Times Past 03.07.09

25 Years Ago

Planes are leaving Aberdeen for Shetland when the fog at Sumburgh is as thick as pea soup – but pilots sometimes will not leave Aberdeen when the sky is clear over Sumburgh.

This strange state of affairs came to light at a meeting of the Sumburgh Airport Consultative Committee. The problem is that weather forecasts for Sumburgh are now compiled by forecasters based at Sullom Voe. Earlier this year the Meteorological Office moved all its Shetland forecasters to Sullom Voe, where the Met Office has the contract to supply forecasts for tankers.

There are still meteorological assistants based at the airport and they provide “weather actuals” every half hour. These reports of the weather conditions are passed on to Sullom Voe to help the forecasters with their predictions.

Mr Andy Flaws of British Airways said that when there was thick fog at Sumburgh, airport staff had been unable to persuade pilots not to take off from Aberdeen. On the basis of the forecast from Sullom Voe they left Aberdeen, were unable to land at Sumburgh and had to turn back having wasted time and fuel and frustrated the passengers.

The opposite problem also occurred. Pilots would not leave Aberdeen because of the forecast from Sullom Voe, when, in fact, the weather over Sumburgh was god enough to land in.

These delays in scheduled and oil; related flights not only caused problems for those trying to reach Shetland. Delays in planes arriving also disrupted schedules for those trying to fly south.

50 Years Ago

For the third time this year, Lieut. W. McLachlan, R.N., has had to visit Shetland to deal with dangerous objects. With his team from Port Edgar, The Lieutenant visited Foula, Fair Isle, Yell and Fetlar, as well as points on the Mainland.

The team had a good “bag”, including four German mines containing about 600lbs of high explosive each; two British mines, one made in the first war some small bombs, smoke, and magnesium flares from a crashed Catalina flying boat in Yell (there since 1942); and two German conical anti-minesweeping floats.

Two of the German mines were live. One was rendered safe at the south end of Fair Isle, where it was sunk by rifle fire in 1942. The other, in Fetlar, had to be counter-mined, and the early morning explosion startled people as far away as Baltasound.

Lieut. McLachlan said he would especially like to thank the Shetlanders for their hospitality and co-operation. Everywhere they went the team met with kindness and to try and enumerate the various acts of hospitality would be impossible – it ranged from cups of tea to full meals. Also the police, coastguard and the local T.A. unit helped the team to the full.

100 Years Ago

The Water Supply – It seems but the other day that those in authority were priding themselves on the fact that an ample water supply had been provided for the Burgh of Lerwick, and that that question was put to rest for some years to come. And, it was not one section of the community that was under this impression, but all parties unanimously agreed upon it.

That there is an abundant supply for the resident population is quite well known, but during the summer months we have a visiting population far in excess of the actual residenters. Last week-end we had more English and Scotch fishermen alone in Lerwick than the entire winter population, and with such extraordinary demands on the water supply, it was not wonderful to learn there was a shortage, and that many people throughout the town were practically without water during most of the day.

When there was a comparatively small number of steam drifters frequenting the port, it was no very difficult matter to arrange for the watering of these vessels at stated hours. It is different now. The fleet has gradually increased, and it is likely to be further increased in the future. Of course, it must be kept in mind that the past season has been a particularly dry one and the loch has sunk a great deal recently, and as it is in the summer time that the most water is wanted, such a state of affairs may be considered as always likely to occur. However, a proposal has been made, and will likely come before the Town Council at an early date, whereby the present scarcity of water may be overcome. Certainly nothing can be done this season, but all the more time will be given for the consideration of the proposal about to be made.

Situated a short distance to the south and east of the Sandy Loch is the Loch of Trebister. The proposal is to have settling tanks and filters constructed in connection with this loch, and a service pipe taken down to join the main pipes from the outlet of the Sandy Loch. By this means, the regular supply could be conserved at stated intervals, and the new supply made to do service meanwhile.

It is impossible to express any opinion upon this proposal until such time as the whole facts and figures are placed before the council; but it should – and no doubt will – be very carefully considered by the council, and they will, even if there should be a little cost to be faced, not hesitate to adopt the plan, should it be found at all satisfactory.

Whether that plan be adopted or not, something will have to be done to prevent a repetition of the last two Sundays, and enable people within the Burgh to get a satisfactory water supply.


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