Day 7 |
Jun 11, 2010

Lerwick And Noss Island, Scotland

By Chris Cutler, Naturalist

Coordinates: 60°8 'N and 1° 8’W

Weather: Cool, overcast, breezy, a bit drizzly, then calming later on.

Having spent a quiet night alongside in Lerwick, we embarked coaches for a half-day tour. At a farm we saw Shetland ponies and their foals. Their tail hair was once used to make fishing nets.

We visited Scalloway, on the western shore, and the castle built in 1600 by forced labor by treacherous Earl Patrick Stewart, who was eventually captured (the smoke of his pipe giving away his hiding place at home), tried and executed. The Town Museum displayed information on the once-prosperous herring fishery and Arctic whaling. Most compelling were the stories of the “Shetland Bus”, the secret operation whereby Norwegian fishing boats made dangerous 24-hr journeys from Scalloway and other ports to mainland fjords in support of the resistance during Nazi occupation of Norway. At Clickimin Broch we stopped for photos. The fortress tower built around 700 BC had been rebuilt and a whooper swan snoozed on the adjacent loch.

The Prince Albert II repositioned to just off Bressay Island. We took to the Zodiacs for a cruise around the Isle of Noss, a Scottish national nature reserve off the east coast of Shetland. The gently sloped land flared upward along the western flank, notably at a spot called the Noup of Noss where sheer cliffs soared to over 150 meters. On ledges sculpted out of 400-million-year-old sandstone perched myriad birds. Gannet pairs mutually preened and some squabbled over algae used for nests. Common guillemots, seemingly tuxedo-clad, crowded each other in long lines on narrow ledges and bathed in groups in the water. Now and then a glossy black-backed razorbill flew butterfly-like off the cliff. Great skuas (bonxies) chased gannets in dynamic aerial pursuits. Common seals bobbed their heads above the water. Over 20 puffins stood on a rocky promontory and we explored a number of caves and slots through the rocks as we admired the crystalline water with its scattered jellyfish.

While half of us were out on tour, Chris “Rocky” Edwards presented “Black Gold and The North Sea”. Since the 1970s, oil has provided tremendous revenues for the United Kingdom, and in his talk Rocky discussed the many challenges involved in oil exploration and exploitation. By early evening we raised the anchor and were off to Norway.