08 July 2014

Westray and a bit of Papay, Day Seven

My last day on Westray started off wonderfully [writing that makes it sound like it didn't end well, it did!] - while finishing breakfast, my roommate came in to tell me she spotted some seals down on the  beach! So I went down and there they were; they are gray seals, and most were sunning themselves on the beach, but a few were playing in the water. 
Graham picked me up in the morning and we headed down to Rapness to wait for the others on the tour, who were just coming over for the day on the ferry. The sun was shining and the water was all sparkly:
This was the same ferry that I rode over to Westray, so of course I had to take a picture of it, the Earl Sigurd:
You would not believe the number of cars that they make fit on the boat, they wedge them in every which way, and luckily they are much smaller than US cars (for the most part, the farm equipment does take up some space!). The other people who came on the tour were from the UK with one woman from New Zealand; its interesting that I've only met two other Americans out here, with the majority of tourists being from England. They were all so friendly, and Graham introduced me to the group as a whole - let me just say that everyone over here loves my name! 

For our first stop of the day, Graham drove all the way out to Noup Head, which was where I would've ended up had I kept walking the other day, so I'm glad I didn't! 
I was wrong in my population count the other day; there are actually 642 people living on Westray, which is an increase from the low of 500 fifteen years ago, and it is increasing every year. And Graham knew everyone on the island...see this is Gordon:
Gordon is getting crab, and he phones Graham if there is anything interesting in the water. Its rare, but once he had a basking shark following his boat, and sometimes there will be a whale. 

There are thousands of birds nesting here, and he thought there might still be a puffin or two. 
Everyone else had brought binoculars, except for me, but that was fine because I got to see puffins up close the night before! They spotted two on a ledge and were quite happy. I was able to see these black and white birds, guillemots:
They are all lined up like that guarding a chick. Great skuas patrol, snatching chicks off the cliff, so these guys line up to protect it and try to act like they are just hanging out. My favorite bird that we spotted was the artic tern - they are pretty (but Mom, you need to put fish out to attrack these birds!):
Next we went to the Noltland Links, an archaelogical dig that is still ongoing, to excavate a 5000 Neolithic Village. Unfortunately it too is extemely close to the water now, and they made the decision to just excavate, not restore. So what that means is that they dig, find a rock, draw it, number it, photograph it, then remove it, and keep digging. I guess the feeling is that the site will be lost to the ocean, so better to fully dig it out than to try to preserve it. There was one archaeologist, Sean, there, everyone else is on holiday. He was working at sifting the dirt/sand:
The most exciting thing for the archaeologists is the midden. Midden is basically trash. What seems to have happened was that the original village kept getting covered in sand, and so the villagers would build some new houses a little further inland, and then throw all their trash over the old village. So there are animal bones, broken pieces of pottery, shells, just anything that was trashed, all layering the original village. One of the woman in our group bent down and picked up a skaill knife, which was just laying in the path; these were flat, sharpened stones, used to clean off skins! It was just laying out in the open, which was so neat to see a "find" in person. 
I was glad to have seen Skara Brae first, because seeing that (mostly) intact village helped me better to  picture what this one would've looked like. 
Then it was time for lunch, which was included in the price of the tour, at Graham's wife's cafe. It was lasgna and homemade rolls, with carrot soup and apple pie. I sat with a group who were all travelling on to Shetland and we had a really nice talk. Then we went over to the most northern point on the island, to see a natural arch:
On our way to the next stopping point, Graham looked across and noticed that the afternoon flight was about to leave from Papay, so we quickly drove to a point where we could watch. Its the shortest commercial flight in the world, and you can even get a certificate saying you've flown it! Its two minutes between the airport on Papay and the airport on Westray:
I'm pretty sure you don't have to go through TSA security in that terminal! The land beyond the water is Papay, where I am right now!

Then it was on to Quoygrew, a Viking site, where there was a fish processing plant in the year 900. And then it was a house, a barn, and was in continuous use til the 1400s, with a house further up on the site until 1937. 
Very last stop of the day was at Noltland Castle, and I'm so glad I explored there earlier in the week because it was raining by the time we got there and we only had a short time there before it was time for all of us to catch our ferries. 

The ferry ride over to Papay was only 20 minutes, where I was met at the pier by Morag, one of the 70 residents of the island, and she drove me to the community run hostel. After settling in, I went for a walk, from one side of the island to the other - a distance of one mile! And it is only 4 miles long. Sitting next to the Knap of Howar, an Iron Age broch, I watched the sun set again. It was so beautiful and peaceful:
Today I'm visiting the community shop and the craft shop, and then I'm going to just wander around a section of the island that we won't visit on the tour tomorrow. The sun is still shining at the moment, though clouds are forecast for later today. 

1 comment:

  1. Amazing photos! I would have loved to be on the tour to see the different birds!