Thursday, September 1, 2016

Thursday, September 1st, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands


Hackness Tower and Battery, in South Walls, stands on a promintory overlooking Longhope Sound.  Built in 1813-14 at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, they were designed to protect one of the most important bays in the British Isles.  Their construction was inspired by an embarassing incident twenty years earlier, when two British warships (with a combined firepower of 106 guns) were defeated by two small cannons atop a Corsican hillside circular tower.

But if you thought this story was about how well this military gun placement performed - guess again.  It's initial construction was completed after the War of 1812 ended.  The resurrection of it during the Crimean War saw it failing to be useful.  Like a roller coaster, it was abandoned and then refurbished multiple times, missing out on effective use for the next hundred years.  In all, one shot was fired from it, and that was in practice.

Meanwhile, the bay it protected participated in some of the great developments in British naval history.  This includes American, French, and German patrols and reconnaissance campaigns, development and storage of supplies and materials for British efforts, and finally the scuttling of two-thirds of the WWI German fleet, and its private salvage for scrap metal, sold back to the Germans to upgrade their ships prior to WWII.
Face it, most of us think naval warfare in the past two hundred years took place off the coast of New England, the coast of France, or in the Pacific.  In short, where the U.S. was involved. What our visit reveals, and we should acknowledge, is that naval encounters in Orkney waters and the North Sea - heavily impacted every major world conflict over the past three hundred years.

Ending the day, we drove to the Dwarfie Stane and the Scapa Flow Visitor Center and Museum.  The first is considered by some to be Britain's only rock-cut tomb.  And at five thousand year old, it's cavern would have been carved out of solid rock with stone tools or antlers.

The second hosts photographs, artifacts, vehicles, boilers, pumps, tanks, and other materials which supported the work of the British Navy during both world wars.

To see all of the photos taken today, click on Thursday, September 1st.

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