Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Lerwick Shetland (or as they say in Shetland, “Lerrick.”)

“A first walk in any new country is one of the things which makes life on this planet worth being grateful for.”
Charles William Beebe, American Naturalist 1887 - 1962

The clouds and blustery winds of yesterday were replaced by largely clear skies today. It was still cool, around 15˚C but very comfortable with a sweater and windbreaker.
At about 07:30 Fram eased into the pier located in downtown Lerwick. By 08:15 the ship had been cleared. Several motor coaches were already on the pier waiting for those that had elected to go on one of the two excursions on offer.
Lerwick Shetland
Photo © Corina Gamma

At 08:30 the 1st buses set off for Jarlshof, on the southern tip of the Mainland of Shetland. Jarlshof is a site that was continuously inhabited almost from the beginning of human settlement in Shetland (from around 4000BCE) until the 17th century. The original Stone-Age houses are topped by a broch, Pictish wheelhouses, Viking longhouses and, towering over the whole complex, the ruins of a 16th century mansion. The highlight was climbing up a spiral staircase to the top of the tower of the most recent stage of settlement, for a birds-eye view over the whole of Jarlshof, laid out before us like a map.
"The bird watching on Mousa was excellent... even a Great Skua that was eating an unidentified bird species for a late breakfast.
The 2nd excursion was by motor coach and then ferry to the uninhabited island of Mousa and Mousa Broch, best preserved of all these uniquely Scottish Iron-Age (600BCE to 500CE) fortifications. 
Mousa Broch Mousa Island, Shetland
Photo © Klaus Kiesewetter

The bird watching on Mousa was excellent, especially the sea birds with sightings of Gannets, Gillemots, Northern Fulmars and even a Great Skua that was eating an identified bird species for a late breakfast.
Skua, Mousa Island
Photo © Klaus Kiesewetter

All of the motor coaches were back to the ship by 13:00 which still left enough time to grab lunch and explore the shops in downtown Lerwick.

Search and Rescue
Photo © Corina Gamma
In the late afternoon we had some excitement in the form of a helicopter visit by a local search & rescue team.  They radioed Fram and asked our Captain if we would like to participate in a helicopter rescue drill with them.

My lasting impressions of Mainland Shetland are of  a peaceful island with rolling bucolic landscapes. Shetland sheep with young lambs speckle lush green pastures. Sturdy Shetland ponies with young foals are frequently seen grazing not far from the roadside. There are many gorgeous white sandy beaches occupied only by Common and Grey Seals and various seabirds.