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10 May 2024

From the edge of the world 2024 – part 1

Written by Sue Loughran, St Kilda ranger
The sun sets over the sea, casting an orange glow into the clouds, with the rocky cliffs of St Kilda in the foreground.
The sun sets over the sea beyond St Kilda
Our St Kilda ranger team blog returns for a new season, sharing stories about living in the most remote Trust place.

Here we are back at the beginning of a new season! All three rangers [Clare, Craig and Sue] are back on the island and we are gearing up for our visitors, volunteers, researchers and skilled craftspeople to arrive. We have already welcomed our first day-trip boats, cruise ships and charter boats, and we are about to be joined by the first campers and volunteers.

We have a full season of work scheduled on the buildings and structures, including the start of the project to re-furbish the kirk and school roof. For anyone who has visited in the last few years, you may have noticed many loose slates – some of which have been embedded into the walls of the neighbouring boathouse during the violent winter storms. Although there will be some disruption over the summer, we will all be mightily relieved to see the roof secured and the building made wind- and watertight. These works have been made possible through generous donations to help our conservation work.

Find out more about our Caring for St Kilda appeal

Over the winter, the flooring in House 1 was replaced as it had suffered from water damage from a leaking pipe. It looks so good now and has brightened up the whole kitchen. Huge thanks to Nev and Ben for doing this job. The Soay Sheep Project, who are currently on the island to carry out lamb tagging, are the first to use the facilities and have been very impressed by the transformation.

The first focus when we return at the start of the season is on making the jetty as safe as possible for passenger landings. Inevitably the algal growth over the winter is massively challenging and normally takes many hours of scrubbing with sand and a wire brush – we can go through at least two brush heads per season!

This year, we used a pressure washer on the jetty and steps. Although it still took the best part of two days to complete, the results were far better than previously, and we are more confident that visitors could land safely this year. It was also much more fun than labouring over a brush!

Biosecurity is always high on the agenda, as we need to ensure that no invasive non-native species arrive, particularly rats. We have inspected and reinstated all the wax bait stations situated across Hirta. These bait stations will tell us whether we have rats present as we can identify their distinctive tooth-marks in the wax bait blocks. The stations are all over the island but concentrated around Village Bay, where all visiting vessels arrive.

Additionally, we have worked closely with QinetiQ and the landing craft crew, who deliver regular supplies, by carrying out on-board inspections of traps and bait stations and agreeing the finer details of a protocol, to ensure that we all do our very best to prevent rats coming ashore.

The birds are now returning to their breeding grounds, and we have started our initial puffin surveys. There is a whole programme of seabird monitoring as usual this season, which will be both challenging and exciting in equal measures. We have a spotting board outside the Manse, which is rapidly being added to. If you are planning a visit, be sure to look at the board when you arrive and tell us about any interesting sightings that you may have!

In amongst all this preparatory work, we have also had the opportunity to get out and explore Hirta, admire the new-born lambs, listen out for the returning seabirds and hook up with old friends. We all feel thoroughly privileged to work and live here, and to call it home for the season!

From the edge of the world

St Kilda blog

Find out more about what it’s like to work on these incredible islands.

A group of people standing on the jetty on Hirta, St Kilda >