Saturday, 31 August 2013

Wintering Over

The team of Icelandic rowers who have safely negotiated the crossing of the North Atlantic from Norway to Orkney and now from Orkney to Faroe have decided to leave the Audur there, at Torshavn, for the winter. In the Viking tradition they will return in the summer months to complete the final leg of their journey home.

Scottish Islands Explorer - aware of winter conditions too

Friday, 30 August 2013

Tern or Puffin or ...

The Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick has appealed through the Stornoway Gazette for entries to its photographic competition. So look through your digital collection and enter such as the Arctic Tern (above) taken by Chris Gomersall and used by Northern Light Charters or of Puffins (below) from Hebridean Whale Cruises.

Scottish Islands Explorer - seabirds galore in its catchment area

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Inside and Out

The Tomb of the Eagles at Isbister, South Ronaldsay, Orkney, dates to Neolithic times and was probably in use for a thousand years. It became an ossuary, with 16000 human bone fragments and the remains of over 700 birds, mainly sea eagles, found. Details of recent repairs and historical insights are to be discovered in this Orkney News item, published in May and anticipating completion by last month.

Scottish Islands Explorer - full of fragmented knowledge

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Another Peat Stack

This photograph of Gordon and Ida Watters, the last inhabitants of Fara, an island in Scapa Flow, Orkney, was taken by John Bulmer. The peat stack looks sufficient to have provided protection from low temperatures, strong winds and driving rain - all of which must have been encountered.

Scottish Islands Explorer - has stocks of material to withstand the Winter

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Help Keep It Going

Here's a Sgoth Niseach (Ness Boat) - and a short video clip is available here - of this, the only one now in existence. It is managed by a charity, the An Sulaire Trust, and there have been concerns about its continuing use. The Stornoway Gazette has some recent news about funding and a useful link for those interested in seeing that the vessel is safe, both at sea and for future generations.

Scottish Islands Explorer - also the only one in existence

Monday, 26 August 2013

Peat as Art

The sky is extensive; the peat intensive. It's Lewis and its peat moorland. From being found in a pile or stack behind every house, it now has its place or status ... as an art exhibit in Stornoway. See what's going on in an item from Hebrides Today.

Scottish Islands Explorer - also has plenty to offer, with stacks of information

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Give Name; Return Tag

Items from the Stornoway Gazette and Scottish Natural Heritage give insights into the movements of basking sharks in and around the Hebrides. So far 15 of them have been tagged this year and assistance is needed - to name the sharks and to return tags. As in the picture below, matters are there to be be revealed.

Scottish Islands Explorer - invites you to become involved, not too closely

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Catching Up

This item from Shetland News brings interesting reading from the fishing grounds. Both stocks and catches are up; record landings and buoyant sales are reported. Electronic auctioneering has replaced the traditional vocal methods. The fears of some doom-mongers have been allayed and fishmongers are smiling, at least for the time being.

Scottish Islands Explorer - circulation edging upwards

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Elusive Seven

The seven remain elusive. A Scottish Islands Explorer reporter has just returned from a successful trip to the Highlands & Islands, but his wish to land on the Flannans or Seven Hunters was not fulfilled because of the swell caused by pressure rather than waves that are whipped up by wind. There will be another occasion when these compelling islands are within reach, although the sort of landing depicted below when the lighthouse was manned, must now breach health and safety requirements. The aerial view, above, is a reminder that a helicopter trip would be bliss.

Scottish Islands Explorer - manned, not automatic

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Coming Up

Two weeks ago the Prospect went down in Lerwick Harbour after striking a submerged rock. Now it has been brought to the surface and taken away for repairs. Shetland News has the account.

Scottish Islands Explorer- emerges every eight weeks

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Puffins' Farewell

It's at about this time of year that puffins leave their nests on The Shiants for winter residences. The small group of islands in The Minch, off Lewis, has a website that is comprehensive and highly-informative. Take a trip there.

Scottish Islands Explorer - remains in residence all-year-round

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Old Man; Old Ways

Were the Old Man of Hoy to be human, he would probably speak with a distinct Orkney dialect. It was, as a variant of the Old Norse language, Norn, widely spoken for almost a thousand years. Aspects of it linger in everyday conversations and the subject features in an event organised by the Orkney Heritage Society at the St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall, this coming Saturday.

Scottish Islands Explorer - reports in English

Monday, 19 August 2013

Align and Accommodate

The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse has a presence and plenty of space around it. Water is to the north and land to the south. The latter will be used for camping by a group of students working on a structure to make an alignment with distant North Rona. The details are to be found in this Stornoway Gazette item.

Scottish Islands Explorer - endeavours to maintain island alignments

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Up and Open

When sociologists look back on the first years of the 21st Century in Orkney, several features will be noted. One is that the population rose during the 2001 - 2011 period by no less than 11%; the other is that the ways of life from the Neolithic period on are being revealed from excavations at several archaeological sites, including the Ness of Brodgar, which happens to be having an Open Day today.

Scottish Islands Explorer - its circulation has risen by well over 11%

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Long Walk to Longhope

An extensive walking tour taking in lifeboat stations is featured in the current Shetland News. Make the link and then follow Carol Smithard's progress. It's an impressive challenge for raising awareness and funds.

Scottish Islands Explorer - the new issue has travelled some miles to reach readers

Friday, 16 August 2013

Snakes and Ladders

Here is a photograph from the blog of The Hebridean Archive Service and it comes with an appeal. The house and family were 'snapped' on Eriskay in 1911, but who are they? Answers, 102 years after developing, will be appreciated. The family of Donald MacLean of Bragar (below) was photographed at some time between 1910 and 1920 by Dr Norman Morrison of Shawcross. He was a polymath, a police officer and one of those people who gained his doctorate in retirement. One of his passions was the board game, 'Snakes and Ladders', on which he wrote books and articles. Any copies out there?

Scottish Islands Explorer - a future topic for books?

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Still a Public House?

This was one of the more remote public houses in Britain. It's the Byron Darnton Tavern, opened on Sanda, off the Kintyre peninsula, in 2003. However, since the island has become increasingly private this year, the status of these licensed premises is uncertain. Byron Darton (1897 - 1942) was an acclaimed American journalist and war correspondent of the New York Times, who was killed near New Guinea by 'friendly-fire' when the boat on which he was sailing was mistaken for a Japanese vessel. A 10,500 ton Liberty ship was named after him in 1943 and spent the remaining war-years on the North Atlantic run to Murmansk. In 1946 it ran aground in an easterly gale off Sanda. Byron's sons became influential figures - Robert as a cultural historian; John as a winner of the Pulitizer Prize for Journalism. He retired from the New York Times in 2005 and that year visited Sanda.

Scottish Islands Explorer - very much a magazine for public consumption

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Donald Meek Award

Donald Meek, a native of Tiree, was brought up as a Gaelic speaker, attended Oban High School, graduated from the University of Cambridge, was awarded a Ph.D by the University of Glasgow and became Professor of Scottish and Gaelic Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He has now retired, but continues to promote his interests in the many subjects that interest him. The Donald Meek Literary Award was established in 2010 to promote Gaelic fiction and this year's short-listed candidates appear in a Stornoway Gazette item. The winner will be announced on Thursday 22 August at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Scottish Islands Explorer - dominated by factual material

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Sanday As Seen

Sanday is as it sounds - a place where sand proliferates, in quite stunning ways. It was largely underwater in prehistoric times. A short video film gives oversights and insights of the landscape, communities and activities of this Orkney island. For six years, from the beginning of the millennium, the most northerly passenger railway in Britain, the Sanday Light Railway, was operated. Two nine-hole golf courses are to be found - one of 2,600 yards and the other, understandably, Scotland's shortest, is 57 yards long.

Scottish Islands Explorer - covers rocky, sandy and muddy islands

Monday, 12 August 2013

'H' for Holy

The 'H' obviously stands for helipad, here on Eilean Mor, Flannan Isles. The archipelago which is known as 'The Seven Hunters' and at times, 'The Seven Holy Islands', is also associated with that letter of the alphabet. In 1703 Martin Martin refers to the pilgrimages that took place to the chapel on the largest of the group where St Flannan's Chapel (below) is to be found. The pilgrims, in holy anticipation, observed the custom, as they approached the plateau, of removing their hats and turning in a 'sunwise' or 'sunward' direction. This east to west movement was generally considered to be 'the prosperous course'. To turn the other way was to invoke trouble, known in Lowland Scots as 'widdershins'.

Scottish Islands Explorer - fails to contain the letter 'H'

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Sule Skerry's Numbers

The numbers on Sule Stack's neighbour, Sule Skerry add up too. It's 37 miles to the west of Orkney and rises to 40' with a lighthouse that was built during the summers of 1892 - 94. Seasonal work was necessary because of isolation and it remains, technically, the most remote lighthouse in the UK. From 1895 -1982 it was manned and its automatic status is matched by the nearby buoy which sends signals that are incorporated into the Shipping Forecast. The dominant plant on the islet is Martime Mayweed (below).

Scottish Islands Explorer - it flowers on a bi-monthly basis

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Sule Stack's Numbers

Sule Stack, which from this angle looks like a double rock, is within the administrative area of Orkney, rises to 121' and is the home to a colony of around pairs of 4000 gannets. At one time the Royal Navy used it for firing practice as indicated by an unexploded shell found there, but for the most part the birds are left in peace and have not been subjected to culling.

Scottish Islands Explorer - few sails and no sales here

Friday, 9 August 2013

Davaar in Distance

There's a choice here. Either take the dog for a walk and look at Davaar in the distance or read the instructions and go there on foot over the causeway to see what's on offer - like Lookout Cottage below. A way to the latter is through the walkhighlands website with its helpful advice and enticing images. Getting to nearby Campleltown at the end of the Kintyre peninsula is quite a trek in itself, however.

Scottish Islands Explorer - talks the talk, advises walk the walk

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Bass Mallow

Plants of the mallow family get around. Those of the marsh mallow variety, found often in Eastern Europe and North Africa, have roots that supply the confectionery ingredient. Tree or shrubby mallows (above) flourish in free draining soils in the full sun. However, the Bass mallow (below) is to be found luxuriating on the fertile soil of the Bass Rock, where 150,000 gannets keep the stony surfaces well-manured. This plant is also found on Ailsa Craig, on the western approach to the Clyde Estuary, and on Steep Holm, in the Bristol Channel.

Scottish Islands Explorer - found in off-shore, shallow waters

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

No Bunting

The Corn bunting, sitting here on barbed-wire, is in a precarious position with numbers falling and its rattling song, heard particularly on the machair, often silent. There have been no sightings of the bird on Barra and Vatersay so far this year. Read the details on the BBC website item.

Scottish Islands Explorer - circulation increasing, but not on Barra and Vatersay

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Beyond Orkney

Last year I came across John Rae (1813 - 93), above and below, in St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall. This year marks the centenary of the birth of the Arctic Explorer and an international conference, John Rae 200, will be held in Stromness in September.

I was led to the discovery of the forthcoming international event through the website Orkney Archive - the strapline of which invites us to 'Get Dusty'. The original manuscripts which fuel it may show that feature; its style does not. The entry for last Saturday - 3 August 2013 - reveals how local newspapers in the 19th Century looked well beyond their vicinities for appealing stories.

The ruined house at Orphir, above, was the childhood home of John Rae. Had his fame lasted, it would undoubtedly be a museum now. Instead it is open to the elements, like the lands he explored as an adult.

Scottish Islands Explorer - will be preserved in paper, not stone

Monday, 5 August 2013

Proof on the Pier

Above is, perhaps, the shape of things to come on the sea bed, while below the amount of power in each wave remains impressive. Proof of the way in which tidal energies are being harnessed comes from the industrial activity evident on the new pier extension at Hatston, near Kirkwall, Orkney. See something of what's happening at this BBC website item.

Scottish Islands Explorer - not yet into moving photographs

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Shetland Exposure

This is a red-letter day, for a discovery has been made. It is of the Shetland Exposure blog, based in Lerwick, but with a wide coverage and appeal. It's the work of Rebecca Nason whose many items speak for themselves. The herring gull, above, photographed by her in October while resting beside a red vessel in the harbour, came to the judges' attention in a 2012 national photographic competition and was placed second in the 'Natural Abstract' section. Become first among new visitors to her site today.

Rebecca is a freelance bird photographer, wildlife tour leader and ecologist, who worked on Fair Isle as an assistant warden for two years from 2003. This was in the days when Scottish Islands Explorer was a fledgling publication based there.

... and in the blue corner, above, are participants in the Up Helly Aa procession in Lerwick in January.

Scottish Islands Explorer - prospective customers in an orderly queue

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Sit and Savour

Before a barrel can be rolled out at the Bruichladdich Distillery, Islay, a process has to be fulfilled. Crows Nest Films, a UK-based independent, film production company, has produced a six-minute film of  the company and its people. Watch, in a short time, what happens over several years and savour the atmosphere, at least visually.

Scottish Islands Explorer - 30 issues every five years

Friday, 2 August 2013

North Rona - Ultimate Isle

There are now no permanent residents on North Rona, technically Britain's most remote island ever to have been inhabited, to enjoy a visit from a passing vessel. People do still encounter the place and land - including Stewart Hindley who took the photograph below of nearby Sula Sgeir when on a Northern Light Charters voyage. Its rugged outline contrasts with the softer contours of North Rona, above. You can drop in, virtually, through a short programme from the BBC and see something of the landscape and wildlife of the compelling 'outlier'. Some photographs of Frank Fraser Darling, the eminent naturalist, feature. The island is the subject of a display currently on show in Ness, Lewis, and the topic of an item in the Stornoway Gazette.

Scottish Islands Explorer - taking you to extremes

Thursday, 1 August 2013

A Long Preview

Take a close look, and then a longer one, at this piece of Neolithic art that has surfaced at the Ness of Brodgar, Orkney. It is one of the finest examples of its kind unearthed by archaeologists in Britain and is earning the Northern Isles site the title of 'Neolithlic Cathedral'. Read on at The Orcadian and consider how around 4,500 years have passed from execution to this display of workmanship and artistic endeavour.

Scottish Islands Explorer - copies are examined soon after execution