Saturday, 3 November 2012

Sunday 21st October. Fethaland Fishing station

Latitude and Longitude: 60°37'60" N, 1°18'0" E
OS Map 1:2500: 37.5, 94.4
Weather: A dry start to Sunday but rain soon spreading northwards to all parts. Light S’ly winds. While the rain is expected to be more persistent and remain for much of the day across Shetland. F2-3 S’ly winds.
Sea State: Mostly slight becoming slight to moderate, with a 1 metre SW’ly wind-swell becoming a 1 to 2 metre S’ly. 
(Observation: In fact there was slight rain and a very cold damp breeze, but it remained bright for most of the day.)

An hour’s walk from Isbister until we reach Fethaland. Grey sky, rain in the air.  A small white cloud hangs in the sky above the dark strip of a horizon, framed by the broken cliffs of the voe. Aqua-marine, the sea appears calm, but to knowing eyes there’s a swell; small waves break gently on the grey pebbled shoreline, pale green with olive green patches where seaweed floats below, almost lime green where pale yellow rocks lie on the ocean floor and bright green seaweeds lurks. A grey seal swims back and forth. There’s a distinct icy chill in the breeze, my fingers freeze in fingerless gloves as I draw.

Two cormorants diving and the sound of a lone curlew.

Ruins of the old fishing station ring the shore; a row of roofless and built of thick grey stone against wind and rain, lintels still in place. (The information board informs us that roofs were removed at the season’s end because of winter storms, to be rebuilt each summer from wood and turf). 

Shetland Museum & Archive image

At the northern tip of Northmavine this was the centre of the seasonal haaf fisheries, Arriving by boats at the beginning of the season, from here crews traveling out to sea to the "Far Haaf", the edge of the continental shelf in sixareens, six-oared wooden vessels built along traditional Norse lines, to catch deep sea fish - ling, cod and tusk. 

There are at least 32 individual structures at this station - including stores and lodges that housed boat crews and shore workers.

I sit on steep stone steps that descend from the lodges to end in mid-air, and look out at the voe and try to imagine it full of sixareens. Below, stone-lined noosts lie empty.

Pages from sketch book
Bright grey light reflects in transparent sea, tiny ripples cross the surface making their way shoreward onto smoothed pebbles. 
Sketch book page
I look up from my writing and drawing; the voe has suddenly filled with seals. Ten heads turned towards me. It’s disconcerting to be under such scrutiny. 

Findings and water sample

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Dale of Walls Fishing Station

Satellite image  (Anne Karin Magnusson, Met Inst, Bergen)
FRIDAY October 19th: Bright with partly cloudy conditions and sunny spells. Shetland will tend to cloud over during the day with the showers becoming more frequent and perhaps prolonged later in the afternoon. F2-3 W’ly winds. A cool evening with Shetland becoming mostly dry. However temperatures will recover overnight as cloud thickens and rain develops across all parts. The rain persistent and heavy at times.  Light winds.
Sea State: Mostly slight, with a 1 metre W’ly wind-swell turning SE’ly.
17.5, 52 OS map 1:25,000
Dale of Walls Latitude 60.387, Longitude -1.2794

Sketchbook drawing
Just a breath of a breeze, just enough the stir the blades of grass.
The sky brilliant-blue, a bright warming sun glancing off the sea. Stone-strewn beach of soft greys and pinks; red-brown ribboned seaweed laced with pale yellow strands on brown-grey sand. Ridiculously slow waves rolling in, dark as they rise, pale green as they break. Impossible to describe the sea colour – transparent - reflecting the colour of submerged brown stones. 
Ahead lies Foula, iconic ragged cliffs to the right, gently sloping ones to the left, its shape echoed in a dark mass of clouds, strips of puffy white behind, thin feathery streaks above.
A grey seal swimming, three lazy on rocks.
Sometimes you can’t see what is in front of you. Having walked around the voe along cliffs and amongst the Fulmars, searching for evidence of the fishing, returning I find the noosts. 
Carefully lined with stone, remnants of three, maybe four, tucked into the grass bank above the shore. Far back from the shore lie the ruins of crofts.

A flap of a gull or two.
A car draws up; kids tumble shrieking down to the sea, parents standing together on the shore calling warnings after. Fifteen minutes, then they leave. Small birds that had been quarrelling on the shore return, congregating to feast on banks of seaweed.
Study, Oil on paper
A dark band of sea on the horizon, banking clouds becoming heavier. The sun will soon be engulfed. 

Cruester Fishing station

Satellite image, courtesy of Anne Karin
 Magnasson, Bergen Met Institute

MONDAY 22nd October: A cloudy start to the day across Shetland with some patchy light rain.  Brighter conditions by late morning, the rain clearing, with all parts dry and bright with sunny spells. F2-3 S’ly winds. Light winds. Maximum temperature 12 °C.Sea State: Moderate to slight, with a 1 to 2 metre S to SW’ly wind-swell. 

OS Map1:2500: 47.5, 43
Bressay Latitude 60.1500°N, Longitude 1.0833°W

Afternoon at Cruester Fishing Station, Bressay

Cloud pours over the dark hill with its tall masts, downwards to the sea like an avalanche of snow cascading from the peaks. A bright cloud-filled sky, the sun making brief appearances every now and then. Still, there is a keen cold breeze stirring up the sea, the surface covered in small waves. A swell in the bay.   

Blue sky above me as I sit drawing on the shore, but across the water Lerwick’s hills are shrouded in low-lying cloud. Dark grey-blue sea, pools of golden light rippling across the surface towards me. Past the hill and its masts, the horizon disappears, cloud creeping lower. Few sounds - the ferry crossing back and forth… a crow flying overheard. There was fishing all along this coastline; fish landed and laid out to dry along the pebbled shore. 

Of the old Haa and fishing stations, the fishing village set up by Miss Moat of Gardie, there’s not much to see, a few ruins, a bit of jetty. I’m told the haaf fishing wasn’t much of a success – the water too shallow for larger boats to land, and the sea too dangerous off the south end, but the herring station survived, and there’s still a working fish factory at the end of the road.

The cloud, even lower now, envelops the far shore, blotting out the sun. I draw frantically as it swirls, the light constantly shifting. A boat sounds its foghorn as it appears and disappears. 

oil on paper
oil on paper
Mist descending
The mist arrives on Bressay and I can see nothing. The cry of an unseen curlew. 
Cold fingers. Time to go, a ferry to catch.
Water sample and findings