Divers Disrespect Historic WW1 Shipwrecks By Illegally Taking Trophies

German Fleet sinking at Scapa Flow, 1919.
German Fleet sinking at Scapa Flow, 1919.

Robert Infante, a 48-year-old American and Gordon Meek, a 67-year-old dentist from Glasgow, Scotland, were recently exploring sunken ships from World War I.  The ships are from the German fleet. They were scuttled in Scapa Flow, off the Orkney islands in the north of Scotland.

The scuttled ships are a popular attraction for divers. They have been classed as “scheduled monuments” since 2001 – this means that it is illegal to remove anything from the wrecks. Yet this is what Infante and Meek did.

A local resident observed the men loading lanterns, a pressure gauge and a telephone into a boat.  The Police were alerted, and the men were arrested and fined £18,000 each, Daily Record reported.

Of the 52 ships which were scuttled, seven remain on the seabed. They are all protected by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.  Andrew Laing, Sheriff Court Prosecutor of Kirkwall – the biggest town in Orkney – is keenly aware of the kind of activity these wrecks can attract.

“For a number of decades now Scapa Flow has been one of Europe’s top attractions for sports divers,” he said, “with the wrecks being of great significance to our heritage and the local community.”

He went on to state that anybody violating the laws which protect the historic ships will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Sheriff Andrew Berry stated that the offenders were known in diving circles as disreputable enthusiasts.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE