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18 Sept 2019

From the edge of the world: part 11

Written by Sue Loughran
A tall ship is anchored in a calm bay at St Kilda. A rainbow arcs to the left of the photo, landing in the sea.
Hello! I’m Sue, the ranger on St Kilda. I’m writing a blog to share what it’s like to work on these incredible islands. This time, I talk about a week of contrasts.

From marvellous music to the sound of silence

Near the end of August, we welcomed the amazing Nevis Ensemble to the island. No less than a 40 piece orchestra arrived on four boats and produced a real buzz of excitement! They played in front of the museum (Cottage 3) in beautiful sunshine and gave us a whole range of genres, from classical to pop. They included their haunting rendition of one of the ‘Lost Songs of St Kilda’ and a Gaelic folk song. It was a fabulous concert and a day that everybody appreciated.

Next, the news that the generator had been turned off reached the BBC. Before I knew it, I was being interviewed on the ‘Good Morning Scotland’ breakfast radio programme, being asked about the impact that the lack of noise has on the island now. I was able to talk about the 89th anniversary of the St Kildans leaving the island, and the fact that when we had filmed a commemorative tweet for this the night before, we were amazed at how much the old generator had masked the natural sounds of the island.

A lady sits in a recording studio at a desk, in front of a very long screen. She is smiling and rests her arms on the desk, beside sheets of notes.
Me, looking mightily relieved it was all over!

A day or two later, we had a surprise invitation aboard the tall ship Wylde Swan, a beautiful Dutch herring catcher from the 1920s that was converted into a sailing schooner in 2010. Unfortunately, we didn’t see her under sail, but we had a fantastic tour of the ship and then a delicious meal with visitors and crew. It’s so nice to step aboard and see the island from the sea. All ships are beautiful, but tall ships are just something else!

A view of a tall ship anchored in a bay, with a modern tender boat moored just in front. The photo is taken from a window on the island and is framed by wooden green shutters.
The tall ship anchored in the bay

From Caribbean-esque waters to stormy seas

The weather has changed dramatically since the beginning of September. Just a few days ago, I was swimming and we were remarking about the change in the quality of the light.

White surf crashes onto a golden sand beach. Two tender boats are anchored in the distance. The water is blue and turquoise; the sky is a deep blue with occasional fluffy clouds.
A beautiful day to spend some time on the beach

Today, I ventured out towards the Mistress Stone and saw, amongst the ringed plover feeding on the hillside, a Hudsonian whimbrel! This is a great rarity here – distinguished from our more usual whimbrels by its very pale face contrasting with black eye stripes. (Apologies, it was too far away for a decent picture).

Whilst Village Bay looked relatively calm, it was almost impossible to stand up against the gusting Force 6 south westerlies, which signal the end of Hurricane Dorian passing through.

Amongst the bird-watching fraternity on the island, there was word that a snow goose had been sighted. Sure enough! We were privileged to see it resting near one of the pools. It possibly had come from Greenland and was undoubtedly brought here by the storm. We await to see what other unusual species may be coming our way in the next day or two.

A white goose with black tail feathers stands in a grassy field on St Kilda.
Snow goose on St Kilda
From the edge of the world

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