Saturday, 17 June 2017

Shetland Footprints: Day 1

The journey from Swanage to The Shetland Islands was always going to be a long one and was to be spread over two days. The plan consisted of the best part of twelve hours on the road, with a break after ten of them to take photographs of a wonderful school whose headmaster is a friend of mine, then on to Aberdeen and the ferry to Lerwick. A further twelve hours overnight on the water would see us arrive at about seven in the morning, with just about half an hour on Shetland roads to where we will be making camp.
We didn’t have time to explore Aberdeen, which was a shame, but we did manage to find the coast road that followed the southern hills below the docks. This turned out to be a smart move as within minutes of getting out of the car a large male Grey Seal made its was slowly through the water. A single Eider Duck was a lovely sight when the sun broke through the clouds and I proudly mentioned his presence to a nearby RSPB lady. She gave me a flash of one of those smiles reserved especially for idiots before directing my attention to the other couple of hundred Eider that were sleeping on the rocks around the corner. 

It was then that the first of perhaps fifty or so Dolphins appeared in the distance and, for the next couple hours, I battled with the poor light to get the best shots that I could. This was by far the greatest number of Dolphins I had ever seen and to watch them breach over and over again was very special. A pattern of sorts quickly started to develop and it became possible to predict, although not with 100% accuracy, when they would jump from the water.

As the dolphins moved on, so did we as it was time to embark on the next stage of the journey: the overnight sailing to Lerwick. The Sun broke through, the skies cleared and, as we left Aberdeen with camera firmly pointed at the harbour entrance, there was absolutely no sign of the Dolphins that we watched earlier. 

As for the ferry, well I suspect that although I am not particularly well travelled, a ferry is just a ferry. We had reclining seats in the front bar and almost immediately after the bar had closed, everyone settled down for the night. This is not a busy crossing tonight but there are many people scattered across chairs as well as the floor, people that can sleep whenever or wherever they want. I don’t sleep fully but catnap, waking often to any sound whether real or imaginary. I have never been able to just fall asleep on command and here now, even though the place is quiet, there are far too many new things to see.
The skies lightened just before three this morning and from then on waves, Gannets and Fulmars kept me amused. The sea, rougher than last night but still more fun than problem, is grey to match the clouds and the weather looks set to be exactly what was forecast. As we past Fair Isle, which is only just visible through the mist, there is only a couple of hours left and although I enjoy the rolling and pitching of the ferry I am looking forward to land and the next chapter.

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