Cruise Ships to Shetland…

…have become more abundant these last few years and are a meaningful source of income for Lerwick. Today, one of the behemoth-styled cruise ships came into Lerwick port, or rather anchored itself in the middle of Bressey Sound, because it was too large to dock anywhere else. As we drove into town this morning, the smoke-stack on this monster was higher than the houses on Hillhead, the highest hill of central Lerwick.

CruiseShipLerwick01Photo: Cruise ship arrives in Lerwick

I’m completely convinced that this method of touring has become popular and passenger rolls have increased with each sailing. For Shetland, and especially the small town merchants of Shetland’s largest city, they provide a full till of cash that is dumped by passengers anxious to buy native wares and services. If I’m not too wrong, this season will have brought in close to 50 cruise ships of various sizes and are very important for Shetland’s commerce. This particular cruise ship, the Costa Magica, had about 2000 passengers, or about 25% of the population of Lerwick.

CruiseShipWelcoming02Photo: Each passenger is welcomed to Shetland with traditional music and a warm handshake

One intriguing event that caught my eye, as I parked Jeppe on Victoria Pier parking lot, was how Shetland welcomed these passengers onshore and to Shetland. Since the ship was so large, a series of smaller boats worked in shuttle, transporting passengers between the main vessel and Albert Wharf. As the came onshore, Shetland had arranged for local musicians to play traditional music and a local personality to shake everyone’s hand and personally welcome them to Shetland. Great PR, isn’t it?

Seaways vs Airways
Due to recent air carrier price increases, loss of creature comforts on flights, intense and almost “paranoiac” complications with check-ins and security at airports and the ever-present “what-goes-up-could-come-down-unwantingly” sensation on monster airplanes, I personally feel that it would be positive to observe an increase in ocean travel.

CruiseShipLerwick02Photo: The ferry to Bressey is drawfed by the size of a modern and impersonal “monster” cruise ship

But, does everyone really want to pay for 4 story shopping malls, outdoor swimming pools, activity leaders, casino machines, unknown stand-up comedians and entertainers, elevators to huge restaurants and having to hold a small map in hand so as not to get lost on board? Does one really enjoy a 6-9 hour marathon run to see popular points of interest in a world famous city? Why not simple cruises that give more time to explore foreign ports and harbors in exciting new countries and less time wasting on the ship?

Is it the destination or the journey to it, that’s fun? Consider a smaller cruise ship with adequate and quality cabin arrangements, a library of excitingly good reads, intimate eating arrangements allowing passengers to discover each other, chess boards, water-color tutoring and hours of just relaxing in fold-up chairs watching the sea pass by and using binoculars to count the aquatic bird life during the day. One can easily imagine themselves being an Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, as these two hang over the railing, sharing a cigarette, a small scotch and talking about “love” on a moonlit ocean evening?

I would definitely be one of many that would choose a cruise with that theme, wouldn’t you?

SwedishYachtLerwick01Photo: An alternative method of ocean cruising from Sweden

Some Sundays…

…I take time to walk around Lerwick. I’ve done this occasionally during winter and have a routine of going by houses and gardens that I find interesting. I do my “round” and keep track on other people’s gardens and flowers.

I have never really been interested in gardening before. Lawn maintenance, yes! Garden flowers and plants, no! A portion of the latter explanation could be determined because of living in the sub-arctic for so long. Seven months of white winter and three months of green winter. The other two months are useless for growing.

LerwickFlower

But, I have been thoroughly intrigued with the skills, abilities and determination that Shetlanders put into their gardens and I have immensely appreciated being a consumer of these visual delights, that can be found all over.

Some gardens are super. Some gardens could be better. I just want to take my hat off to everyone that has a little patch of flowers near their house. Please see the new picture gallery under Images called: Lerwick Garden Work. While viewing, consider the efforts and variety of personalities behind the images.

For myself, I really get enthused by what I see and could seriously get into gardening someday. You, too, can perhaps become inspired?

Shetland Shorts-

A year has gone by and what observations can be made?

peatwork01 A. Whether working with birch firewood or heating with peat, you can always see signs of those who know what they are doing!

shetlandlairds01 B. Apparently, EU politicians really take themselves seriously and think they are one of the gang!

crispsproblems01 C. While the U.K. struggles to decrease their carbon footprint, crisp manufacturers continue with traditional packaging? (Photo: small bags of crisps inside a larger package)

shetlandyachts01 D. In bad weather, fishing boats hug Victoria Pier for shelter. In great weather, yachts hug Victoria Pier.

Conclusion- Shetland has given many thoughts this last year!

Gone Sea Anglin´…

…and do something other than having my head in dusty papers about Shetland’s mining history. The weather was begging me to get out and get some…oxygen. And, it was Midsummer and Father’s Day. Good idea!

Taking out my small collapsible spinning rod, a box of lures commonly used in northern Swedish inland waters and my expectations I stuffed these in my small day-pack (uh…not the expectations) and headed out to an adventure with Jeppe.

As I drove, my only thought was, “but how in the h… does one fish in the briny waters around Shetland…and from shore?” The challenge was well worth the taking.

fshingboat01

    Photo: Fishing in the sea requires a whole different kind of equipment

    I found a nice little rock sticking out along the shores of the “Cliffs of Cunningsburgh”, a place I’ve been before looking for ancient holes in the ground. I took off my pack, took out my collapsible spinning rod, still with last years nylon line for Swedish fishing, and chose a 15 g “Toby” spinner. I figured the beasts in the water would find a shiny copper-colored Toby a great morsel to contend with. Tied a knot strong enough to take on familiar northern pike and threw it anxiously out into the Atlantic.

    After 20 minutes of this, I figured the fish were bored, so I smacked on a 20 g Toby. I worked with this for another 20 mintues, changed to a 28 g Toby (heck, gotta wake those fish up somehow) and another 20 minutes. The next two hours, I was throwing everything bigger than my trout flies out into the depths in front of me…and…nothing happened.

    Everything but fish was interested in what I was doing. I had Arctic Terns hover over the lures, as they wiggled through the water. A diving Puffin got fairly close once, as well as a Razorbill and a couple of Common Gulls. Then, just as I had thrown out a “day-glow” spinner, used for graylings, a gray seal popped its head up outa the water a little out from where the spinner landed.

    I thought, crap! I don’t wanna hook a seal or a Puffin! Besides, what would I do if I caught a fish that was so strange and ugly, I wouldn’t even know if it was edible? Or, maybe a Killer Whale was nearby doing his own kind of “fishing”? Or….

    So, I quit! What did I learn? Fishing in the sea is entirely different to fishing in freshwater . The two jist don’t mix! The only thing I got today was fresh-air, some sun and lots of relaxation, which is mostly why people go “sea-angling” anyways. Right?

    PS- Shetland is supposed to have great freshwater fishing; brown trout and some Arctic char. See following: Shetland Trout Fishing

Shetland’s Mining History

Skimming through pages of the Caledonian Mercury, Sept. 1790, the newspaper highlights Shetland’s early commercial mining attempts. “…the value of the Shetland Islands is only beginning to be known. There is now a number of miners sent … to work a copper and iron mine lately discovered…in the estates of Sumburgh and the iron in the estates of Quendale, both the most productive of this kind of any discovered in Britain.”

quendalemine01

    Photo: From 1790, the Quendale Copper Mine as it looks today

Naturally, this single report can raise eyebrows and give questions about Shetland’s mining history. The unlikelihood of a small North Atlantic group of islands being given such recognition is surprising, but the story behind this fact contains elements of rivalry, power, ignorance and years of blind investments leaving scars of disappointment in its wake.

Roots
It is difficult to point out exactly when Shetland’s mining history began. As early inhabitants crossed the hills and walked the shores of Shetland, they learned about rocks and stones, where these could be found and how these could be useful. Continue reading

Many Birds on Shetland…

…are keenly interesting to behold, but few are as lovable as the Puffin! When first looking at these birds, they seem out of balance. Their colorful beaks would seem too heavy for the puffin’s body and their two bright red feet could act like kites, blowing these birds off course in the Atlantic winds.

puffin05

Belonging to the Auk species, the one found on Shetland is the Fratercula arctica type. In Latin, the word Fratercula basically means “little brother” and this is a most fitting description of the puffins found here. They are small for a comparable ocean-dwelling bird (about 32 cm in height). Their wings are adapted for diving and their tight, thick growth of feathers for warmth. Continue reading

Shetland Blackbirds…

…are fascinatingly stubborn. These last few days of brilliant sunny weather with only enough breeze to keep midges away, has caused some of the more “natural” residents to become stubbornly goal orientated with spring work. Apparently, these “locals” have acquired a disregard for building permission and even a nonchalance concerning other people’s property, when confronted with their hopes and plans to combat the shortage of available homes in Shetland.

jeppebirdnest01Photo: Blackbird nest building on Jeppe’s back wheel

What I am referring to, is the strong-willed native Blackbird (Turdus Merula) of Shetland. A young and romantic couple, who obviously have been struck with Cupid’s arrows, has now gone into their fourth day of stout determination to build a love nest on the back left wheel of Jeppe. Working the night shift, Jeppe has been kept awake and, I might add, has been deeply concerned that the nest building would gain an advanced state of actually developing small Blackbird eggs, with the obvious risk of mass murder of potential baby Blackbirds.

Even tempered as Jeppe is, he has patiently put up with this intrusion of his property. Unfortunately, in his eagerness to drive off on an adventure, the Blackbird’s love nest had to be removed each morning…only to be rebuilt again that evening by these annoying, but definitely wonderful, pair of squatters. What is Jeppe to do?

It has been decided that, during the evening, Jeppe will be parked in another place, away from the scene of previously destroyed bird’s nests, and hope that this will work. Shetland Blackbirds are certainly cute but, above all, bull-headed and stubborn!

Shetland Mines 01…

…Sometimes, the best place to be is in one ’s own thoughts, as long as you don’t get lost in them. Recently, I’ve contributed a small article on the mines of Shetland, and forgot that this website is a link for all who may want to know more. Thanks to a sharp Shetland Museum employee, I got the word that readers are waiting. A humble apology and many thanks for the wake-up signal!

Since this is only a blog, I don’t intend to follow research procedures in defense of content. This will come later in a peer-reviewed work. With small bits and pieces, my intentions are to excite readers about early Shetland mines, to learn a little about mining history and perhaps about their background; their own identity…their own heritage.

People ask me, “Why older mines?” I’m not really sure. I just want answers to my questions. For each question I answer, I get even more questions. And, so it keeps rolling on and on.

Shetland’s Mines
From the very first people arriving on the shores of Shetland, a need for the island’s rocks and minerals are apparent. As these people wandered over the hills and the land, they made observations of rocks and stones and skillfully learned where useful types could be found. When needed for any purpose, people went to these deposits and gathered what they needed. Rocks and stones were close by; at hand when needed.

One example of this is the need for shelter. The archeological excavation of Old Scatness is a great example of early people using Shetland rocks for dwellings. Another example is the need to keep warm. For whatever fuel was used, fires needed a spark. Shetland doesn’t have natural flint and ancient people learned that quartz could produce sparks and could start fires. And a third example is early Shetlanders needing household tools or implements for daily living.

catpundquarry02Photo: The ancient Catpund Quarry, Shetland. This is a scheduled area-please respect this.

The Catpund Quarry
Because of need and simple knowledge of rocks and geology, primitive Shetland people used what was available and knew where to find it. The Catpund Quarry is an example of where people over many years have exploited the serpentine, or soapstone, of Shetland to chisel out bowls, ladles, plates or decorative figurines for themselves or to barter and exchange with. Knowing that soapstone holds heat and is easily formed, it was a valuable commodity thousands of years ago.

At one time, this quarry was of interest for Robert Hunter Wingate Bruce up to 1924 and eventually for The Sumburgh Mining Co., apparently up to and around the early 1970’s. In accordance with the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979, the Catpund area was registered in the General Register of Sasines, counties of Orkney and Zetland October 28, 1988 (Ref. Historic Scotland) and was soon excavated afterward. (Uh oh! There I went and put in some researchy stuff! Sorry!)

Supposedly, there’s to be a book, or something, coming soon. With this, we will just have to wait and see. But, it is tempting to wonder just how many more of these ancient quarries can be found in Shetland and where?

For myself, I got an enormous thrill seeing this quarry for the first time. Having only seen mining remnants as early as the 17th century, Catpund gave the possibility of observing a quarry that is over 3000 years old and worked at different times; independent of each other.

Please give this place a visit or two. If traveling out of Lerwick, south on A970 and having passed through Cunningsburgh, estimate about 1 kilometer from the point of leaving Cunnigsburgh. On your right, you should see the “old” asphalted road. Park here and near the burn/bridge that can be found. Follow the burn immediately up the hill from your parked car, respecting the fencing and minding your step. About 250 meters, and along the burn, you should see a small fenced-off area. This is the Catpund Quarry. (Ordnance Survey Map 466- maps are fun) Clothes and shoes appropriate for the outdoors.

REMEMBER: This is a protected and scheduled area. Do Not Disturb…anything! Treat it like a crime scene. Much more must be learned from it. Just observe and enjoy.

For fun, ask yourselves these questions…

    How much of the stone has been removed out of the earth over the years?
    How big of an area all around was used?
    What tools did people use to chisel out bowls, plates etc.?
    How many unfinished implements can still be found waiting for its owner to return?
    What was the work like? Did they work in groups? Alone? Were children along?
    What have I learned from my visit? Did I enjoy it? Will I have use of this knowledge someday in the future?

Whew! Now, a couple of pictures from Catpund Quarry…for the less energetic!
catpundminevy05-copyPhoto: Panoramic view of Catpund Quarry area. In foreground dwellings possibly from Middle Ages
catpundquarry01Photo: Thousands of years ago, people chiseled out useful implements leaving shadows of these in the soapstone at Catpund Quarry

When Dad Died…

…a couple of years ago, I was home for his last week in this life. He had lived alone for a year and did a commendable job with clearing-out Mom’s things; she having passed away a year before. Having always said he loved life, it was now Dad’s turn to leave us. I think, as circumstances were, he was confused, sad, frustrated and scared that last week.

Once, the minister was there doing his job; seeing if he could be of help. I overheard him saying that things will be all right and Dad replying in a very horse voice, “I truly hope so”.

Thinking back, Dad had lived a hard life. Beaten as a child by a dominant father, struggling as a boy through the Great Depression and being bullied, having barely gotten through school. The last year, as I would call him every week, he would talk about things. Things that was personal and fond to him. Like being on the Gerber Farm.

Dad talked about being at the Gerber Farm and how much he enjoyed it. John and Ida Gerber owned the farm and had one son, Frank. The farm was somewhere near Alliance, Oh. Dad was there between 12 and 16 years of age (during the 1930’s) and would live several weeks during the year with the Gerbers, sort of to ease the situation at his own home. As he talked, he seemed to think of them as second parents. He was just like a member of the family, went to church with them, had dinners and it was a get-away for him and, perhaps, a pleasant alternative from his life with his real family.

Sometimes, he would be with them even on holidays and school breaks but most of the time it was summers and as a helper. He would take a trolley or train from Massillon to Alliance or that Dad’s father, Albertum (Burt), would arrange alternate ways.

As he spoke of the Gerbers, he had a nice sparkle in his eye, one of remembrance. He said he would really want to go back up there to see what the place looked like, just one more time.

He had a good relationship with these people, except Frank who would play tricks on this “helper”. John and Ida would give Dad clothes to wear and, as Dad said, they took the time to teach him important things, both with being a farm helper and about life in general. Dad was responsible with keeping the barn clean and keeping things straight. John had often told Dad that he did a good job and was a very good worker.

Once, when Dad arrived to the farm, John Gerber had bought 100 baby chicks, or “peeps” for one dollar. He gave these to Dad to do with, as he wanted. Well, Dad liked the peeps and had no idea about what to do with them. People nearby knew about his peeps and asked Dad what he was going to do with them? Dad didn’t know other than that he had to take care of them, and that’s what he was going to do.

Because of his other chores, Ida said she could take care of them for Dad but would want pay for her work. Dad said that was O.K. and laughed at this, because he didn’t have any money and so the deal wouldn’t be any problem.

Ida took care of the chicks as they grew. She fed them. After a time, when the chicks were older, she killed them, picked the feathers off, sold some but prepared the rest as meals for themselves. She sat down with Dad and, in black and white, showed him all the costs. She tallied the initial investment, her labour, the cost of feed and a pen for them as well as what she had sold. Dad got a very good lesson in business economy from this.

When it was all counted up after expenditures, Dad had made a profit of four and a half dollars. Dad smiled and said, “it was a chunk of money for those times.”

dad_img-copyAs a father with a family, Dad always had his heart “ out in the country”. Whether it was the houses we lived in, the baling of hay as boys at “the old farmhouse”, Kidron auctions, tomato gardens, new mown hay or smell of manure being spread on the fields at springtime, the country never left Dad. It was that single sparkle that fathers keep in their shirt pockets, when real life can be cruel; when life doesn’t turn out like one wishes.

For myself, I miss Dad! I miss chatting with him over the phone. I miss listening to him reminisce. I miss his subtle humor. I miss his postcards; his Christmas cards, his letters, his bundles of paper, his awkward handwriting. I miss…

He’s resting with Mom at Stanwood cemetery now. But, more so, I truly hope things “became all right” for him and he’s elsewhere…on a farm…enjoying it…and finally living his dream.

PS– Written because we watched a cow give birth to its calf on a farm in Quendale today! The familiar smell of spring work in the air, too.