View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Not under command?

I am currently watching Ship AIS, which shows shipping around Stornoway (and other ports). One of the vessels, the Almi, caught my attention, as it is marked as Not under command. That is a worrying sign. Last time that happened, the ship in question ran aground. As the map below shows, the Almi is currently drifting east, some 15 miles east of Tiumpan Head in Lewis and 7 miles west of Stoer Head (due east of Tiumpan Head). I hope the Coastguard is in contact - might give them a bell.

I can add that the ship has been marked not under command since 8.30pm this evening. Before then, the Almi was travelling southwest down the Minch at 12 knots, although it is headed for the St Lawrence River in Canada - for which it need not go down the Minch. I suspect the vessel has some sort of mechanical failure.


This afternoon, at 1622 GMT, an earthquake occurred with a magnitude of 6.8 on the Richter scale. Its epicentre was located near the Queen Charlotte Islands off the Canadian west coast, some 400 miles northwest of Vancouver. The quake was felt only as 'weak' in Prince Rupert, 300 miles to the north and other towns in the region. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre erroneously reported that a tsunami was generated, but this was NOT the case.

Sunset notes

The sun has set on another short day - it has graced us with 8 hours of its presence today. In a month's time, that timespan will be only a little over 6 hours. The weather has cleared up nicely, and only on the distant horizon do some cumulus clouds loom. The weather radar shows a new band of patchy rain or showers, moving slowly up from the southwest. Visibility is reportedly good, 40 km / 25 miles, but the cloud is obscuring my view of the Applecross Forest. The barometer is low, at 989 mbar as one low pressure system moves away and another approaches. The one following on behind is in the middle of the Atlantic and set to bring us very windy weather on Thursday. And depression no 4 looks pretty hefty at the end of the 84-hour period that the weathercharts show me. November is here, and boy, will we know about it.

Locally, the Pairc Trust, which seeks to take over the land of the Pairc Estate in South Lochs (12 miles south of Stornoway as the crow flies, but 30 miles by road) is going to ballot the residents whether to proceed with a hostile buy-out bid. Under landreform legislation, introduced in 2003, any community is entitled to buy the land off the landowner, willing or unwilling. Until now, community buy-outs have commonly proceeded by amicable arrangement between community trust and land owner, but Pairc may see the first hostile buy-out bid.

In November 2004, just after I came to Lewis, the residents of Pairc voted for a community buy-out; the first such move in the Western Isles. Now, five years later, other bids have succeeded: North Harris, Benbecula, South Uist & Eriskay, Galson - but Pairc is still mired in legalistics, brought about by the land owner who does not want to sell. Why not? Because there are plans afoot to build a hugely profitable windfarm in the Pairc Estate (pop. 400), something that would make the land owner quite rich. Will this windfarm actually go ahead? Well, the presence of golden eagles in the district could put a spanner in the works. For they are a protected species of bird, and windturbines are known to cause the death of many an eagle - those of my readers in California will be aware of that.

Tuesday 17 November

Overcast and quite wet this morning in Stornoway, although there is some brightness creeping up from the south. The current rainfront is moving away to the northeast, with bright spells following along over the Uists. Another belt of showers is showing up on the radar to the north of Ireland, midway between Barra and Malin Head.

And our local authority is cutting back on the number of hours their gritters are on the road. Is that a case of being on the slippery slope? I'm only being half funny there. A few years ago, someone died on the island's main route, the A859 Stornoway to Tarbert road, when his car skidded off the road on a patch of ice. Which was supposed to have been treated.

Anyway, I'm going to have a coffee now, and after that I'll continue comparing two listings from WW1 Rolls of Honour, one published in 1916 and one in 1921. I have already dug up more than 400 missing names, and as I have 1500 names left to go through, there'll be more discrepancies.