Friday, 30 September 2011

Watch the Windmill

This Snowy Owl in flight over North Uist (photographed by Michael McKee) may soon find its space taken by wind turbines, as featured in the Oban Times. The island already has remarkable sources on the ground for its 1271 residents (2001 Census) have within their area over 1000 fresh water lochs. Now they look skyward for more natural resources.

Scottish Islands Explorer - looks resourcefully everywhere off the Scottish coast

Thursday, 29 September 2011

More Sunday Landings

It's actually been a long time coming - in fact, since the ferry services first started. Fare-paying vehicle-owners and passengers will be able to book and sail with CalMac to and from Tarbert, on Harris, from Sunday 23 October. However, it seems only a short while ago that there were no Sunday sailings from the Mainland, Skye and North Uist to Harris and Lewis. There will possibly be token demonstrations against the first sailing by local objectors at the Tarbert terminal, pictured above, but the attitudes of many residents have changed in recent years. The details of the service changes are to be found in Hebrides News.

Scottish Islands Explorer - produced every two months, read daily

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A Sunday Landing

On Sunday 8 September 1811 the HMS Endymion approached what has become Britains's most isolated extremity and Lieutenant Basil Hall made the first recorded landing on Rockall. The event of some 200 years ago has been commemorated by an underwater survey of the islet and of nearby Helen's Reef. Find out more in the account in the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to secure information that is wide and deep

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Above and Below

The islet of Sula Sgeir does not, apart from the guga collecting, yield much by way of commercial return. Few see it; even fewer set foot on it. The roof of the chapel (above) has collapsed. However, Richard Shucksmith has every reason to be delighted by something below the island that has brought him a £5000 reward for his endeavours. The BBC website reveals his prize.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to assess islands from several standpoints

Monday, 26 September 2011

Orkney Goes Far

This image is of a recent Guernsey versus Orkney football match. Another inter-island match was held last Saturday, wth a first fixture. The Orcadian reports:

'Orkney beat Lewis and Harris in Dingwall this afternoon to win the inaugural The Stornoway Gazette Inter-Island Challenge Cup clash. Orkney won 3-2 on penalties, following a 2-2 draw. Wayne Monkman and David Delday scored for Orkney during the first half, before Lewis and Harris pulled two back after the break. The two sides could not be separated, and DJ Moffat, Chris Simpson and Jon Tait scored from the penalty spot to give Orkney first blood in the annual fixture.'

Scottish Islands Explorer - a bi-monthly fixture

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Command and Demand

Church-going in Stornoway is both part of its culture and popular. Many people respond to the command to observe the Sabbath and the demand for places of worship is high. Details are to be found on a webpage of the Stornoway Historical Society and are intriguing for they reflect enthusiasms and endeavours, schisms and subtle differences. The Free Church in Kenneth Street (above) attracts the largest congregations in the town, while the Free Presbyterian Church in Matheson Road (below) holds services at similar times, but with a slightly different, resolutely-held, emphasis.  Add in the groups that have recently split from both of these sects, then count the Church of Scotland, Episcopalian Church, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Salvation Army, Christian Brethren, New Wine, Jehova's Witnesses, Church of the Latter Day Saints and you have insufficient fingers.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to count

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Big and Rare, off Raasay

Last Saturday, Calum MacAskill, of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, spotted and captured, by camera, this sperm whale in the Sound of Raasay. It's a rare occurrence there, in fact anywhere off the Scottish coast. This is the deepest diving mammal, the largest living toothed animal, with the biggest-sized brain of any creature. It can grow up to 67' and its head can represent up to one-third of its length.

Scottish Islands Explorer - more common on Raasay

Friday, 23 September 2011

Long Arm of the ... Law?

There are people with reservations that stand the test of time. Stuart Hill (below) is a self-styled crusader for an independent Shetland. He maintains that when Denmark 'pawned' this island group in 1469, the laws of Scotland did not apply ... and still don't. When made bankrupt by a civil action in the Lerwick Sherrif Court yesterday, he did not give his firmly-held views, kept quiet, but indicated that he would be appealing to the Court of Session. The report appears in The Shetland Times, which will, in time, undoubtedly be referring to the next stage of a long argument.

Scottish Islands Explorer - hopes to be reporting arguments in 542 years time

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Getting Ahead of Time

Yesterday's item on the blog Across the Minch considers a proposed new venture for the production of whisky on Harris. A search via Google brought up this highly-professional advertisement from Sozo, a web-design company based in Cheltenham. Considering the length of time it takes to produce a single-malt, someone is well ahead with their planning.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to plan a few months ahead

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Launching Out

81 years ago saw St Kilda evacuated and all residents departing, including the very young Norman John Gillies. Here he is (above) at a recent National Trust for Scotland book launch. He had travelled from where he now lives, in Ipswich, Suffolk, to Edinburgh for the event to mark the publication of the latest version of Tom Steel's The Life and Death of St Kilda and the new archaelogical study of the island, Winds of Change, by Jill Harden and Olivia Lelong, also pictured. There must have been more words written about this speck of land than any other, particularly since 1930. It continues to fascinate and if you are, then read the full account of this story in the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Islands Explorer  - about fascinating places

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Taking the Tablets

There are sufficient Apple iPads in this illustration to supply the eleven Health Board members of NHS Orkney. They have recently each been issued with an iPad - at a total cost of £7000 - to become the first public body in Scotland to do away with the use of paper. The intention is to be 'paper light' and so there's been more than the provision of these computers - printers have been removed, ink eliminated and stationery cupboards de-stocked. The intention is to improve performance and make savings by adopting new technologies. Here is a group of health officials being made to take their tablets.

Scottish Islands Explorer - always looking for new ways to communicate

Monday, 19 September 2011

On Not Missing the Boat

Northlink Ferries, the company that runs services to Shetland, presents those who like to plan well ahead with a problem. Bookings are not being taken after July 2012. The reason is that their contract expires then. However, the process of tendering is not underway yet. The Scottish Government's Finance Minister, John Swinney, insists that all will be in place within the next nine months. There are, naturally, concerns that someone will end up missing the boat - either the authorities or the islanders.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of deadlines

Sunday, 18 September 2011

It's Free, not Animal-Free

There are 20 golf courses on the islands to the west of the Scottish mainland and a dozen of them are of the nine-hole variety. One of the 18-hole courses, on Iona, is very special in that its obstacles include wanderings around by a lone bull and a flock of sheep. However, its best feature, perhaps, is that it's free - no green fees and no charges ... unless by the bull.

Scottish Islands Explorer - free, of spirit

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Comets to Watch

From the Northern Isles the Comet, C2009 P1Garradd, is clearly visible. It continues to brighten particularly in the late evening. Look to the southern skies as the Moon becomes less radiant over the coming nights. In the south of the UK, we will have to make to do with that electrical appliance retailer, Comet, where sales have fallen 22% in the past three months and a trading decision will be made by the end of the year. That does make two Comets to watch!

Scottish Islands Explorer - looking to the skies as well as the isles

Friday, 16 September 2011

Pleased to be Home?

The 90 Lewis Chessmen found on Ardroil Beach, Uig, in 1831 have been in care with museum authorities for quite some time. 29 of them came back from Edinburgh to be on display in Stornoway since last April. 21,000 visitors viewed them there. Then six of them were taken on a flying visit to Uig where the local historical society had brief custody. If you are feeling more cheerful than they would appear, then read about it in this week's Stornoway Gazette.

When even the Queen looks concerned about being at home again, then it's time to check-out and get back to the capital.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to make the right moves

Thursday, 15 September 2011

From One Field to Another

This seagull was spotted on top of a buoy in Canadian waters. Perhaps it had heard that these devices, for warning shipping and collecting data, can go places. Last year a one-tonne buoy in a Newfoundland oil-field was dislodged by the fiercest tropical storm ever to penetrate those waters. The impact of Hurricane Igor was dramatic and the result, in this case, was that the buoy drifted and encountered the North Atlantic currents. It was found earlier this month in the oil-fields of ... Shetland. Read the account in The Shetland Times.

Scottish Islands Explorer - usually crosses the Atlantic in the other direction

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Success or Excess?

This cruise liner off Hatston Pier, Orkney, symbolises something that's both remarkable and, in some ways, amusing. Around this time of year, bookings for about 20 cruise liners to visit Orkney have been made for the forthcoming year. The Council's Transport and Infrastructure Committee has just announced that with the new pier extension going ahead, some 62 cruise ships have made advanced booking for 2012. They will bring about 48,000 passengers, many of whom will come ashore. The total is expected to rise to 80 ships. So picture Kirkwall's Main Street, below, before the crowds of visitors arrive to explore the town.

On the other hand, the Christmas and New Year's Day scenes when Kirkwall's form of street football, the 'Ba' Game, is played will probably not be repeated. Unless, that is, inter-ship competitions are devised or cut-price sales introduced in the shops!

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to draw crowds

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

From Colonsay to Coalition

Although Danny Alexander was born in Edinburgh (15 May 1972), his early years were spent on Colonsay. Now that he has become Chief Secretary to the Treasury and fully involved in the financial management of Britain, he must sometimes yearn for the simple pastimes of his childhood - such as playing on the sea-shore and seeing ferry-boats arrive and depart. How many eminent politicians have been influenced by the pleasures and pressures of living on a Scottish island during formative years? The image below of The Strand between Colonsay and Oronsay gives the impression of that-idyllic-place-in-which-to-grow-up.

Scottish Islands Explorer - getting on for 12 years-of-age

Monday, 12 September 2011

Human Energy Saving

There are some arduous ways of getting energy supplies and cutting peat by hand on the isolated isle of Foula is one of them. Then along comes solar-, wind- and hydro-electric power schemes and the current flows continuously. The days and nights when supplies regularly and suddenly cut out are over. The landscape and text featured here indicates the changing sources. The panels close to the island school indicate a far less strenuous method employed during daylight hours, although those are limited during the depths of winter.


Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of changes 

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Stornoway to Stenny

A story in a recent issue of the Stornoway Gazette involved a young boy signing for Stenhousemuir Football Club. A feature of this Scottish League team is that they have a strong supporters' club in ... Norway. The reason is allegedly because there is a tradition for young footballers on remote Norwegian farms to have to practise their skills against posts painted on the walls of a barn - 'the stone-house-mural'. The Club's name obviously resonates far away. It's a connection that could pay dividends were the team to rise from the Second Division because, as a result of their interest, this group of fans was awarded 5% of the Club's shares.

Scottish Islands Explorer - sharing interests

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Stop, Look, Listen

Stop, if you can on this page; go, if you are able today and look at what's happening in Portree. If getting to Skye is a problem, then link to Cuillins FM 106.2 and listen to the radio. Atlas Arts has an event, Bonnie Boat, involving the Celeste, which is sailing around parts of the island and broadcasting to people as well as featuring things about them. It's interactive and sounds interesting. 

Scottish Islands Explorer - tuned in

Friday, 9 September 2011

Avro Anson Accidents

David Earl specialises in aircraft history and has just completed his latest reference book - Avro Anson UK High Ground Crash Log. In the 24 years between 1937-61 this aircraft was involved in 140 crashes on the hills and mountains of Britain. Publication will be in November / December of this year and the price, including postage and backing, is £8.44. Expressions of interest should be made to David Earl who will send you full details of his latest publication which will engage aircraft enthusiasts, some family and local historians as well as museum authorities. David has produced several previous books and is a member of ARGOS - Aviation Research Group Orkney & Shetland. His website, about several areas concerning air disasters, features a photograph of the Beaufighter LX798 propeller at its crashsite on St Kilda.
Scottish Islands Explorer - also documenting current and past events

Thursday, 8 September 2011

A Far from Golden Promise

This photograph by Gordon Campbell is of the Golden Promise, an Oban-registered scalloper, that ran aground off the west coast of Stroma in the Pentland Firth early yesterday. All five members of the crew were rescued by a helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth and none was hurt. The Longhope and Thurso lifeboats had been requested to launch. It's a timely reminder of the dangers that beset 'those who go down to the sea in ships'.

Scottish Islands Explorer - about islands, from a secure land base

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

From Larks to Sharks

The body of a 6' long blue shark was found beached at Barvas on the Isle of Lewis. The BBC report gives full details of this find by Martin Scott the RSPB's Scotland conservation officer, who is more accustomed to locating birds than fish.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to find out about things

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Getting Home

The problems of getting there safely with a toxic load came to light on Shetland last week. Two items appeared in the Shetland Times. One involved fears of nuclear waste being transported through the Fair Isle Channel and the other concerned a driver, appearing before the Scalloway magistrates, having consumed alcohol apparently to over four times the legal limit. Warning off for the former; immediate disqualification for the latter.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to steer an even course

Monday, 5 September 2011

Water Supplies Safe Again

This North Ronaldsay member of the local flock has that quizzical look, as though thinking of the paradoxes of living on its Orkney island. Its range of weather is wide and conditions can change quickly in the stormy and treacherous surrounding waters. The first lighthouse, the Old Beacon (below), was, as a consequence, constructed as early as 1789. It was replaced by the tallest land-based lighthouse in the UK some 43 years later. With so much water around, it is ironic that local water-supplies recently became suspect and boiling it before use became necessary. This advice was lifted at the beginning of the month. Humans may safely consume.

Scottish Islands Explorer - safe to digest

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Islands to Highlands

If you are in the vicinity of Dundonnell House, south of Ullapool, on Thursday, are able be there from 14.00 - 17.00 and have £3.50 to spare, then there's a treat in store. Lady Jane Rice, the estranged wife of Sir Tim Rice, is opening what has been described as 'an inspired walled garden'. It's three acres in extent and is tended by a brilliant young gardener who was employed at Inverewe, Will Soos. The illustrated blog by Annie Hoff is the next-best-thing to being there. Worth coming back from Islands to Highlands.

Scottish Islands Explorer - tries to be inspired

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Filipinos and the Fleet

The skills of Filipino fishermen will continue to serve the fleets of the Western Isles now that their visas have been extended for a further year. However, there will be no extension beyond 2012. Many skippers are finding it difficult to recruit suitable UK crew-members and supplies to the fish-processing factories have been threatened, with local jobs at risk. The variety of species caught between the North Atlantic Ocean and the South China Sea must be extensive, with a range measured by the wide gap between fishermen's hands.

Scottish Islands Explorer - creating work locally

Friday, 2 September 2011

On Course for Profit

The Askernish Golf Course on South Uist has had a successful time during August, when its Open Championship attracted both players and spectators. The Stornoway Gazette provides the current news, while the history of the course goes back 120 years to the time when Old Tom Morris (1821-1908), the St Andrew's professional, greenkeeper and course-designer pictured below, created this course from the machair. It fell into disrepair, part of it was levelled in the 1930s to create an airstrip and then it re-opened as a 12-hole course. Its first major revival was in the 1970s as a nine-hole course, but in 206 a new project started and within two years it was transformed or rather reformed close to its original routing. These 18-holes have, according to reports, brought in £18,000 to the local economy during last month alone.

Scottish Islands Explorer - on course to assist local economies

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Switching Sources of Power

The Caithness coast certainly has that edge-of-the-world feel. To the north, the Atlantic currents are channelled through the Pentland Firth, producing strong tidal flows and big waves. New companies, particularly engineering ones, have been set up to assist in the harvesting of its potential energies with the innovative devices that are becoming available. At the same time the nuclear reactor at Dounreay, which was set up in 1955, is being decommissioned and its 1900 associated jobs are dwindling. Nuclear energy has its detractors, wind farms have their objectors, but, as yet, tidal generators have not aroused waves of protest on either the mainland or the islands.

Scottish Islands Explorer - powered by prose and pictures