Here’s Your Chance to Own Your Own Battleship—Sort Of

Illustration of SMS Konig during happier, above water days.
Illustration of SMS Konig during happier, above water days.
Illustration: Oscar Parkes (Wikipedia)
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Most people can only dream of owning their own battleship, but thanks to eBay (of course!) you can now be the proud owner of three battleships—and a light cruiser to boot. The catch: All four ships are underwater and technically shipwrecks. The ships are part of Germany’s World War I fleet, scuttled after the end of the war.

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The battleships Konig, Markplaz and Kronprinz Wilhelm, plus the light cruiser Karlsruhe, were recently listed on eBay. The battleships are listed at a Buy It Now price of £250,000, or $316,196.25. The seller will also entertain offers if you can’t dig that deep. Currently only Konig’s listing is visible.

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The four warships were part of the German Imperial Navy during World War I. The ships, interned by the United Kingdom at the end of the war, were manned by skeleton crews and kept at Scapa Flow, off Scotland in the Orkney islands, while the Allies decided what to do with them. On June 21, 1919, nearly one hundred years ago today, German Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter ordered the ships of the fleet scuttled to prevent the Allies from scrapping or keeping them. Fifty-two of 70 ships were scuttled at Scapa Flow.

Over the years many of the ships were salvaged for scrap but a handful, including Konig, Markplaz, Kronprinz Wilhelm, and Karlsruhe were left untouched. According to the BBC, the ships are now considered monuments at sea, and while divers can swim around the exterior, the ships cannot be entered. The new owners would be allowed to access them and retrieve artifacts from the ships.

Here’s a video of a recreational diver exploring Konig, which we remind you, can be yours:

The three battleships Konig, Markplaz, and Kronprinz Wilhelm are three of the most powerful warships ever built by Germany. All three are part of the same class of battleships of which Konig is the lead ship. The ships were 575 feet long with a beam of 96 feet and displaced 25,000 tons—about a quarter as much as a modern U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. Each mounted 10 12-inch guns, 14 5.9 inch guns, 10 3.5-inch guns and five torpedo tubes. Armored protection varied, from just over two inches to 13 inches of steel plate.

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Artist’s depiction of SMS Karlsruhe.
Artist’s depiction of SMS Karlsruhe.
Illustration: Getty

Karlsruhe, on the other hand, is a light cruiser that displaced about 7,000 tons—while she was still on the surface, anyway. She was armed with eight 5.9 inch guns, two 3.5-inch guns, two torpedo tubes and 200 sea mines. Karlsruhe is also one of the most broken-up cruisers of the Scapa Flow underwater fleet, so she is not going anywhere.

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The ships were originally the property of a company called Scapa Flow Salvage but were bought by current owner Tommy Clark in 1981. Don’t fire up your angle grinder yet, though: The new owner or owners will be prohibited by law from raising the ships up from the seabed.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and security writer based in San Francisco, California.

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DISCUSSION

shanemorris
Shane Morris

I hate to be the nuclear physics nerd stepping in and explaining this, but these German warships are actually worth... way more than $300,000 USD.

Yes, it’s a pain in the ass for anyone to get pieces of these off the seabed, but Scapa Flow is a well known place to (somewhat) easily retrieve pre-atomic steel.

Basically, because the USSR and the USA tested like 2,000 nuclear bombs (seriously, that’s not an exaggeration), we contaminated all the air in the world with radionuclides. These won’t harm you at all, because in order for them to build up in living tissue, you’d need to live to be like 75,000 years old. (You probably won’t.)

When making steel, or even recycling it, we use air (big fancy blowers) to heat it up. This contaminates the steel. Pre-atomic steel is called “low background” steel, and it’s used in Geiger counter, and also nuclear medicine. (Measuring tracers during radiation therapy, etc.) I believe we also use it on some equipment on the Space Station, and for precision instruments like the Large Hadron Collider.

Low background steel is hard to find. If I had the money, I'd buy these ships and retire on them. Nothing good happens to steel at the bottom of the ocean, and there aren't many pre-atomic ships left.