At the end of World War I, a huge German fleet-the defeated power-was anchored in an anchorage in the Orkney Islands, a remote archipelago northeast of Scotland. The admiral in command of the fleet in Scapa Flow, Ludwig von Reuter ordered the sinking of that74 ships that made up the fleet, misinterpreting a headline in the newspaper, which made him believe that the British would resume attacks.
On June 21, 1919, ten battleships, five cruisers combat, five cruisers and 44 destroyers were sunk to avoid falling into British hands in what is the largest intentionally caused shipwreck in history. Although many of these ships were refloated in the 20s by the Scottish Ernest Cox, eight wrecks still lie on the bed of Scapa Flow, a whole naval underwater cemetery to the delight of divers who dare to dive into the icy Orkney waters.
Sink the float. Bernard Gribble, 1920.
But, because of an unprecedented reason, the most amazing fact of Scapa Flow resides in the tremendous value of the steel of the German ships, as explained by Sergio Parra in his book ‘300 places looking truly unreal’:
“The metal immersed in the Orkneys is tremendously useful for constructing certain elements of space vehicles. The reason lies in the that steel being forged long time ago, before an atomic bomb was exploded on planet Earth, in 1945, on Hiroshima (…) The result is that a measurable amount of radiation started to be dispersed in the environment; in the environment of the entire planet “.
The German ships submerged deep in Scapa Flow are safe from the radiation released during the explosions of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and other 2,051 explosions that have officially taken place since then. Consequently, the 25,000 tons of steel deposited there do not contain a trace of radiation; something that “distorts measurements of radiation monitors spacecraft is equipped with” says Parra. Although there is more steel in the world safe from those tiny traces of radiation present in the atmosphere, the fact that all those ships are in the same place, makes Scapa Flow a “mine of natural steel”, remarkably lowing extraction costs.
Image: Shadowgate (CC, Flickr).