View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Paper Moon

The yacht I referred to in a previous entry has been located in the island of Bonaire, and its owner is flying home to his family.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Emergency message

Copied from - please relay

For all you sailors out there, we have an emergency message for the Sailing Yacht "Paper Moon".
The man that bought Paper Moon is not answering emails, cell phone or satellite phone. His family has a major emergency and he is desperate to find him. The lone owner/crew is Juan C., and is believed to be somewhere between Culebra and Colombia.

PAPER MOON is a Morgan Out Island 36 foot sloop,
Name on stern is Paper Moon, N. Miami Beach.
White with blue canvas.
On stern solar panels,
wind generator,
dinghy on davits a West Marine with 18 hp Toshiba.

Please send emails to boaters throughout the Caribbean.

Email DearMissMermaid [at] aol [dot] com, if you have any sightings or info, I have additional info for the owner/crew of Paper Moon.

Flat on your face

Lori is telling us the story how she landed flat on her face yesterday. No real damage done, I should hastily add.

In the winter of '78/'79, I was trying to go to school on my bicycle in deep snow, with a half-inch layer of ice on top. Decided not to proceed further when I saw that big hill I had to go down to reach the school. However, when I reached the driveway at home, it all went wrong on me. Bike went first, then I went on my knees, then my hands, then my face hit the deck. Fortunately, it happened very slowly.

In 2001, I was visiting the Italian city of Naples, when I wanted to catch a tram to return to my lodgings. I ran for it, but tripped over the cobbled pavement and went for a flyer. Fortunately, my shoulderbag was hanging in front of me so I landed on that. Without said bag, I would have ended up with some damage, I'd imagine .

Monday 27 April

I'm going to start with a couple of one liners.
  • The day started out grey, overcast and wet, but the sun just came out.
  • Anyone else having fun putting in their new Sky viewing card? Ain't working this end.
  • Swine flu is on the top of everybody's agenda - let's hope it can be contained.
  • If you're on Twitter, bear in mind that the number of tweets can overwhelm you if you follow hundreds if not thousands of people. And please refrain from repeating yourself 4 times over with the same message on that forum.
Not directed at any of my usual readers, just throwing a barb at something that is irritating me: just the fact that someone is at the forefront of an Internet development doesn't mean that the rest of us who are quietly tagging along in the mainstream, barely aware of this brave new world, are all numpties.

Tomorrow, I am not going to be around on-line as I'm travelling to Holland. Friday is the first anniversary of my mother's death - as of Wednesday, you can find me on The Shell Gallery. Because my Twitter activity tends to be heavily focused on matters local, here in the Isle of Lewis, I shall most likely not be there after today. I will see if I can get Facebook to work for me again; I'm finding it hopelessly cluttered, with all sorts of apps chirping for attention - sorry folks.
Normal service will resume in 2 weeks from now, on May 12th, when I am back in the islands and back to posting on Atlantic Lines and as @adb44 on Twitter.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Local History file

The three previous entries are a mission statement on my work on areas of local history for the island of Lewis. The First World War had a large influence on the island, one that cannot be overstated. The loss of nearly 1,300 men, constituting one out of every twelve alive at the time dealt a savage blow to this small community of barely 30,000 in 1914 (nowadays it is about 20,000). The impact of the Iolaire Disaster cannot be overstated either. In placing my and others' findings on the Internet I hope to make this material available to anyone across the world with an interest in them. I also aim to keep alive the memory of the 1,300 who died in the First War and the 400 lost in the Second. Their sacrifice helped shape the world we know today, and ensured your and my liberty.

Local History file - Faces from the Lewis War Memorial

The victims of the Iolaire Disaster constitute a sizeable proportion of all those from the island who died in the First World War. It was a small step to extend the work for the Iolaire to the whole of the First World War. I started off by photographing the panels on the Lewis War Memorial, which stands just north of Stornoway. They show the names of all who fell in WW1 and WW2. However, those listings are incomplete.

Loyal Lewis Roll of Honour 1914-1918 adds quite a few more names, as well as 400 portrait photographs, which I scanned in. This publication does not supply a large amount of information on the men concerned, but that is easily amended by cross referencing with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. It is most fortunate that accurate address references are given for many of the casualties, greatly increasing the accuracy of any matches. Many islanders had emigrated to Canada and Australia, and the National Archives of both those nations yielded a lot of background information. Another source are local war memorials, of which there are about 16 outside Stornoway.

Hebridean Connections, a website that is being expanded to include information from all corners of the Western Isles, currently provides information for the districts of Uig, Kinloch, Pairc and Great Bernera, allowing for another layer of cross-referencing and additional information. Finally, the islands graveyards once more added further information, yielding approximately 350 gravestones. At time of writing, there are 1286 names on the list for the First World War.

Faces from the Lewis War Memorial
Scottish War Memorial Project
Scottish War Graves Project

Local History file - The Iolaire Disaster

The former private yacht Amalthea, rechristened HMY Iolaire [Eagle], was sent to Kyle of Lochalsh on 31 December 1918 to assist in the returning home of servicemen from Lewis and Harris. This was done because the normal ferry, SS Sheila, could not accommodate the hundreds that were amassed on the quayside at Kyle. Iolaire left port at 7.30 pm, and was approaching Stornoway some 6 hours later in poor weather conditions when she struck rocks on the Beasts of Holm, 2 miles south of the town. More than 200 drowned, the bodies of whom washed up on shores up to 5 miles away. Some 60 were never recovered. The exact cause and circumstances of this sinking are still not entirely clear, and Admiralty files on the incident are closed.

The Stornoway Historical Society were very helpful in supplying me with the names of those involved in the tragedy. In turn, I placed the list of names on the Internet, adding as much information as I could find in local and Internet sources. I also established a simple website, outlining the circumstances of the disaster and a link to the aforementioned list. This has since been augmented by portrait photographs of the men concerned, as scanned from Loyal Lewis Roll of Honour 1914-1918. Because the Iolaire went down a few hours after midnight on 1 January 1919, the First World War is held to have ended in 1919 in the island, rather than 1918 as is the case elsewhere in the UK. I have visited the island’s graveyards to photograph gravestones to the victims of the Iolaire Disaster, and those pictures have been included on the extended listings site.

Local History file - HMS Timbertown

In January 2005, I obtained a copy of the book “Lewis: A History of the Island” by Donald Macdonald. It mentions the fact that during the First World War, a number of people from the island were interned at Groningen, a city in the northeast of Holland. Being from that country myself, I was intrigued at this unexpected link between Lewis and the Netherlands. I was to find out later that an even more surprising connection exists, going back to the 17th century.
After publishing a letter in the Stornoway Gazette, I received a handful of reactions from local people, whose ancestors had been interned at Groningen. With the help of several of the island’s historical societies, I managed to compile a list of more than one hundred names, as well as the story of HMS Timbertown (as the internment camp was known amongst its inmates). Groningen historian Menno Wielinga, from his side of the North Sea, added to that in no small measure.

In October 1914, the British Expeditionary Force, sent to Belgium to hold the tide of advancing German forces, found itself at Antwerp. The onslaught from the Germans could not be stopped, so the British withdrew west. Trains were supposed to take them to the Channel ports at Zeebrugge and Ostend, but our group missed their train. The officer in charge commanded them to head north, into the Zeeuws Vlaanderen area of southwestern Holland. On crossing the border, they handed themselves in. They ended up in Groningen for the duration of the war, more than four years. Their story is told on the English Camp website.

One poignant detail concerns the return of the internees to Lewis after the Armistice of November 1918, and particularly in the aftermath of the Iolaire Disaster, of which more in the next paragraph. Upon learning of the hardships suffered by survivors of the trenches and the Atlantic crossings, not to mention the deaths of so many fellow islanders (relatives, friends and acquaintances), the former internees felt ashamed. They had had a (relatively) easy time in a camp, whilst others had died, suffered injury or been witness to unspeakable horrors in combat. So, many lived out their lives and took their stories into the grave.

Website English Camp

Looking back

Was surfing the web just now and as I was listening to recordings by Winifred Atwell, I was reminded of a presenter on the BBC Worldservice, Gordon Clyde. In the 1980s, I frequently submitted requests to his classical music request programme "The Pleasure's Yours", which I used to listen to on Sunday mornings. Living in Holland at the time, I could hear it in relative clarity on medium wave 648 kHz, rather than be subjected to the vagaries of shortwave radio. It taught me a lot about classical music. Gordon presented the programme from 1973 until 1990.

I was sad to read an obituary in The Times, stating that he had died on 26 January 2008 at the age of 75. His wife Anne died in 1990; they had one son. Gordon, thanks for many hours of great music - the pleasure was certainly mine, and many people's around the world. RIP.

Hurricane season

Once more, I'm plugging hurricane awareness as the 2009 North Atlantic hurricane season is now less than a month away. If you are in the path of hurricanes, start preparations now. A good place to review is on the National Hurricane Center's webpages. When a storm forms, I tend to reflect it on my own Tropical Cyclones blog, but you must always refer to the NHC for the latest up-to-date advice.

Stay safe.

Sunday Ghost Story

I have recently started reading a blog from New Zealand, called Whitemeadow's Wanderings. It contains what I could term a ghost story - pop along and have a read. Bear in mind, when reading the rest of the blog, that they are currently going into autumn.

Sunday 26 April

Quite a nice morning, although with a chilly breeze. Sun is coming out as I type and it can only get better.

The outbreak of human swine flu in Mexico has claimed 81 lives so far. The virus, which causes the illness, is of the H1N1 strain which is known to cause seasonal flu outbreaks. It has changed to incorporate genetic material from flu viruses that affect birds and pigs, hence its name of swine flu. Confirmed cases are also reported from the USA and elsewhere. The WHO is warning that a global outbreak is possible, a pandemic.

The ship pictured above is the MV Hebridean Princess, the former Caledonian MacBrayne's ferry MV Columba. She has plied Hebridean waters for 40 years, latterly as a luxury cruiseliner. The company that deployed her has hit on financial troubles. Both ship and company have been taken over by a new owner, ensuring that this icon of the Hebrides continues to sail.
The Hebridean Princess, which can carry up to 49 passengers and charges up to £7,000 for a cruise, was selected by the Queen in 2006 to carry her on her 80th birthday cruise round Scotland's western islands. The picture above shows her coming into Stornoway at the end of that journey.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Saturday 25 April

Overcast but calm day. The spring tide is at a low ebb, leaving a lot more exposed than you'd normally see at low tide. Just watched the first cruiseliner of the summer season leave port heading for the Shiants. That's a group of 3 islands about 20 miles south of Stornoway off the coast of Lochs. Nobody lives there permanently, but are quite scenic.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Midnight post

Quarter to midnight, and time to close the session for today. Weather has gradually improved, and the sun came out in the hour before sunset. Tomorrow, 25 April, will be ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand. Those two nations will remember the dead of two world wars and other conflicts since. The date marks the start of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign in the First World War. On 25 April 1915, the first attacks were launched against Turkish strongholds southwest of Istanbul. The idea was to take the fortresses and open the way for Allied troops to march on the Turkish capital, which (at time) was Istanbul. A series of blunders, both in planning and execution, saw Gallipoli out as an abysmal failure. It also left thousands of Australian and New Zealand soldiers dead.

As I have remarked earlier this week, Australia is currently in the grips of a fierce debate on immigration and racism. Whilst remembering the Fallen, I hope everybody remembers what they fell defending. And that doesn't just apply to the Antipodeans.

Good night.

Friday 24 April

Day started out grey and wet, but the sun is making valiant efforts to break through the low clouds. No change in temperatures, we're always very steady up here in the far northwest. I'd be very unwell living in places where one day you're at 90F and the next day down to 60F. Not much happening in this neck of the woods, apart from party political bluster over this week's Budget.

Last Wednesday's sky

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Thursday 23 April

After a very windy night, the winds had subsided a little. But we're back to force 6 again. Overcast but not too cold (12C / 54F). Temperatures in southern England are expected to peak at 21C / 70F today, so a bit of a contrast across 600 miles. Not much doing out here - local council aims to switch off streetlights to fill potholes. Lateral thinking will resolve that the money saved on lights can be used to purchase potholl filling machine. Another project is to sure up a seawall in the town which is crumbling under the effects of "pounding waves". Well, actually, the area of harbour it fronts is quite sheltered, but the wall in question is past its best.

I am not inclined to comment too much on yesterday's Budget (bore, yawn); the politicians concerned have laid an egg over the past decade and it has hatched into a bit of a firebreathing dragon. General election due in 2010, which makes all the predictions seem like the start of the election campaign. Putting a few names to it, Labour have been in power since 1997 and are running out of steam. Much like the Conservatives had run out of steam after 18 years in power by 1997. British politics always shows a pendulum motion from Labour to Conservatives. Neither of them are any good in my perspective.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

View by Google Earth

This is a view of a remote part of Lewis - Loch Hamnaway. It is located on the west coast, some 8 miles south of Carnish (in a direct line) and 3 miles southeast of Brenish in Uig. The distance from Stornoway is about 40 miles to the southwest. If you want to get there, you face an 8 mile trek along a very rough track (shown in the image above), or possibly a cross-country foray for the same distance from Morsgail. By sea, it is a "simple" 4 mile sail from Huisinish in Harris.

This indented coastline, with its long sealochs, account for the fact that if you want to drive from Huisinish in Harris to Brenish in Uig you are facing a 78 mile journey; by water, it is only 9 miles.

Oh, as it said in the title, this is the view as generated through Google Earth. I've not (yet) been here myself. Maybe one day...


A nurse working in a hospital who exposed poor standards of care by using a secret camera, was struck off the nursing register for professional misconduct. It was deemed a breach of patient confidentiality. This in itself was the case, and cannot be condoned. However, the standards of care in the hospital fell so far short of what could be expected that the nurse was felt to be acting in the public interest. The Royal College of Nursing, the union involved, is featuring a link to a petition on its website to lodge an appeal against the Nursing and Midwifery Council's decision to delete the nurse's registration. Although she did do wrong, her sanction was too harsh.

I would like to encourage anyone in the UK who reads this to sign. The NHS has this unfortunate tendency not to address problems put to its managers. It is the whistleblowers that usually get punished, not those in charge who fail to take action. A good example was seen here in the Western Isles a few years ago, where it took several years before the failing management of the local NHS was removed. Another example was the late gynaecologist Rodney Ledward, who was allowed to butcher (which he passed off as operating on) women for 11 years before he was removed.

Wednesday 22 April

Increasingly overcast as the wind slowly picks up to the anticipated high winds for tonight. Current forecast is for force 6, so not too bad. Temperature 12C, which will not change over the next few days. Just watched a Norwegian fish carrier, the Roy Kristian, coming into port. Stornoway is not a busy port, so any vessel coming in attracts my attention. Yesterday's prize was a navy vessel called the Seeker. It duly did not show up on my ship tracker, AIS.

For those in the UK: if you use Bonjela, you are strongly advised against using it in children under the age of 16. It contains the same chemical compound that is found in aspirin, which should not be used in children either. Aspirin can cause Reye's Syndrome in children with viral illnesses. Reye's is a potentially fatal but fortunately rare condition, which includes effects on liver and brain.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Going back 32 years

Anyone familiar with Peter Straker's Ragtime Piano Joe from 1977?

Les lacs du Connemara

Remember this one by Michel Sardou? Long live YouTube!
Good one for practising your French. By way of a song about Ireland.

Karelia Suite - Sibelius

That piece of 20th century classical music is one of my favourites. Below recording (audio only) from YouTube of the Alla Marcia [March] from Sibelius' Opus 11.

Tuesday 21 April

Seems our week of spring has gone, to be replaced by wet weather. No strong winds; the low pressure system bringing the change is too far away to cause gales on land. Today is the 83rd birthday of HM Queen Elizabeth II, so here's 3 cheers. The official birthday celebrations will be held in mid June, with Trooping the Colour in Horseguard's Parade in London. Another royal birthday bash happens in Holland in 9 days from now, when Queen Beatrix celebrates her 71st birthday, which actually happened on 31 January. Her son, crown prince Willem Alexander, has his 42nd on 27 April.

Locally, the council appears set to approve a large windfarm development in the district of South Lochs, 12 miles (as the crow flies, but 25 miles by road) south of Stornoway. It would see 26 turbines, each 450 feet tall, rising above the low hills and lochs of the district. Jobs would be created, in an area that is economically deprived. However, there is said to be a considerable environmental impact of the scheme. Final planning permission will be decided by the Scottish Government, but thousands of objections have already been lodged.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Closing notes

Been busy today, cleaning up my database of World War I casualties from Lewis. I detected 15 duplicates (resulting from men being mentioned at their parents' home as well as their own married addresses), one duplicate resulting from an error on the database of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and one duplicate resulting from a look-up error on my part. The last two did not lead to a deletion. Total number of names is now 1,285.

Iran's president Ahmedinajad continues to have my grudging respect. He acknowledged that the American / Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi should get a fair appeal hearing, after being convicted of espionage. That went down well with the West.
Today he grabbed the headlines by referring to Israel as a 'totally racist' country. That statement went down like a lead balloon. The substance of Mr Ahmedinajad's speech was nowhere near diplomatic. But then, he has never hidden his extreme hatred of the state of Israel and has vowed its destruction. Dozens of diplomats, attending the United Nations convention in Geneva, walked out in protest. My respect for the Iranian president stems from the fact that he is a clever political player - and that's where it ends. I could not disagree more with his politics.

Once more, I don't have time this evening to go round journals, will do my best tomorrow.

Monday 20 April

The weather has turned, and I'm looking at an overcast sky with a few chinks of brightness in between. Overnight, we had a little rain which disappeared to bother the mainland by mid morning. Temperatures remain moderate, at 12C / 54F. Although it is very nice to have 21C / 70F, as is forecast for southern England, I prefer the 12C for mid- to late April.

A British soldier was shot in Afghanistan - but the bullet just passed through his helmet, missing his head by 2 mm. Although shaken up, the man resumed his duties within the hour. He is hailed as the luckiest soldier alive.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Closing notes

Well, that's it for today. Gone 11pm and time for bed. I've got a stack of blogs to go through, but I'll peruse those tomorrow. We are due a change in the weather overnight; rain in the small hours, although the sun should put in an appearance come morning. Nice colours when the sun set this evening; usually does not augur well.

Lewis in pictures

Today is the 4th anniversary of me taking photos in the isle of Lewis. It's not something you'd ordinarily remember, but as you all know, my photography hobby has gotten badly out of hand. And I'm not apologising for that. The shutter has clicked the grand total of about 21,000 times, leaving me with about 18,500 pictures of Lewis and Harris (including a few hundred of places on the mainland and elsewhere in Scotland). My first pictures took me to the highest point I have reached in Harris, Tealasbhal, 690 metres above sealevel.

Don't get me wrong, I've been taking pictures for nearly 30 years. The advent of a digital camera just unleashed the beast.

Blogger Community Photo Challenge - The Great Outdoors

Blogger Community Photo Challenge

You can't get much more outdoors than the summit of Mullach an Langa in the Harris hills, 2,011 feet above sealevel. The body of water is called Loch Langabhat, Norse for Long Water.

Guest Editor's post

Les Ellingham, who manages blogs for the Island Blogging community over on Wordpress, wrote this excellent post on his blog View from the Helm. He was happy for me to copy it on Atlantic Lines, and I'm putting it up as a Guest Editor's post.

You still have us

Blogging is a two-way business. By committing our words to a blog we open ourselves up for others to agree or disagree as they see fit. Comments are an important part of a blog for without them our thoughts may just as well be written on paper and filed in a drawer. What do you do though when comments turn nasty? Do you give up or do you just shrug and move on? I guess it depends on how sensitive you are or how vulnerable you feel.

One of the blogs I follow is by David duChemin, an American photographer and about a year ago he wrote a post on why you should or shouldn’t blog. One of the reasons he gave not to blog related to adverse comments where he said

You can’t handle the trolls. If you can’t handle the odd jerk showing up uninvited, then blogging may be less appealing to you. Once in a while someone logs on and starts a fight. It’s a little like someone arriving at your home, walking in, and lighting the sofa on fire. You can either ban them, delete them, put up with it, or stop blogging. I don’t think this is a good reason not to blog - but it’s a reality. Fortunately photographers tend to be a civil lot and if you fill your blog with big words, the jerks tend to stay away.

One of the keys to dealing with the morons is that mention of ‘big words’. Someone wrote to me recently and said that The Croft had the best way of dealing with bad comments and that was to simply publish them and then destroy them with a superior intellect. That really is the answer but not everyone has that ability. We do all, however, have the ability to publish comments and let our friends draw their own conclusions. It does require a certain amount of courage but you should know that your enemies will never prosper in the company of your friends. In the bad times simply turn to your friends, even those you have never met. Above all, don’t give up.

Don’t Give Up

David duChemin’s posts on blogging, although aimed at photographers are well worth reading

You Definitely Should(n’t) Blog

The Photographer and the Blog, Part 3

Yesterday's pictures

View from Ardroil Cemetery

Replica Lewis Chessman near Ardroil

Farmhouse at Ardroil

House near Baile na Cille, Timsgarry

Church at Timsgarry; not in use, subject of a dispute between the Church of Scotland and the local community. Community want to buy it off church, but church wants to make more money off it. Building is now structurally unsafe.

Say after me...

Sunday 19 April

Brilliantly sunny day with the mercury already at 13C. It'll probably creep a few degrees higher before the day is out. Whilst sitting on the bus from Uig last night, I was listening to BBC Radio 2, spelling out all the traffic jams in southeastern England. Hardly met a car on the A859, the spinal road from Tarbert to Stornoway.

A head-on collision on the M1 motorway near Luton has claimed the lives of 5 people in two cars. One of the vehicles was travelling in the wrong direction, the reason for which is unclear. The wreckage was barely recognisable as having been cars. In Holland and Germany, people who drive up motorways in the wrong direction are referred to as ghost-drivers, and are regarded as a major emergency. Radio programmes are interrupted to announce their presence. The M1 crash happened in the early hours of this morning. My thoughts are with those that died, and their relatives, some of whom are yet to be informed.

The files on the Hillsborough Disaster, in which 96 people died in 1989, are to be published 10 years early. A new inquiry into the tragedy at Sheffield could well be launched on the strength of the evidence contained in said files.

With thanks to Sugar for tag, will place in sidebar later

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Saturday 18 April

Brilliantly sunny day, although there was some cloudiness in the afternoon around the hills. Went out on the bus at 3pm to the district of Uig, 35 miles west of Stornoway. The object of my visit was to photograph (19) wargraves and the local war memorial. It took the wee bus an hour to get there, not helped by longstanding roadworks along the way. They are taking longer to complete than anticipated because someone misdesigned a bridge. Didn't fit when it got there. Uig (which means 'bay') is one of the most scenic areas of Lewis, but with only very few people in it. Doesn't mean that there is no community spirit. Anyway, after my business at the graveyard, I walked across Uig Sands to Timsgarry where the war memorial is located. Upon arrival at the community shop, I found out that there was an event at the community hall - pity I did not have the time to go there.

I took a total of 64 pictures today (no records, I have been known to take in excess of 200 on a few occasions). Take away 20 for the wargraves, and 5 for the war memorial, and you'll have my scenic total of about 40. Pretty good for 2 hours' worth. Returned to Stornoway at 7.15pm. Those who follow me on Twitter know about the fact that I went to Uig - this is filling in some of the details. My pictures are uploading as I type; I shall place a selection on here tomorrow.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Post 500

Who would have thought that? Less than 7 months after opening this blog, I've now reached my 500th post. Yes, 6 months and 17 days is the time since we were told to get lost by AOL.

What I wanted to write about was my experiences in historical research. This evening, I was processing the pictures of wargraves that I took at Barvas this afternoon. I came across one, for Donald McDonald Paterson, who died on 30 November 1944. He served with the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, and was 48 years of age.

Trying to get more information about this man is proving a challenge. Veteran Affairs Canada is my first port of call for any Canadian casualty. All Canadian personnel that signed up for the First World War have their attestation papers (signing up papers) shown on the web. Not so for the Second World War - I presume for reasons of privacy. You have to travel to Ottawa to see those. Well, I do intend to visit Canada one day, but not at the moment. So, I am now looking closer to home. The Isle of Lewis has a dozen historical societies (Comunn Eachdraidh in Gaelic), and I have just emailed the one that covers Barvas, to see if they can shed further light on Private Paterson.

Visit to Barvas

Went to Barvas this afternoon, once again to visit a graveyard. Collected 29 images of wargraves, or war casualties remembered on family gravestones. It was breezy, but the sun helped to keep it agreeable. The cemetery at Barvas is draped over sanddunes, and offers nice views southwest along the coast.

Loch Mor Barabhais with Brue on the skyline

Stream in the machair

Along the shoreline

Former church in Upper Barvas, now a home (for sale, again)

Road north out of Barvas

More pictures here - still being uploaded at time of posting

Nor'easter - Friday 17 April

It is spring and we're having the usual weather. A cold northeasterly wind and bright and clear weather. Temperature 9C / 48F at the moment, which I prefer to the muggy, thundery weather of lower latitudes in this country. I am told that for 6 weeks in May and June 2008 there was NO rain at all in Lewis.

I am disappointed to note that Barack Obama will not prosecute those implicated in the use of torture as an interrogation 'technique'. Wonder what lies behind that, I do not.

Women with excessive hairgrowth (hirsutism) are advised to check with their doctors as it may be due to a hormonal imbalance with various underlying causes. Read the article for more info.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


Petar Vodogaz used to write in Jland, until he closed down his blog to leave AOL. He now writes on LiveJournal in a blog called Responsorium. Petar, an Australian blogger that I have known for a few years through this medium, is perturbed by a rise in apparent racism in his country. His latest post, accessible after clicking through a contents warning (nothing untoward, but it is a horrible story), warrants wider airing - I think this is a worldwide problem.


Hurricane update - 16 April

Tropical cyclone Bijli is currently swinging northeast, later east through the northern part of the Bay of Bengal, east of India. It is at tropical storm strength, with maximum sustained winds of 50 knots (55 mph), which will increase to 60 knots (70 mph) in the next 24 hours. The storm will make landfall on the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar [Burma] early on Saturday. As per usual with tropical cyclones, the greatest hazard is rainfall.

Tropical cyclones (hurricanes) are common in the Bay of Bengal at this time of year, ahead of the monsoon, which will start to move north later in the spring. Last year, tropical cyclone Nargis wreaked devastation near Myanmar's capital Rangoon - vehemently denied by the country's military junta. They also tried to thwart the much-needed supply of emergency aid.

Thursday 16 April

Another bright and sunny day, but with quite a cold northeasterly wind. Am currently processing the pictures I took at the cemetery in Bragar yesterday, and came across a little piece of interesting history.

One of men buried there, Duncan Macleod, died in 1943 whilst held in a POW camp in Burma. He himself is interred near the camp on the infamous Burma railway, where so many Allied POWs perished. His name is mentioned on one of the private gravestones at Bragar, and as I had him on record for the World War II memorial for Lewis, I looked into it further. I had little information on him, save that he came from Lochcroistean, a schoolhouse in the Uig district of Lewis.

His father was one of the school's headmasters, Norman Macleod, who held sway there until 1923. He died 20 January 1938 at the age of 75. He was married to Bell Ann Mackay, who died 8 December 1944 at the age of 69.

The website for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission interestingly state that they came from Tighnabruaich in Argyll. They had four children, two of whom (Iain and Chirsty Mary) died in infancy. Jessie died in May 1980 at the age of 73; their son Duncan died on 19 September 1943 at the age of 42.

Lochcroistean is located in a remote part of the island, but was itself a central school (of sorts). It acted as a hub for several side-schools, in places like Morsgail, Luachar and Ardbeag. The latter two places no longer exist. Luachar lies by the head of Loch Reasort, some 10 miles from Lochcroistean to the south; Ardbeag is even further away, by my estimation at least 15 miles to the southwest.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009


Old boat winch

Teampull an Eoin / Temple of the Winds

Dun / fortification

97 years ago

The SS Titanic went down in early hours of 15 April 1912 with the loss of 1517 lives, although 706 survived. Only one of that number is left alive today - a lady now aged 97, then aged only 9 weeks. In remembering those who drowned in Titanic, I would like to point to other maritime disasters in peacetime which claimed large numbers of lives as well.

SS Norge was holed on Rockall in June 1904 and sank in minutes, taking 635 emigrants to the bottom with her. Lifeboats did manage to take 160 to safety, but there were nowhere near enough lifeboats on the Norge to take all. Nine casualties made it ashore at Stornoway, but did not survive. They lie buried at Sandwick Cemetery, 20 minutes' walk from the town. The lessons that should have been learned from her sinking (which was to provide sufficient lifeboats and rafts for all on board) could have saved hundreds of lives on Titanic. But false economies meant that the recommendations, drawn up by the Danish maritime authorities in the wake of the tragedy, were never implemented.

HMY Iolaire went down on rocks just outside Stornoway Harbour on 1 January 1919. She was carrying 300 sailors from the Outer Hebrides home after four years of war. The two lifeboats were useless, as they were smashed against the rocks immediately after launch - and would never have been enough to carry all on board.

Visit to Bragar

I took advance of the nice weather to go to Bragar, 15 miles north of Stornoway, to photograph wargraves in the cemetery there. I found about 36 gravestones; I took more than 30 more pictures of the area. Including two of young lambs - the first of the season I've seen. All today's images can be seen here. When they have been uploaded (currently in progress), I'll post a selection on here.

Hillsborough disaster

Twenty years ago today, 96 people died at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. They were among thousands who had come to the stadium to watch a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The people who lost their lives were crushed against railings and fencings in the stadium. The Sports Secretary, Andy Burnham, was heckled as no blame has ever been attributed over the tragedy. At 3.06pm, people across Liverpool observed two minutes' silence, punctuated by church bells ringing out 96 times, for each of the victims. RIP.

Wednesday 15 April

Brilliantly sunny today and not a cloud in the sky. Not terribly warm though, only 11 degrees / 52F. The sea surrounding this island is not very warm at all, so no great surprises there.

Today, a memorial service will be held at Aberdeen's St Nicholas Kirk for the sixteen men who died two weeks ago off Peterhead. Their helicopter suffered a catastrophic gearbox failure, causing it to lose its rotorblades which in turned sheared off the rear of the aircraft. It crashed into the sea some 14 miles from land, from an altitude of 2,200 feet. One of the casualties was from Latvia; the others were British, with the majority from northeastern Scotland. The service will be relayed via Radio Scotland on 810 kHz mediumwave, BBC2 Scotland and on-line.

Tomorrow will see the 263rd anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, in which Prince Charles Edward's bid to take the British Crown was finally crushed. Culloden is a turning point in Scottish history, marking the demise of the clan system (which was already on the way out) and the start of a vigorous repression of Gaelic culture in the north and northwest of Scotland. A group of enthusiasts are reenacting the retreat, which you can follow on Twitter via @nightmarch.

Prince Charles Edward, also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, is a revered figure in certain quarters of Scotland. I am not going to beat about the bush in my negative opinion of the Young Pretender. He was very ill advised to proceed with his adventure, which was executed with a good degree of military ineptitude. I will say that if he had had the guts to proceed beyond Derby (that's where he wimped out), he just might have made it to London. At which point, his supply lines would have been cut off. His flight round the highlands and islands, looking for any boat to whisk him back to Paris should be an object of shame. He came to Stornoway in June 1746, to Kildun Cottage - which stood within the line of sight of my position - to ask for help. He was asked to leave. The burghers of Stornoway would not betray him, but could not help him either. Kildun Cottage was pulled down in the early 1970s to make way for the current Fabrication Yard.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Across the Atlantic

The title of this blog is Atlantic Lines, as I reside about 20 km (12 miles) from the Mighty Atlantic, and feel the effects of its proximity on a daily basis. As does everybody else in these islands.

Another aspect of this ocean is that it generates hurricanes in the summer season. Although the first tropical wave of 2009 is yet to emanate from the African continent, June 1st is only 6 weeks away, which heralds the start of the hurricane season. The southern and eastern seabords of the USA are only too familiar with these storms - next August will see the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which (as we all know) devastated New Orleans.

One of the major bones of contention left behind by Katrina has been the handling of the crisis, both before and afterwards. Today, it is reported that a leading scientist at the Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center, Dr Ivor van Heerden, was fired. The reason for dismissal, which will come into effect in March 2010, was not related to his professional performance.

According to Dr Jeff Masters, whose hurricane blog I follow, it was likely related to his stance on hurricane preparedness for Louisiana and New Orleans. This sat very uneasily with certain figures in authority. Dr Van Heerden favoured a flood prevention scheme for the Gulf Coast along the lines of the Dutch flood defenses, rather than the current flimsy arrangements. I would echo Dr Masters' conclusion that the removal of Dr Van Heerden from his position should be cause for concern for all who rely on flood defenses along the Louisiana coastline for protection against another Katrina. Read Dr Masters' blog entry here.

Tuesday 14 April

Quite a sunny day with once more a lot of high cirrus clouds about. The forecast is that we'll have the best weather in Scotland. The west coast of the mainland should see the mercury nudging 60F this afternoon; this is partly due to the effects of the mountains further inland. In Alpine countries, they refer to this as the föhn effect. There is a southeasterly wind which will descend once past the mountains and warm up in the process.

Am continuing to line up my on-line memorial site and its Excel back-up on the computer. Did a major update in the first months of this year, and didn't immediately incorporate it in the Excel file. I forgot that the many names starting with Mac in this part of the world could also be spelled Mc. Once that is complete, I can then start to refer to portrait photographs (of which I have about 400) and cemetery pictures (about 330). Conversely, it is then possible to take each of the island's war memorials (about 20) and expand details on each casualty listed thereon.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Monday 13 April

Easter Monday, and it is quite a nice day out here. Sunny (through a lot of high cloud) not a lot of wind and 11C. No great shakes on the temperature scale, but could be a lot worse.

Locally, there has been a lot of discussion on the location of the secondary school. The Nicolson Institute needs new premises, and the local authority has proposed a site near the old buildings. Only problem is that the Health & Safety Executive are not happy, as the site is in the vicinity of an LPG plant, which converts LPG into household gas for use in the town of Stornoway. A former safety officer for the local authority has written to outline what exactly happens if the LPG plant blows up. It doesn't make for pleasant reading.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Views of the weekend

Today was a brilliantly sunny day, and the last light is just fading in the northwest. Although I did not go anywhere, there was sufficient inspiration around to point a camera at over the last few days.

The distortion caused by a frosted window

The flat calm before sunset on Sunday

Choppy waters on Saturday

Local talent on display in the Grinneas nan Eilean exhibition

Easter Sunday

It is sunny although a tad breezy in the Western Isles today. As it is Sunday, things are very quiet out here. Very little moves, apart from the wind and anything stirred up by it.

Talking of the wind, it created a stir on Loch Ness today, when the same yacht had to be rescued for the second time in three days. On the second occasion, it ran aground 50 metres out of Urquhart harbour. The RNLI towed it free and its skipper given a lecture on setting forth in suitable conditions. Canoeists got into difficult near Invermoriston yesterday afternoon, when their vessel capsized in rough conditions. One of them reportedly was barely unable to walk due to hypothermia. He had been in the water for 20 minutes. The RNLI wish to reinforce the message that conditions on Loch Ness, which is more than 20 miles long, can be as bad as out in the open sea.

Today is Easter Sunday - I hope everybody is having a nice one this year.

Saturday, 11 April 2009


In a retrospective mood tonight. Runrig's unsurpassed album Long Distance is playing in the background, which puts me back to the early days of Northern Trip. The winter of 2004/5, when I was in Kershader, 12 miles south of here (22 miles by road). It was the CD I was always listening to on my portable player in those dark evenings. I don't think any of you who read my journal nowadays were reading it at that time. The two who did (and commented regularly) have disappeared from my (on-line) life. At the time, I was staying at the Ravenspoint Centre in the tiny hamlet of Kershader, and would go to Stornoway by bus every second or third day. A journey of about 45 minutes and £3.60 return. After doing my business on the library computer I'd go for some lunch in one of Stornoway's restaurants. Having gotten whatever shopping was required, I'd go back to Lochs (the area where Kershader lies) on the bus at 12.30 if I was in a hurry to get back. Well - hurry is not a word that carries any meaning in this island. It would drop me off by the road junction in Balallan, and I'd have to walk the 5 miles back to Kershader. I would think nothing of doing that, it took me 90 minutes. A later bus from Stornoway, at 2.20pm, would provide a connection that would drop me off by the door of Ravenspoint. On other days, I'd be tramping the moors of the area through the day - making sure to return to a road by nightfall.

That is now 4½ years ago, and a closed chapter.


Tomorrow will be Easter Sunday. Three years ago, it was a similar time of April - being the 16th of the month in 2006 - when Easter came along. It was also the time that I entered the world we used to call J-land (until AOL pulled the plug on our blogs). Beforehand, I had raised my flag at the not-lamented VIVI-awards in November 2005. The passing of Pamela Hilger, who wrote under AOL screenname his1desire, prompted my full involvement in the community. I had kept an eye on her journal for a while in the weeks leading up to her death on Easter Sunday 2006.

I have found the (former) J-land community to be a friendly and welcoming crowd who, on the whole, take newcomers at face value and accords them a cordial welcome. The support element I have found to be crucial, and it has brought home to me how many folk out there are utterly lonely. And you can be lonely even if you are not strictly speaking alone in the house. Sometimes, there are issues you'd like to talk about that cannot be discussed in the home situation.

The transfer to Blogger, a mad dash in 4 weeks last October, has changed us. The introduction of Facebook and Twitter has leached a lot of journaling away from the blogs themselves, shifting it to those other sites. Although initially I found Facebook a useful addition to blogs, their recent format change has rendered their site cluttered and difficult to keep up with people.

The past 12 months have been difficult for me personally, with a family bereavement and other matters I cannot discuss on an open journal. I do hope that the Jland Community on Blogger will stay together as much as possible, and continue to draw on its strengths.

Easter Weekend

Just to wish everybody out there a happy Easter weekend, and hopefully with better weather than we've got in the Hebrides at the moment. Don't overdo it on the eggs.

Saturday 11 April

Bright but very windy day today - gusts up to galeforce. There is a "mass evacuation on the ferry" today (ignore, nothing serious) but I think it won't be just people being "evacuated".

Investigators have found that a catastrophic gearbox failure, in itself unexplained, caused the helicopter crash that killed 16 off Aberdeenshire on 1 April. There is an extensive article on the BBC website, to which I'll refer for detailed info.

Looking through the news today, I came across the footballer who was handed a yellow card for breaking wind just as a penalty was being taken. The penalty was missed - only the referee heard the noise. Suppose he handed the player a card for a fart.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Good Friday 2009

Rain clearing away east after a beefy shower. It being Good Friday, I am listening to recordings of the Matthaeus Passion by Bach. I am giving you the German, as that is the language of the recording I am viewing on YouTube. The chorale behind the link actually closes the Passion, and the title runs in English: "In tears we are sitting down", and those familiar with the Easter story do not need reminding what juncture that is occurring. In my mind, it rates as the most emotional piece of classical music, and I rate myself as well-versed in that area of music. The St Matthew Passion is not well-known in the Anglo-Saxon world (UK and USA), but is widely performed in Holland and Germany on this day.

Happy Easter.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

A few of this week's pics

Cyclone Jade

Jade is a tropical cyclone that is currently moving south from Madagascar, and will soon disappear off the weather maps. The storm moved along the east coast of the Indian Ocean island over the past few days, claiming 8 lives and making 3300 people homeless. The cyclone season is ending by the end of this month, and has once more claimed many lives and caused much devastation in Madagascar, one of the poorest nations in the world. In January, two cyclones hammered the island at the same time - Fanele from the west and Eric from the east.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning

I was asked on Twitter this morning which website issues warnings for paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). This danger involves shellfish (bivalve molluscs), which ingest algae from the seawater. The toxins contained in the algae accumulates in the shellfish and can accumulate to dangerous levels. Each week, samples are taken from waters around Scotland and Northern Ireland and are assayed using a method called HPLC for the presence of the toxins. The results are published here.

It is worth bearing in mind that algae are plants, and using sunlight and photosynthesis for their energy requirement. Therefore, algal blooms will occur mostly in summer with their attendant risk of PSP. They are becoming an increasing problem, due to pollution like run-off of fertiliser from the land into the sea.

If PSP levels reach the warning level, local authorities will issue a press release specifying which area has been closed to shellfish harvesting. As far as I can tell, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar issued such a prohibition in 2006 on Loch Roag - a major shellfish harvesting area.

Thursday 9 April

Overcast and drizzly at the moment, but the sun is trying to come through. We can expect a force 8 southerly gale later today and a maximum of 15C. Current temperature is 8C, so I've got doubts about that. Those living near the sea will be aware that we are having springtides at the moment. This affects ferry sailings around our coasts. The service between Leverburgh in Harris (55 miles south of here) and Berneray (off Uist) is reduced to one sailing a day (from 3) due to low tides. It also affects the flights at Barra airport (which is a beach). This combination of factors led one visitor to exclaim 2 years ago: "What a place! At low tide the ferry can't sail and at high tide the planes can't fly!"

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


I often relay stories of rescues out at sea, or in distant mountain ranges. Those of you who used to read the predecessor to this blog, Northern Trip, may remember the day that there was a rescue just yards from my position. Literally.

1 July 2006
Just as we're having lunch, the sound of the helicopter becomes noticeable. The helicopter is right outside the house, hovering over the basin. Hotel Lima is tending to a yachtsman that we noticed earlier, struggling to control his boat in the force 6 winds. His boat lies overturned, and a winchman is going down to assist the hapless sailor. Newton Street very quickly fills up with spectators, the police are in attendance, directing traffic and all who are outside are drenched by the water which the helicopter's updraft is spraying around. The yachtsman manages to make dry land under his own steam - his own two legs. Meanwhile, the wrecked boat lies on its side in the basin, and slowly drifts towards its mouth. The lifeboat moves to the mouth of the basin and launches a dinghy. There is a sandbar across the basin, which makes it impossible for boats to leave it at low tide, and the tide is falling right now. The wreck is towed to Goat Island, where the damage is assessed. The boat is not holed, so it's left anchored on a mooring.

More pictures here.

Wednesday 8 April

I thought it was going to be a nice day, but that was before the showers started. Hey ho, it's only April.

It is reported that 97% of all emails are now unwanted and unsolicited spam. Worldwide, 86 out of every 10,000 computers is infected with malware and potentially part of a so-called botnet. There is no reason to panic - one very good prevention is to keep the software up-to-date.

In L'Aquila, the scene of Monday's earthquake, 15 people are still missing. I cannot find an up-to-date casualty toll (247 at 7 am this morning). The devastation is severe, and it is said that L'Aquila will not be able to function properly for some time.

Down in London, evidence has emerged that a man who died during last week's G20 protests was allegedly pushed over by a police officer. After remonstrating with officers whilst on the ground, he walked away and collapsed with a heart attack. He was going home after a day's work, selling newspapers. This is now subject to an inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and calls are going out for a criminal investigation.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Jokes off the seawall

I am adding more things to my jokey journal - got loads more to put in. Go and have a laff.

Tuesday 7 April

It is pouring with rain this morning, although the odd bright spell does pass along. Winds are strong, but that does not help to move the rain away. April showers and no mistake.

At least 179 people have died in the earthquake in central Italy. Rescuers are still combing the rubble of collapsed buildings in the city of L'Aquila and surrounding towns, occasionally withdrawing when an aftershock occurs. Another severe earthquake occurred near the Kurill Islands in the Pacific (northeast of Japan) at around 0430 GMT this morning; although measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale, there are no reports of damage or tsunami waves.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Obama - either way

I am interested to note the starkly divergent views on Barack Obama, now that he has been in office for some 10 weeks. I cannot help but notice the distrust and cynicism with which he is being greeted in some sections of American society - and I am not being personal towards anyone on here. As far as I can tell, people in the USA are deeply mistrusting of all politicians. Even a new broom like Obama appears to be instinctively treated with that approach. The man is a great speaker, but the final reckoning will lie in his actions, and the results of those actions. From my position, 3,500 miles away in Europe, it is not possible to judge whether what I see on the TV or on here is a reliable guide towards Mr Obama's actions.

At the moment, the president is in Europe and Asia, and seems to be hitting the right notes most of the time. Everybody is falling over him, and probably quite relieved to see a new broom who is speaking a different tone to his predecessor(s). Again, actions speak louder than words. But, 10 weeks is a very short term to judge any politician newly in power.

Hurricane season

On May 15th, just over 5 weeks from now, the East Pacific hurricane season will start. The North Atlantic season, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, will commence on June 1st. If you live in an area likely to be affected by hurricanes, please start to review your preparations now. As per usual, the National Hurricane Center in Miami has an excellent article of advice. Do review.
When the season starts in earnest, I will copy details of hurricanes approaching land on this journal. Regular updates will be carried on my Tropical Cyclones blog, but ALWAYS go to the NHC site for the latest information.

A hurricane is a useful mechanism for our planet to syphon the sun's energy, beamed onto the tropics to higher latitudes. There is enough energy in one average system to power planet earth's human population 200 times over. In other words, nothing can be done to divert a storm's path. Apart from strong wind, the other dangers associated with hurricanes lie in heavy rains (causing flooding) and a tidal storm surge, which in extreme cases can be as much as 25 feet high - as demonstrated at Galveston last year. Follow all official orders and advice. Trying to ride a hurricane against official advice is jeopardising your life.

Monday 6 April

Increasing cloud heralding the arrival of rain this afternoon. As if we haven't had enough rain yesterday; it never stopped.

An earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale has reportedly killed dozens of people in the Italian town of L'Aquila, 60 miles northeast of Rome. The deathtoll is set to rise further, as remote villages are accessed. Nearly thirty years ago, a strong earthquake killed 3,000 near Naples. Italy lies across a major faultline in the earth's crust, giving rise to 4 active volcanoes and much seismic activity.

Locally, it is reported that the Arnish Fabrication Yard, a mile from my position across Stornoway Harbour, is set to reopen in the next few weeks or months. This means a welcome boost to a dire employment situation, where at one point 600 people were chasing 6 jobs at the local job centre.

More later.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Helicopter tragedy - update

The bodies of all the people who died in the helicopter crash off Aberdeenshire last week have now been recovered.

Blogger Community Photo Challenge

Signs of spring
Taken on 27 March 2009 at Stornoway, Scotland (position 58 degrees North, 7 degrees West).

Helicopter tragedy

Search teams have located the wreckage of the Super Puma helicopter in 330 feet of water, off Rattray Head in northeastern Scotland. It went down last Wednesday, with the loss of all on board. Eight bodies were found in the immediate aftermath of the crash, another seven were recovered from the wreckage on the seabed this afternoon. The 16th body is yet to be found. The black box recorders of the aircraft have been retrieved as well.


That is me finished for good with AOL. I just had a warning from the Resident Shield on my AVG Virus scanner, saying a Trojan (Trojan horse Agent2.ceg) had been found on my computer. It had infected a file on AdAware, and AVG had shunted it to the virus vault. The Trojan had come in on the back of an unsolicited download from AOL called Triton_uk_2.2.25.1\setup.exe. As I said I have not asked for this b****y download at all.

My apologies for anyone who got plagued by my emails from as well. AOL shunted its user profiles over to Bebo in January, and I cannot cope with yet another social networking site. My account with Bebo will be closed down today. I have quite enough to keep up with on Blogger, Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday 5 April

With thanks to Sugar for providing this image of spring, which is still some way off in the islands. Particularly today, when heavy rain and strong winds are strafing the Hebrides.

Found a story about a youngster in southern England who had told an Facebook contact he had taken an overdose. The girl, in Maryland USA, contacted police. They in turn, through the UK Embassy in Washington and police channels in this country managed to locate the boy in time to get him to hospital for treatment. Makes a difference to the horror story from the last few years when chatters in a chatroom sat by and let someone take their life on webcam.

Northern Madagascar is hopefully bracing itself for tropical storm Jade, which is bearing down on the region. I am dismayed at the differing forecasts; the regional forecasting centre on the French island of La Reunion shows the storm veering south down the east coast of Madagascar, whereas the Pacific-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center sees Jade continuing on a westbound course. I tend to agree with the latter, as JTWC's forecast has been shown to be more accurate over the last day or so.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Saturday 4 April

Grey and wet this morning - headache has gone, thank you. Ferry service appears to be back to normal, now that the southeasterly wind has dropped. Plenty of wind in the South Pacific: tropical storm Lin is making its way through the kingdom of Tonga with stormforce winds battering the tropical paradises. This is a late one; the season closes later this month.

My sympathies go out to the friends and family of the 13 victims of the gun siege in Binghamton, NY. Another 40 people were injured; the gunman himself was found dead after police entered the compound. The debate about guns across the pond was revived and remains as divisive as ever, with those in favour pointing to the Constitution and the right to self-defense as well as incidents like Binghamton, and those opposed pointing to the many instances like this to call for tighter control.

An elderly lady in Cornwall took off on her mobility scooter, and she was finally found 5 miles away on a busy road. It took an hour for the machine to be driven back to the point where she got separated from her husband.

Jade Goody's funeral is on today - and that is positively the last I shall say on that subject. It is the top subject on the BBC's News website. Says enough.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Closing notes

And I'm shutting up shop for tonight, as my headache developed into the nasty variety this afternoon. Shame, but the bright sunshine did not help at all. More tomorrow.

Ferry troubles

Our ferry had a spot of bother with an on-shore stiff breeze this pm. Upon reaching the harbour, the MV Isle of Lewis could not safely berth at number 3 pier, so she shunted round to the far side of the pier and disembarked and embarked footpassengers. At 2.50pm, she moved to number 1 pier, from where MV Muirneag had meanwhile departed to wait outside the harbour, to repeat the process for cars. Nonetheless, the ferry has just returned from the evening crossing from Ullapool, 80 minutes late.

Friday 3 April

Trying to shake off a developing headache, but with the weather being what it is, I'm probably not going to succeed: Brilliantly sunny today, but with a hazy in the distance and a brisk southerly wind. We are once more defying the forecast for a maximum temperature of 12C: the mercury has inched up to 14C in actual fact and could go a degree or so higher yet.

A very sad story today about an elderly man who lost his home to a lottery scam. We are all familiar with scam emails, saying we have won a huge amount in a lottery - that we never bought tickets for, or submitted any details towards. Letters to that effect also do the rounds, and at least two people in southwestern Scotland have fallen victim to that.
General advice: ignore emails and letters like that. If it seems too good to be true: it usually is.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Evenings opening out

The ferry came in at 8.10 pm this evening, practically in full daylight. Now that the equinox is past, and the clocks have gone forward, the evenings are really lengthening. At 9pm, there was still a little light in the sky. It never ceases to amaze me.

I read somewhere this week that with the advent of Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites, the emphasis is shifting away from blogs. In our community, kicked out of AOL last October, this is particularly in evidence. In a way, it is a shame. Facebook has gone through a revamp, which is not exactly an improvement. Twitter is something that can easily overwhelm you.

Earlier this week, I received a copy of my photobook Lewis Light. And it was less than perfect, with blotches and all. So I complained, and I am getting a new copy, for free, from Good service, but I'll hang fire until I receive the new book.

Thursday 2 April

Nice sunny if blustery day. Temperature no great shakes, 10 degrees, but then we are surrounded by the cold, cold Atlantic.

In the North Sea, 200 miles east of here, an operation is now underway to recover the bodies of 8 men still missing from the helicopter which went down off the Aberdeenshire coast nearly 24 hours ago. The remains of the 8 found yesterday were brought ashore at Aberdeen overnight. AIS Aberdeenshire is showing a clutter of vessels off Rattray Head. All flights with the type of helicopter involved in this incidents have been cancelled today.

Police have confirmed that the body recovered from Loch Bi in South Uist a few weeks ago is that of Simon Macmillan, who went missing on Boxing Day 2008. His funeral will be held in the island on Saturday. He was 21; his death is not treated as suspicious.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Closing notes

Approaching midnight after a day of experimenting with Flock (too cluttered, although potentially useful) and monitoring a tragedy some 200 miles from here. I think all hope is now fading fast for the 8 people still missing from that helicopter that went down off Rattray Head, north of Aberdeen. Eight bodies have been recovered from the water and are currently en-route to Aberdeen on board MV Caledonian Victory. The AIS for North East Scotland told its own story, with a clutter of ships in the area of the accident earlier this evening.

More tomorrow.

Helicopter crash - update

Latest reports suggest that all 16 on board the helicopter, which crashed into the sea 40 miles north of Aberdeen, may have died. The bodies of 10 were spotted in the water, indicating that the aircraft crashed rather than made a controlled landing on the water.

These reports are as yet unconfirmed.

Aurora Borealis

The Northern Lights should become more noticeable over the coming few years. In the year 2012, the sun should reach a maximum in a 11-year cycle of activity. This means that areas of Earth near its poles (both North and South) will see an increase in the Northern / Southern Lights. Apart from it being pretty, the Aurora can accompany severe magnetic storms in the earth's atmosphere. This is caused by charged particles being blasted our way by the sun. As they are captured by the ionosphere (a layer in the atmosphere), they can generate a magnetic pulse. In an event in March 1989, this pulse was so strong that it tripped out electricity networks across the USA and Canada. The accompanying Aurora was visible as far south as Cuba.

Flock - part 1

The one thing I am not liking about Flock is the way they handle imported feeds. I downloaded my feeds from Google Reader, and I have those categorised into two sections for  J-land (blogs I read regularly, and others I have on file), news, Scottish blogs, etc. Well, that got messed up a little on uploading into Flock. Can live with that though.

You can also write blog posts through the browser, monitor Twitter as well as Facebook. I am getting less enthusiastic about Facebook, but that is nothing to do with Flock.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Helicopter ditching

A helicopter is reported to have ditched into the North Sea off the east-coast of Scotland at around 2pm this afternoon, an hour ago. A major rescue effort is underway, with lifeboats, a reconnaisance aircraft and search-and-rescue helicopters being directed to the area, 35 miles east of Crimond in Aberdeenshire. Will update as news comes in.

Back in February, a Puma helicopter ditched into the North Sea about 125 miles east of Aberdeen. An alarm is thought to have failed, and the aircraft had flown into a fogbank upon approaching the oilplatform it was heading for. All 18 on board survived the incident without injury.

Flock Browser

I am currently exploring the Flock browser. It has come a long way since I first looked at it a few years ago. Today's version allows you to pull all your social networking strands together in the one browser - Twitter, Blogger, Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket and others. Looks like a useful piece of kit, and one that is not very widely used.

Wednesday 1 April

So what April Fool fooled you? Or what April Fool did you play on others? I nearly got taken in by Google's Cadie (see their homepage today), much like Google Tisp a few years ago. Remember that? Internet connection through the sewerage system.

Nice sunny day in Stornoway, but I do not trust the cloudscape or the fact that we have a reasonable breeze going at the moment. It is supposed to get up to 16C this afternoon; could yet happen, it's 12C at the moment (midday).

A yacht that came adrift in galeforce winds at Rodel, Harris, last week had tried to tie up to a mooring buoy. Unfortunately, the buoy was no longer attached to the seabed. This had apparently been reported for the past 3 months, but no action was ever taken. The yachtsman had sought shelter in Rodel Bay because of the conditions. The buoy is owned by the local council, and they are now looking into the matter. The yacht was holed below the waterline and nearly sank.