The Breaking of the Fellowship – Work Party 3 back on Harris

Sadly, the weather did not let up on Hirta for our last days. On Sunday night we had tremendous rain and on Monday, Tuesday (and Wednesday, and Thursday), all the streams were raging torrents.  When on a work party, one’s task is clearing out the many small water courses, one wonders why on earth this needs to be done. Look at the pictures – that water was still flowing 2 days after the rain. The dry burn had water flowing down it on 10 days of our time on Hirta. The tiny water courses were awash, the minister’s well was overflowing, and the whole hillside in that area was a sheet of water – from Tuesday to Thursday! At the Feather Store, the path was a river.

Once the cloud base lifted enough, the Monday helicopter was able to slide in (in fact it managed 2 flights), bringing a welcome surprise in the form of chocolates sent by Julie (who masterminds the Facebook page, and has been posting this blog once it is emailed to her) with a note saying that as she couldn’t manage to send an umbrella, she hoped that the chocolate would cheer everyone up. It was much appreciated.

The envelope also included 2 laminated posters advertising our Facebook page with the request to post them somewhere that people would see them. The first place was obvious – the shop. Everyone goes (or should go) there. For the other poster, Gina, the bird warden had a cunning plan – she suggested putting it on the toilet door – people could read it as they waited.

The last day included finishing off our time running the shop – over the 2 weeks we were there, the shop took in £5,692.66 – great work by our band of enthusiastic shopkeepers Gael, Sarah and Austin.

Over our last week, some of us got involved in Haiku (of the 5, 7, 5 variety). The only rule was that the Haiku had to pertain to St Kilda. Some entries include:

Soay Sheep are brown / And black, and sandy and white / I like brown the best.

Chef’s in the kitchen / What time will we be eating / another yummy meal?

The St Kilda mouse / stores gingerbread, nuts and cheese / in his island house

Wet and windy day / the boat is not on its way / so here we will stay

Salt Spray on the lips / wind a rushing past your ears / land of ever change

The day boats are gone / The island is ours again / Peace prevails once more

“Paint the gun” they said / “Wot? Paint that soddin gun black?”/ Red is rather odd

Snorking all night long / There’s no peace for the wicked / Will I ever sleep?

For an explanation of this last one, see below.

On our last day, with everything tidied up, we loaded Orca 2 to return to Harris. One important object to be loaded was our Mail Boat – made by Stuart, and given the quaint name of “Snork”. With Cees Groot in our party coming from Holland, there had been great discussion about “snorking” in House 1. It seems that all the blokes felt that someone was snorking at night, but denying that is was themselves (for ”snorking” read “snoring”!) The name “Snork” seemed appropriate and this is what she was named. We departed from Hirta in the same weather conditions as when we arrived – dreich! The traditional final group photograph includes Kevin, the St Kilda Archaeologist, who is, to all intents and purposes a member of the work party, and it seemed appropriate to include him in the picture.

Once at Boreray, there was a ceremonial launch, and Snork is now somewhere in the north Atlantic, carrying our message of hope to somewhere interesting.

  

As we circled Boreray, some Orca were spotted, and for 15 minutes, we drifted as a pod of Orca swam round the Orca 2. My pictures are rubbish, but once we get some good ones, we can post them on the Facebook page. Meantime, see the “Kilda Cruises” website at http://www.kildacruises.co.uk/   for some excellent video shot by their crew.

As we watched, amazed, suddenly one of the Orca crew shouted, “They’ve got a kill!” The water went red, and a bit of a seal was tossed out of the water. Not content with that, they made another kill. One of our group has a pic of the Orca with a seal sticking out of its mouth. The picture here shows an Orca tossing part of a seal in the air. These creatures (Orca) look fantastic, and to have at least 4 of them circling the boat for so long was something very few experience. Eventually, we drew away, leaving them to their dinner. In one of the pics, you can see the sea turning red.

Sadly, once we reached Harris, we had the “breaking of the fellowship” to borrow a phrase from Tolkien. No sooner has we reached Leverburgh, than Gael and Stuart shot off to try to catch the ferry at Tarbert and get home that night (they did!). Next morning saw Cees, Lucy, Imogen and Austin catch the bus to Tarbert, where Lucy stopped off, and for the other two on to Stornway and hence back to the main land. Ed, Malcolm (our cook) and Sarah drove off to drop Malcolm in Tarbert and take Sarah to Stornway. Ed lives in Lewis, and he then went home. Christine, Phil and myself drove to Tarbert for the morning ferry, and the final dispersal was complete.

An excellent time and good work done by the group, who are to be thanked for all their hard work. Malcolm stepped in at the last minute and was an excellent cook who was much appreciated. On the down side, the weather was atrocious – no good for walking on the hills, but I think that everyone had ample opportunity to see the island to their satisfaction.