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Day 6 - June 10, 2010 - Fair Isle; Mousa, Lerwick, Shetland Islands

By Dr Chris Edwards (Rocky), Geologist/lichenologist

Co-ordinates: 59°36’N, 001°31’W
Weather: Overcast in morning with cloud thinning in afternoon.
Air Temperature: 16C max
Sea Temperature: 11C. Moderate northerly swell.
Pressure: 1013hPa and falling slowly
Wind: Northerly Force 3-4 decreasing to 2 in afternoon

During the night our progress from Aberdeen northwards was slowed somewhat by a fresh breeze and a moderate northerly swell that caused a degree of motion as the vessel plunged through the waves. The joy of having a stabilized vessel was apparent by a reasonably good turnout for breakfast although I suspect that the early start may also have deterred a few guests. The timing had been explained by Robin the night before as being necessary in order to give plenty of relaxed time ashore to enjoy the sights of the islands we were to visit.

Fair Isle was to be our first stop. Normally vessels will try and use the northern anchoring position and the run into North Haven with Zodiacs is usually simple. However, with a northerly breeze and swell, this was out of the question. So a southern anchoring position and landing into South Harbour was selected. Even with the ship tucked round the corner off the southwest corner of Fair Isle, there was still a good deal of movement at the side gate. For a first landing using Zodiacs this was not ideal but everyone coped remarkably well and despite a few less than elegant disembarkations from the vessel into the boats, everyone that wished was safely ashore and dry.

Fair Isle is around 3 miles long but only one or two hardy souls made it up the island. The rest of the guests were more than content to soak up the atmosphere of the soft day by admiring the puffins, guillemots and fulmars on the cliffs.

Returning to the road, a slight deviation to the museum was a good suggestion but many chose to head straight for the tea and buns in the community hall perhaps aided by the local cars that plied the island looking for weary guests. Certainly the tea was worth the walk, accompanied as it was by scones, bannocks and oatcakes. Various crafts and other items, including woolen items in the world famous Fair Isle knitting style of all-over repeat geometric designs were on sale and the various islanders seemed to be pleased with the morning’s efforts.

The return to the ship was equally lively at the gangway, but again everyone was aboard within the appointed time and safely. Immediately after lunch we had a Recap & Briefing about the events tomorrow with my contributions on lichens and the place of Fair Isle in the great scheme of world geology during the Devonian period, more quirky photographs from Christian Slater, a short introduction to brochs from Victoria, and a history lesson from Peter on Scottish kings, before Robin took over with the details on Lerwick for tomorrow.

By the time the briefing was over, the ship was in position off the island of Mousa with its famous broch. The sun had started to shine, the sea was calm and all was well with the world. Once the gangway was in place, the guests who had a particular interest in birds and photography were whisked ashore first to be followed by the remainder. With Victoria filling in the details of the world-renowned broch on Mousa and our incomplete understanding of its purpose, some guests braved the darkness with a torch to scale the internal stair while others headed off in various directions with or without guides to explore the island.

Seals and a variety of wonderful birdlife were much in evidence, with Grey and common seals hauled out on the west side of the island. This is the first time in 12 years that I have been coming to Mousa with guests that I have had the time to walk to the other side of the island, so it was a rare treat for me. One couple chose this idyllic spot to renew their wedding vows performed by Robin to the accompaniment of the cries of fulmars, terns, kittiwakes, red-throated divers, drumming snipe and singing seals.

Then it was all back to the ship for a short transit to Lerwick, the Shetland capital where we tied up right in the centre of town at the Victoria Pier at 1925. During the evening, several guests dared to venture into the town to seek out perhaps the live music in The Lounge or just had a restful evening aboard the Prince Albert II after a quite hectic and long day in the Northern Isles of Scotland.

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