New images reveal sunken Royal Oak battleship

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image copyrightMarjo Tynkkynen/HMS Royal Oak 80
image captionA massive casement gun encrusted with sea life looms out of the wreck

A volunteer team has been given special permission to dive on the wreck of the Royal Oak in Orkney's Scapa Flow.

The ship - which was sunk by a U-boat in Scapa Flow in October 1939 with the loss of more than 830 men and boys - is protected as a war grave.

But the divers have been allowed to gather images and information for use in 80th anniversary commemorations.

It follows similar projects by the same group on the wrecks of the Royal Navy ships HMS Hampshire and HMS Vanguard.

image copyrightChris Rowland/Crown Copyright
image captionFour torpedo holes are visible in the hull of Royal Oak

Stromness-based dive boat owner Emily Turton told BBC Radio Orkney "diving was banned on Royal Oak in 2002" to protect it.

"Very little access is given to British war graves, and it has to be by special licence," she said.

She said she had been working closely with the Royal Navy northern diving group and the Royal Oak Association.

"We asked what they would like to see," she said.

image copyrightMarjo Tynkkynen/HMS Royal Oak 80
image captionWhat at first looks like part of the structure of the ship is a double bass, complete with its bow
image copyrightMarjo Tynkkynen/HMS Royal Oak 80
image captionDivers found what seems to be a supply of spare navigation lamps

Ambitious plans to produce video and 3D images were delayed following the theft of a laptop and two external hard drives from the team.

Emily Turton said the theft had been "devastating", but she said she hoped it would be possible to recover the raw data, and recreate the processed images.

Gareth Derbyshire, chairman of the Royal Oak Association, said the project was "an important means of ensuring that the history of the ship and the circumstances of its loss were available to future generations.

The last of the survivors of HMS Royal Oak died in December 2016.

image copyrightKieran Hatton/HMS Royal Oak 80
image captionThe site of the wreck in Scapa Flow is protected as a war grave
image copyrightOrkney Library and Archive
image captionThe Royal Oak was sunk by German U-boat U47 in October 1939

Diving work on the wreck is now almost complete.

The next phase of the project will see all the data that has been gathered being collated and processed.

A comprehensive survey report is due to be produced before the end of the year.

The dive team will also present their findings to the public.

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