Monday, 27 January 2014 Back to News

INIS Hydro Uncovers Wartime Wrecks Off Oban Coast

Two Wartime Plane Wrecks Found Between Oban And Jura

In addition to producing seabed maps that have drastically improved our knowledge of the seabed and safety at sea, the INIS Hydro project has also uncovered a piece of history.

A side scan sonar image showing one of the flying boats lying on the seabed near Oban.
In the summer of 2012, the SAMS (Scottish Association for Marine Science) vessel RV Calanus mapped 553 km2 of seabed from Jura to Oban using multibeam echo sounder. What they didn't expect, was to stumble across clues to the area's military past.

This survey revealed a number of unknown ‘obstacles’ on the seabed approaching Oban harbour. Side-scan sonar images and local dive clubs have revealed two flying boat wrecks, a Catalina and a Sunderland aircraft.

These two wrecks are testament to Oban’s wartime role as a flying boat station and both were presumed lost during WW2 in accidents. The Catalina aircraft has lost a wing, and both engines lie on the seabed with the wing and fuselage covered by a lost fishing net. Although the Sunderland has deteriorated considerably, it is still broadly intact.

These sites, along with several further wreck sites, have been located as part of the INIS Hydro survey. They will be investigated in the coming months as part of Wessex Archaeology’s Project SAMPHIRE (Scottish Atlantic Maritime Past: Heritage, Investigation, Research and Education) with the assistance of SAMS, volunteers from the Nautical Archaeology Society and other local divers.

SAMPHIRE engages local communities with Scotland-based professional underwater archaeologists and aims to support the identification, investigation and appreciation of Scotland’s marine heritage. They hope that by working alongside local communities, they can reinforce a shared sense of stewardship over those underwater archeological sites.

The INIS Hydro (Ireland, Northern Ireland & Scotland Hydrographic Survey) project is an EU-funded INTERREG IVA cross border programme managed by the Special EU Projects body and co-funded by NERC Marine Environmental Mapping Programme (MAREMAP). It is a three-year project to map key areas of the Scottish, Irish and Northern Irish coasts. Its primary aims are to update nautical charts, environmental habitat mapping and improved navigational safety.

For the first time, a number of organisations are working together across government to map the seabed to a set standard, and is an example of how cross-border, international cooperation can produce much more advanced data sets with broad applications. This discovery is a fine example. A survey that set out to map the seabed for applications in nautical safety, nautical charts and habitat mapping has made discoveries that have implications for the fields of archaeology and history.

If you would like any more information about these discoveries, or the INIS Hydro project itself, please contact us.