Was told this morning that someone would be flying to Ullapool today, under a parachute towed by a fast boat. As it's a nice, sunny day, I head off into town to view the event from a nice vantage point. However, the crowds I had been warned to expect at the launch site, Cuddy Point, were nowhere to be found. On the way there, I passed the lawn in front of Lews Castle where a very colourful chut was laid out. In the Inner Harbour, two fast boats were manoeuvring between North Beach and Cuddy Point. By 1pm, the parascentist (that's what it said on the boat) had finished his on-camera interview and proceeded to his chute. A cable was rigged up between the towboat and the chute. This was deployed using the force 3 easterly wind. The boat gathered speed * snap * the line snapped. The parascentist dropped to the ground and the whole shebang had to be rigged up again. Two seals bobbed about in the harbour, very inquisitive as to what was going on. At 2pm, we started from the top. Unfortunately, the chute got caught in a gust of wind and veered off into the trees. The parascentist crashed to the ground, taking a few branches with him and thereby breaking his fall. He ended up on the bench, but was not hurt. The chute was left hanging in the tree. It was quite some bother to get it down, and it was torn. Brand new and all. The wife told the spectators, all ten of us, that the man was quite devastated. Everybody drifted away after that. I went to the library to have lunch (a bit late at 3 pm) and update this journal. Went back to mrs B. Ended the day with a colossal stomach upset, which took some time to subside.
Postscript: Read in the Stornoway Gazette on Thursday 30th June that a Good Samaritan had been found, who had supplied a new parachute. A picture featured in the Gazette, showing the man flying past the Beasts of Holm, 2 miles south of Stornoway. He arrived safe and well at Ullapool later in the day.
Petra is about my age, and works as a Procurator Fiscal Deputy in Dundee. Parents are from Nuremberg in Germany. They had been up and down the Westside all day today. Last night, mum had left her handbag with passport and money in a restaurant here, but has now got it back. Mrs B offered them a traditional Lewis welcome after they had been out for dinner, but that went clean over their heads.
Today, 21st June, is the longest day of the year. Here in the Isle of Lewis, we're at latitude 58°N, which puts us within 8° of the Arctic Circle. Up there, the sun shines for 24 hours each day. Down here, it is 18 hours 15 mins, sunrise 04.19, sunset 22.34. This leaves 5 hours 45 minutes without sun, but certainly not without light. I have been mentioning since May that it was still light at 1 a.m., and I have included in previous entries pictures taken after midnight. This entry includes pictures taken last week, which shows how light it still was between midnight and 1.20; the latter time being the 'darkest' point of the day. From now on, the nights will lengthen (as they will all over the northern hemisphere), until we're back on sunrise 09.15 and sunset 15.35 (21st December). I'll miss the long evenings, when it is broad daylight until well past 11 o'clock...
Get the pictures back, and am quite amazed at the quality of the pictures taken at midnight - without flash! Weather not unreasonable.
Although the weather is quite acceptable, I'm not going anywhere at all today. I take the book with Runrig songs from the library, this band will be playing at the Hebridean Celtic festival next month. This festival gives the tourism industry in Stornoway and the island a headache. They are expecting 15,000 to attend - compare this to the town's population of 7,000 and the island population of 22,000. The songs prove difficult to reproduce on the keyboard. One guest arrives in the evening, but he keeps very much to himself.
I am aware that there are only 4 references on the list, but I am awaiting confirmation on the 5th. Thanks for your support
(postscript: Competition closed 31 July 2005)
Earlier this week I mentioned a colourful Stornoway character, who will remain unnamed, save for the initial A. I'll try to recount the main stories he told me over coffee on Monday, as they are absolutely priceless.
As the Politician lay stranded on a rock between the islands of Eriskay and South Uist, she was abandoned by the crew, and left until salvage or other fate effected by officialdom. However, this being 1941, and officialdom never doing anything fast, the locals decided to salvage some her cargo themselves. The cargo consisted of whisky, Jamaican banknotes, bathroom appointments (baths, washbasins) and much more. (Read Roger Hutchinson's The Politician, The Real Story). Obviously, the whisky was the most desired, and there were thousands of cases of various brands and blends on board. Each case measured several feet in height and length, and was awkward to handle. A. sent several cases off to Stornoway in a large box, marked Engine. He himself got on board the Lochmor (the then island ferry) to go to Tarbert, Harris, also in possession of a case. It was blatently obvious that the whisky was illegal, as it was marked Not for resale. The case was spirited on board the Lochmor and hidden in a cabin. On arrival at Tarbert, the police came on board and spoke to a member of crew. Both men watched A. walk through the village with his case on his shoulder. However, the policeman took no further action, as the crew member told him to let this one go. Only a few hundred yards from the quayside, the case fell off W.'s shoulder, and he hailed the hotel taxi. "Sorry, I've got a fare", the driver said. A. showed him a bottle out of the case. "I'm really sorry, but I've got this fare from the hotel". A. showed him a second bottle. "OK, put it in the boot", the driver said and took him to Stornoway.
Fifteen years later, A. was speaking to a neighbour, who answered to the same name as the Tarbert police constable in 1941. The copper was telling some stories, including that of the young man with the case of whisky, and that the crew-member had told him to let go. "Aye", said A. "That was me, man".
As I mentioned above, the Politician also carried bathtubs and the like. One Eriskay family helped themselves to a bathtub. This being 1941, there was no mains water supply. Nonetheless, they planted it next to the stream running past their house. In 1986, A. visited Eriskay again and met the family. Outside the house sat the bathtub, in which various generations of the family had been washing themselves over the past 45 years. And it was still in use at that time...
Once back at Mrs B's, I play the Isles FM CD Langass (that's a village in North Uist) and read the Uig Recipe book. Later in the day, two Dutch guests arrive, one of whom was a colleague of a close relative of mine. Have a bit of a chat with them, and continue that once they return from a night out in the pub. They bring a fiddle and melodeon, and accompany me on the keyboard until nearly 2 a.m.. It's getting light again by that hour...
Weather closed in at lunchtime with a sharp shower. Went into town for a minute, during which it felt very mild. The yacht Air sailed at 5pm, after more crew were ferried in by the helicopter. It gave 3 hoots on the whistle prior to sailing.
He was involved in the democratic salvage of the cargo of the Politician which sank off Eriskay in 1941, prompting the famous story of Whisky Galore. It was a story of help yourself to plenty of whisky. There were also some fantastic stories about democratic culling of deer on the hills of Lewis and Harris, on the estates of Morsgail, Scaliscro and Eishken. Latterly in 2002. Nowadays, poaching is much more difficult, with nightsight goggles and what have you.
At 12 noon, the cruiseliner Alexander von Humboldt comes into port. Two hours later, the Hebridean Princess follows suit. Town is full of people around 2 pm. I walk to Arnish, through the Castle Grounds, in 1 hour 15 mins. Look around the lighthouse, then divert to the small cape that separates Cala Steornabhagh from Cala Ghlumaig. Am only a few hundred yards from Air, which has now returned to her anchorage. The crew is cleaning, painting, polishing and skiving -crewmember engaged in latter activity is hiding on the steps at the stern of the vessel. I have a look by the BPC monument (I have previously ranted about Bonny Prince Charlie, so will spare you the ordeal), then return to town at 5.30. Two guys were climbing the rocks just outside Arnish. Stornoway was buzzing with cruise passengers. It's sunny, but with a chilly wind. The day closes nice and sunny
There are 7 species of marine turtle left in the world. The leatherback turtle is the larges; the biggest ever found measured 2.9 m (nearly 10 ft) in length and weighed 915 kg. They eat jellyfish, which is why they occur in British waters. Eggs are laid on tropical beaches. The temperature during the incubation period dictates the gender. Anything above 29C creates females, under 29C and it's male. The hatchlings head for the light horizon, where moon and stars reflect off the water. The land behind the beach is usually dark. Threats include egg poaching, development of beaches (hotels) and light pollution. Turtles die of starvation at sea after ingesting plastic bags, which they mistake for jellyfish. They can drown after becoming entangled in static fishing gear, like ropes for lobster cages.
All sightings of marine turtles should be reported on http://www.euroturtle.org/turtlecode
Turtles that are fitted with a satellite transmitter can be tracked via http://www.cccturtle.org/sat1.htm
Organisation that are concerned with sea turtles are SNH (in Scotland), and the MCS (Marine Conservation Society).