I first heard the name 'Scapa Flow' when I was a small child. Our cat had just had kittens. My father promptly named two of them 'Scapa' and 'Flo'. "Why Daddy"? "There's a place in Scotland called Scapa Flow". I wasn't at all sure whether to believe Daddy or not. But I was certainly intrigued by the name.
As time passed I discovered to my delight that yes, there really is a place called Scapa Flow in Scotland.
In June 1996 I made my first pilgrimage to dive this 'Great Harbour' with Alton BSAC. We packed ourselves into as few cars as we could, and headed north on Midsummer's Day. Little did I know it at the time, but on the 21st June the von Reuter family would always hold a cocktail party to celebrate the scuttling of the High Seas Fleet. Guests would include the likes of Großadmiral Karl Dönitz.
There are several good memories of that trip. As Guy Ballard, Mike Thomas and I sped northwards through the Scottish mountains, the tops of them looked as though they were sprinkled with caster sugar. Brilliant white snowcaps against a bright blue sky. I didn't expect to see snow in the middle of the summer.
I spotted my first Puffin, discovered that it doesn't really get dark on Orkney in mid-summer, and got to dive the wrecks. The dive that is still etched on my soul, 21 years on, was on the Tabarka. Mike and I dived this blockship. It was a very shallow dive of some 18 metres. But what a dive because the Tabarka rests in an area of extreme tides.
In July 2005 I wrote about diving the Tabarka and Scapa Flow in Scottish Diver Magazine.
Scapa Flow "is arguably one of Britain’s most historic and famous stretches of water. Affectionately known as ‘The Great Harbour’ this natural maritime haven, one of the largest in the world, has been used since prehistory with its sheltered waters playing a key role in travel, trade, tourism and conflict over the centuries.
The Flow’s geographical location makes it strategically important, as this refuge allows easy access to both the North Sea and the Atlantic. As a result the Orkneys have had many invaders who have left their mark in more ways than one. For the Vikings who utilised this harbour, also provided its name - ‘Bay of the Long Isthmus’ or Skalpeid-floi in Old Norse."
So that's how Scapa got its name then!
Since then I have returned to the Flow twice more. Once to do my Trimix training in 1999 and the third time to work with Richie Kohler and John Chatteron on 'Deep Sea Detectives'. Each time I learned a bit more about this special place, and each time I fell even more under Scapa's spell.
And then I got to work with the von Reuter family on the book that Admiral von Reuter wrote about the sinking on the High Seas Fleet. Meeting the son, grandson and great grandsons of this very proud German is a precious moment I will always treasure.
So when I heard that Rod Macdonald had reissued his 'Dive Scapa Flow' book I was naturally curious to know what he'd updated.
Rod sent me a copy to review which I promptly took to my parents home. My father was ill. He had terminal cancer.
My father had been a science teacher. He was an avid fan of the sea and our amazing maritime history. He possessed an astonishing mind packed full of useful (and sometimes random) data. And he was a book worm. I thought Rod Macdonald's book would be a good distraction and suggested that we we did a joint review. Daddy was hooked.
Four hours ago my father died. I have just picked up Rod's Scapa Flow book to find that Daddy had written the following notes about it.
"When you see a flag on the front cover of a book stating '100th anniversary edition', you think "oh yes, someone is cashing in on a date." But then if you use this as an opportunity to update the book, it is a good idea.
My first impression is that it written in such a way that it makes you want to read it, whether you are a diver or not.
This is a very well presented book, Roger Lunn
It is not a lightweight read, but starting at the beginning it is inviting you to continue. It takes you by the hand and makes you want to go into it.
I thought I knew a reasonable amount about Scapa and the wrecks, but I didn't know that there was so much left. Obviously reasons will become clear as I read on."
I ought to translate the above into everyday speak. My father rarely gave praise. For him to say this is "a very well presented book" is the equivalent of him standing on a mountain top yelling "this is a fantastic book, you'll learn some cool stuff and you'll enjoy reading it".
Rod, it looks as though your school work is up to muster.