Thursday 25 March 2010, spring light on Bressay Sound, Lerwick, Shetland.
Bressay Sound is that corridor of water that separates Lerwick from the Island of Bressay, just east of the Shetland capital.
An an end of term treat to my team’s ASN pupils present today, we take our cameras and seek the many treasures we can find… Seabirds, sea mammals, fishermen… We share one common heritage, the sea.
Although initially in search of dive-bombing gannets in the Sound, we end up face to face with selkies (seals), long-tailed ducks, tysties (black guillemots), dunters (common eiders) and scores of scories (Lerwick name for gulls) at Gremista…
Gremista, Lerwick’s industrial district, north of the town – the North Mouth of the Sound. Pelagic trawlers attract a myriad of wildlife – black backs, bonxies (great skuas), solans (gannets), selkies, that come to the great fishy restaurants… Fish factories! The unloading of their cargo just acts as a magnet to fisherbirds and seals.
And when I think both selkies and fishermen share a massive heritage in local folklore…
, (also known as silkies
) are fictional creatures found in Faroese, Icelandic, Irish
Scottish mythology.They can shed their skin from seals to become humans. The legend apparently originated on the Orkney and Shetland Islands, where selch
) is the Scots word for seal
(from Old English seolh
). Selected legends linked as follows http://shetlopedia.com/Shetland_Folklore
Story has it that speaking of those supernatural creatures on board fishing vessels used to be so taboo that fishermen gave them disctinctive names – tang fish (common seal) and haaf fish (grey seals). Whereas common seals are found within coastal waters, grey seals can wander off at high sea.
Now the other thing wir selkies and fishermen share from the sea is mackerel. Both depends on it for their livelihood… Whereas the sea mammal finds its bounty inside our inshore kelp forests, some of our fishermen seek shoals of mackerels a’da haaf
(high seas) on their gigantic pelagic trawlers…
Gremista houses The Shetland Catch, Europe’s biggest mackerel (and herring) processing factory. No wonder I do not hesitate in sharing that part of the town with my budding photographers! …Industrial wildlife. But then again, Lerwick‘s long natural harbour not only hosts the local fishing fleet but also acts as a “safe haven” to any fishing vessel within the Fair Isle Box…
The Selkie & the Fisherman – not a story but a saga!
Now to that fish…
Dream from the boat,
sailing poet –
scared of my hook or fishing net…
danger dangled, doom, devilish,
you caught my eye
from the surface,
you, free inside this ocean book,
guardian of gills.
Security inside the shoal,
I’ll catch your name
on the last line –
© Nat Hall 2010