This is Day 3 of Alun Morgan, our Resident Writer and Social Impact researcher's, blog, including history, wildlife and even Vikings!?
We spent Sunday night (25th July) at anchor in Balta Sound - located between two arms of an extensive salmon farm, a somewhat controversial industry to say the least. At 6 a.m. the next morning the divers and scientists 'did their thing' - in the water and nearby Isle of Balta respectively. The scientists undertook a plastic survey and, later, a number of us joined them to help with a beach clean. This was rather depressing, and we collected more than we could carry in a limited time on a short stretch of beach. Some parts of the island actually were seemingly made of human materials which were impossible to pull out.
We then weighed anchor around 11 a.m. and headed towards Lerwick where we arrived around 5 p.m. on Monday evening for a 3 night stay.
Monday involved motor-sailing between destinations, settling in an orienting ourselves ... oh, and celebrating the birthday of a shipmate (which involved him wearing an embarrassing hat for the remainder of the day).
On Tuesday the committed scientists carried on with more survey work. Most people, however, were free to explore under their own steam: some intrepid explorers hired cars for an island tour; some (like myself) stayed local and on foot, there being plenty to see and do in the town and vicinity - good shops (including an excellent bookshop) and sites as befits the main town in the Shetlands.
The Knab and Dutchman's Leap (named after an unfortunate story involving a Dutch fisherman, a shetland pony and a cliff!) in one direction provided beautiful views.
In the other direction, amongst modern houses and developments, is the impressive Iron Age 'Broch of Clickimin' - the intricate remains of a fortified tower set at the edge of a Loch close to the sea built around 400 B.C.E. There is also Fort Charlotte built in the mid 17th century, and the impressive Shetland Museum and Archive which has great displays covering the Deep (geological), Natural and Human History of the islands.
Then ... at around 18.30 all hell broke loose as we were approached alongside by a 'genuine' Viking longboat - actually an arranged opportunity to 'have a go' at rowing, (in)authentic horned helmets available for those (un)cool enough to wear them. We were split into two teams and a gentle rivalry between them in 'time trials' - the second team seemed to get a different memo to my team in the first boat as theirs involved much cross-dressing and makeup!
The evening rounded off for some of us with a magical bus and boat trip over to the Isle of Mousa for an evening of watching - and listening - to the Storm Petrels that the island is famous for (it being an RSPB nature reserve). We were lucky that the captain of the Mousa Boat - Rodney Smith - is extremely knowledgeable both about the island (having ancestors from there) and the Storm Petrels. They have an amazing life story - the birds we observed gathering at dusk in the Broch were swapping chick-rearing duties in a 5-day turnaround. They nest in the very stone walls of the fields and Broch itself - the latter coming alive to the sounds as the birds stirred, the very walls seeming to reverberate with their activity. Then, as if wonders would never cease, during the short boat trip back to the main island, we were treated to a display of bioluminescence in the water as we made way - a truly magical end to a wonderful day.
Wednesday morning we were informed during morning briefing that we had had another minor 'invasion' - a rat had snuck on board. However, it was soon dispatched with 'extreme prejudice'. That excitement over, the crew have another 'chill-out' day to ourselves - including a much needed 'decompression' day for the scientists. Some have gone on an arranged visit to Shetland ponies but others are amusing themselves. We depart from Lerwick/the Shetlands tomorrow at around 10 a.m . to head for Norwegian waters ...