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Scapa Flow

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2016.

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Scapa Flow, a large expanse of sea interspersed with land in the southern parts of Orkney. Irrespective of lateral recesses and outlets, it measures about 15 miles in extreme length from N to S, 8 miles in mean breadth, and 45 or 47 miles in circumference. In a general view it may be regarded as having Pomona on the N, Burray and South Ronaldshay on the E, the Pentland Firth on the S, the island of Hoy on the W, and the small islands of Cava, Risa, Pharay, Calf, Flotta, Switha, and Hunda in its bosom. In the extreme NW it opens by Hoy Sound, 7 miles in length and 2 in mean breadth, to the Atlantic Ocean; in the NE, it opens by Holm Sound, 3½ miles by 2, to the German Ocean; in the middle of the E side, it opens by Water Sound, 4 miles by ½ mile, to the same ocean; and, in the S, it has the island of Swona near the middle of the line where it becomes identified with the Pentland Firth. This islebegirt sea abounds, in its numerous recesses, with safe roadsteads and fine harbours. The chief is Longhope, in Walls, quite landlocked, capacious enough for the largest fleet, and possessing good anchorage and sufficient depth of water for the largest ship in the British navy; and others are Holm Sound, Widewall Bay, St Margaret's Hope, and Panhope. The tide, at its entering Scapa Flow from the SW, and through the Sound of Hoy, flows with rapidity akin to its current through the Pentland Firth; but it gradually slackens, till its motion becomes scarcely perceptible. At one part of the coast of Graemsay lying in the Sound of Hoy, the current, in consequence of being intercepted by a reef of rocks, runs 9 hours in one direction and 3 in the opposite.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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