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Hoy, Wee Fea, Underground Oil Fuel Tanks

Building (20th Century), Oil Storage Tank(S) (20th Century), Tunnel(S) (20th Century), Water Tank (20th Century)

Site Name Hoy, Wee Fea, Underground Oil Fuel Tanks

Classification Building (20th Century), Oil Storage Tank(S) (20th Century), Tunnel(S) (20th Century), Water Tank (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Royal Naval Oil Terminal, Lyness Base, Underground Oil Tanks; Scapa Flow

Canmore ID 174004

Site Number ND29SE 4

NGR ND 2912 9464

NGR Description Centred ND 2912 9464

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2022.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Walls And Flotta
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

ND29SE 4 centred 2912 9464

A series of underground oil tanks have been cut into Wee Fea hill, the entrance to which is situated about 320m NW of the Signal Station building (ND29SE 2.00). The tanks have been tunnelled into the hillside and run internally in a southwesterly direction from the N entrance. Internal access tunnels have been provided throughout the system. About 30m NE from the N entrance is a water filter bed with sluice mechanism.

Little evidence could be seen among the newly cut tracks running NW from the Signal Station, of a small tramway which was built to the N entrance, to assist with the construction of the underground oil tanks.

Some equipment, such as a float gauge, winch and access ladder still survive in situ in the passageways and tunnels. A large air extractor unit built in Yard 23 by Musgrave and Co Ltd, Belfast of the 'Centrigrad' type, for foul air extraction is also still extant.

On the S-facing slopes of Wee Fea are several air vents along with the S entrance to the tunnels (ND 2854 9385).

Both entrances to the tunnels are protected by iron gates.

The tanks had a 100,000 ton capacity (101,000 tonnes) and were cut into the hillside to provide an alternative to the above ground tanks at Lyness in the event of air-raids.

Visited by RCAHMS (GS, SW, DE) [1996].

This facility is not noted on the 1972 edition of the OS 1:10,000 map. The map depicts what are presumably its surface buildings and structures around ND 2912 9465.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 10 May 2006.


Publication Account (1999)

Behind the village, in the lea of the hill known as Wee Fea, there is a Naval Cemetery and an intermediate pumping station; on the shoulde of the hill is the large Naval Signal Station completed in 1943 and still a conspicuous landmark. In the Second World War the above-ground oil tanks were eventually fed from six enormous underground fuel tanks, built into and under the hill, capable of holding some 100,000 tons of oil for the refuelling of the fleet. The excavated spoil from the tunnels was tipped at the foreshore to create an extension to the quay which, on account of the enormous cost, was ironically nicknamed 'The Golden Wharf'.

Surveyed in 1936, the six underground tanks were completed by 1943 when further work was aborted. The two entrances are modest gaps in the hillside with ventilation shafts nearby, but inside, each of the tunnels giving access to the tanks are themselves over a quarter of a mile long, both the inlet and the outlet pipes passing through the north tunnel which formerly had intermediate blast walls. The tanks and their network of access tunnels were - and remain - by any standards a considerable feat of engineering and masterpieces of concrete construction extending for about three-quarters of a mile under the hill.

Information from 'RCAHMS Excursion Guide 1999: Commissioners' field excursion, Orkney, 8-10 September 1999'.


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