Views from the Scord

Harbour activity

Fish landings were a good average in the week up to Friday, with 1,866 boxes landed at Scalloway.

The week began with an exceptionally high landing from the Alison Kay of 593 boxes, along with further fish from the Gunner’s Glory and the Quiet Waters. Tuesday and Thursday saw no landings and Wednesday brought 300 boxes from the Venture and a busy day on Friday made up the rest of the total from the Athena, Comrades, Guiding Light, Ocean Way, Quiet Waters again and the Radiant Star.

A smart new workboat for Scottish Sea Farms arrived at Scalloway last week in the form of the Scapa Lass. The Kirwall-registered workboat was previously owned and operated by Orkney Islands Council as a pollution response craft.

She is twin-hulled, around 18 metres long and weighs approximately 42 tonnes. She is a distinctive vessel as she has her bridge mounted on an open-sided, elevated platform above the forward deck, creating extra workspace on the deck underneath where winches are mounted. She also carries a hydraulic crane on her starboard aft quarter and a deck reel which was used to deploy pollution containment booms for the OIC in her previous role.

Other aquaculture-related traffic came with the continued cage re-modelling and improvement at the Muckle Yard, which saw another three cages launched during this period. The well-boat Ronja Settler continues to operate in the area.

The small Swedish survey vessel Triad was also still in the area last week, on her contract to survey the seabed in the harbour approaches and among the Scalloway isles.

Shellfish harvesting activity was high last week with estimated mussel landings of over 60 tonnes from two local producers.

A point of pierhead discussions in Burra this week was the presence of a fair depth of snow on the skerries south of Hamnavoe. This comes about from a fairly unusual combination of weather factors, there being neither salt spray nor significant swells for long enough as to allow a good covering of snow to build up and lie on Wester Skerry and Inner Skerry, which are usually enshrouded in spray and often submerged by swell.

Wave art

The latest artist to take up temporary residence in the Booth in Scalloway came with a hunger for foul weather and a passion for the extremes that we enjoy in Shetland living on the edge, geographically, and in the might of the sea.

Janette Kerr has spent a month in residence at the purpose-built artistic unit in Scalloway, in a project run in conjunction with Norwegian wave scientists, actively seeking weather that many would hope to avoid.

The focus of the project was to create visual art that captures an idea, impression or representation of the extremes of sea and weather conditions that occur in the seas around Shetland and, more significantly, where they meet the shore and the people.

Dr Kerr’s research and development project revolves around science of “extreme wave theory” from oceanographers based in Bergen, Trondheim and Oslo and also the basis that Shetland has perhaps the highest wind energy in the world and the resultant effect that this must have on the sea.

The fact that people live and work in this environment brings a very human aspect to this science and it is there that a cross-over between science and art occurs and where the project also takes in the history, and sometimes tragedies, that come with this interaction of man, the wind and the sea.

Dr Kerr’s work is, as she describes it, “abstracted” rather than abstract. The images of environments she creates or captures have the unique quality of convincing the mind that it is looking at a sea or landscape that is in many ways familiar, while there are no tangible landscape objects or scenes portrayed.

This skilled artform bypasses the direct focus of the viewer and taps into the way that shapes and colours register in our peripheral vision. This method occurs throughout her works on both land and sea subjects and she hoped to find new extremes of sea conditions to try to capture while here, but instead found herself in Shetland during a winter of exceptionally settled and snowy weather.

Dr Kerr has enjoyed a few windy days during her stay though, with time spent sketching on the exposed Hurds at Hamnavoe and in the company of large breaking swells in the South Mainland. From these days she was delighted to have to add extra colours to her usual colour palette to incorporate the stunning turquoise colours that occur in highly-energised waves breaking along the shore.

Her enthusiasm for extremes of weather has only been increased by spending this time here, managing to experience the classic Shetland “four seasons in one day” on a trip to Unst that started in T-shirts and ended in a blizzard.

Her time has also been spent becoming acquainted with the heritage and mythology of maritime life hereabouts, like the “moder-dye” guiding waves and the search for “misforn knots” that would bring bad luck to new sixareen. She has spent time with historians at the museums of Scalloway and Lerwick and with local storytellers Davy Cooper and Lawrence Tulloch.

Another aspect of Dr Kerr’s stay which she found very enjoyable was the chance to go to sea in the creel boat of Billy Hughes, which she considered a privilege and appreciated the chance to look back on the land and shore from sea level.

Accompanying all of this with time spent in the Shetland Archives she has also started work on images that combine copies of historical images and documents with her own art work and convey aspects of the long traditions of local sea-based life.

Dr Kerr has previously done similar projects on night scenes and fire, and so being here during winter and over the fire festival period has made the visit all the more appropriate and enjoyable in bringing together “all the elements I deal with in my works in one place”, much to her delight.

After her time here she will also spend time in Norway at the scientific university faculties involved in the project and later hopes to return to Shetland again and then return for an exhibition with the final outcome, in which she also hopes to incorporate artefacts from the museum.

Scottish-born and brought up on the Dorset coast, Dr Kerr is currently a Research Fellow of the University of the West of England and the project is being funded by Arts Council England.

Parents’ gratitude

In the aftermath of the small fire that caused bairns from Hamnavoe to be temporarily relocated at Whiteness Primary School, the community has thanked staff and head teacher Tina Johnson for the way they handled the incident on the day, and how they have continued to care for and support the pupils despite the upheaval.

The feelings were summed up by local parent Hazel Deyell, who said: “On the day of the incident, aabody noticed that the children were in no ways pittin oot, it was very well handled.”

Hazel said that was a reflection on the calm and professional way in which the staff had evacuated the school and mustered the children at the public hall. Parents were all quickly informed and fetched their children from the hall without any drama or further incident.

Getting the children to Whiteness each day involves two staff members accompanying them on the bus to make sure they are alright and arrive safely. The timetabling of buses has been arranged to ensure that the bairns are away from home for exactly same amount of time as they would have been if they were still at Hamnavoe.

During the school day they have been made very welcome at Whiteness and all the Hamnavoe staff have relocated for continuity, including the canteen staff.

Hazel once again echoed the sentiment she had heard from all the parents discussing the situation: “The teachers have done awfully well; they have just taken the whole thing in their stride. We are all very grateful to Tina and the staff, and we want to say a special thank you to them for all they’ve done.”

Work is continues on the Hamnavoe School and according to the parent council the latest estimate for children returning is Monday, 15th March.

Mark Burgess


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