So Long, February
With all the recent bad weather the ferry to North Ronaldsay had been cancelled 3 weeks in a row. Some islanders had become very low on fuel (both for vehicles and heating homes) and other supplies, cars were stuck on the mainland or the island in need of servicing, and we were waiting on our huge sack of potatoes! Thanks to our community and Orkney Ferries coming together they managed to conduct a mid-week sailing in a good weather window.
Though I have just received word that we will have to wait until March 7th for the next ferry (2 and a half weeks between supplies)... Does any other Orkney Island receive such infrequent service?
I was grateful for my office supplies finally arriving on the boat, enabling me to print detailed maps to survey the dyke with (and look very official with my clipboard!). Surveying the dyke is a nice opportunity to take time to enjoy the sights of North Ronaldsay. Flowers have started to emerge on the island, giving a welcome burst of colour along the roadsides. The recent storms have really broken up and dispersed the sperm whale in the north. The skull amphitheatre still remains, the structure cradles an enormous two-tonne spermaceti organ, which produces a waxy substance used in echolocation. I’ve also been admiring the huge tall sections of the wall, which are so monstrous! The verticle stones at the bottom are placed when it has been eroded and the original stones have fallen put. "Collaring" can prolong the life of the dyke for many years to come! More flapper skate egg cases have been washed up, along with a kelp holdfast still hanging on for dear life to it’s rock - no match for the powerful waves we’ve been having.
While taking shelter behind the dyke while a hail storm passed, this sheep got a surprise when it came round the corner to see me. It’s reaction is hilarious!
We’ve been hit with storm after storm. They say if you can survive your first Orkney winter you’ll stay, but according to islanders this winter has been unusually stormy and worse weather than most. Olly and I were very relieved at this news! The relentlessly windy wet weather has taken its toll on my mental health at times, being blown back inside as soon as you open the door is no fun. But the weather is so changeable, it’s important to grab the sunny 5 minutes (albeit in 50mph winds) when they emerge. Olly was stuck on the mainland after flights were cancelled last weekend but he managed to find a pub to watch the rugby in.
A lot of plastic and other marine litter has been washed up by the storms. It’s so heartbreaking to see the hoards of plastic hanging around in our environment, some of it obviously years, if not decades, old (apparent from the branding and use by dates). Not only would this take an army of volunteers to pick up every time a storm blows in, but the real conundrum is what to do with the waste? We only have glass and can recycling on the island. Olly and I take our plastic bottles onto the Mainland to drop them at a recycling point, but there is so much more recyclable material being washed up, which would have to go into our household waste*. Some organisations around the UK and further afield recycle hard plastics and nets from marine litter into plastic filament, which is then used in 3D printers to create something new. I’d love to see something like this on the Northern Isles! Any plastic recycling entrepreneurs out there?!
*Household waste is shipped to Shetland for incineration, increasing it’s carbon footprint, however, at least burning the waste in the incinerator is used to heat water and distributed to approximately 1230 building buildings around Lerwick including schools, care homes, leisure centre and Hospital. Recycling https://www.orkney.gov.uk/Service-Directory/R/Recycling.htm
In 2017 Orkney householders recycled just 18.3% of their rubbish. Did you know that by 2025, the Scottish Government is aiming for 70% of all waste streams to be recycled.
More information on where this recycling goes https://www.orkney.gov.uk/Files/Rubbish-and-Recycling/Recycling/Where_does_our_recycling_go.pdf