the work of colleagues who scuttled the U-boats 52 years ago. They estimate the hulks will each contain recoverable metals. There is also a plan to preserve some of the most famous submarines for museums. About 100 of the submarines may be salvageable and the work may take up to eight years. The North Atlantic U-boat fleet surrendered to the allies and were assembled in Lough Foyle between Donegal and LondonDerry. They were sunk in "Operation Deadlight" in December, 1945. The original plan had been to town them out to the deep water Rockall Trench and scuttle them there. Bad weather disrupted the operation and many parted their tows and were sunk by gunfire rather than opening the seacocks and sinking them.
1 ⇑ The German battle fleet scuttled at Scapa Flow | History Today Retrieved June 22, 2014.
2 ⇑ Diving and Submersibles: Last paras at foot of page - An interesting story out of Dublin . Retrieved June 22, 2014.
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