View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

MV Muirneag

The Muirneag is the aging ferry boat that takes lorries and other haulage vehicles back and forth across the Minch. It leaves Stornoway each evening at 23.30 (except for Sunday, when this time is 00.30 on Monday morning, in order not to offend the Sabbaterians) and returns at 08.00 the next morning. Muirneag is not popular in Ullapool, on the mainland, because it docks at 3 am with a lot of noise from its engines and the movement of heavy vehicles in the village. The ship was built in 1979 and was previously active around Northern Ireland. Muirneag is not exactly top of the heap for technological advancement. The ship is difficult to manoeuver in high winds, which frequently leads to cancellations of its sailings in winter.

Muirneag is our lifeline, it brings all our food if anything. She has had a checkered career in the Minch; I vividly remember the time she had to run before a force 12 storm in November 2005, which saw her 60 miles north of the Butt of Lewis, well on her way to the Faeroes, before the captain saw an opportunity to turn round. Last year, her rudders failed, which resulted in the ship running into the Castle Grounds, opposite the town, nearly knocking over an early morning runner, who was going for his constitutional on the shoreline path. This morning, the poor old Muirneag crashed into the pier at Ullapool, damaging the installation. As a result, the passenger ferry Isle of Lewis was not able to carry out her customary 7 am sailing, and all traffic was redirected south, to Tarbert and Skye. What the cause of this morning's accident was is not clear; the weather was good and there was no high wind.

Visit to Port of Ness

Port of Ness beach

Distant houses at Eorodale looking over the surf at Port of Ness

Port of Ness harbour at low tide

Beach House restaurant

Behind Port of Ness

Title picture

I've once more changed the title picture, this time showing Stornoway's Inner Harbour last Friday afternoon. It was very quiet, as the image shows.

Industrial accidents

Bhopal is one of those names that has gone down in the annals of the 20th century, comparable with Seveso and Chernobyl. Bhopal, a city in India, hosted a plant, owned by the Union Carbide company of the USA. On December 3rd, 1984, it accidentally released methyl-isocyanate into the environment. As a result, 25,000 people are thought to have died since. Many others have suffered symptoms of poisoning, not just due to MIC, but other chemicals as well. A BBC report this evening showed people with birth defects and growth retardation, to mention but two symptoms. Union Carbide abandoned the plant, leaving its toxic chemicals to seep into the environment. Compensation of £700 was paid to victims, a derisory sum by 1984 standards. Wikipedia has an excellent article on Bhopal, from which the image (left) has been linked.

Union Carbide showed a callous disregard for the safety of the community in which it operated a plant, and was never brought to account over the 1984 disaster. UC plainly demonstrates that it ranks amongst those in the developed world who abuse the developing world to get rich quick over the back of the poor, irrespective of the consequences. Big money talked in this case, and the poor of India paid the price.

Seveso, you ask? Go back 8 years before Bhopal and move a few thousand miles to the northwest, to northern Italy. A poorly monitored industrial chemical process (left, image courtesy Wikipedia) goes out of control, and a huge quantity of dioxins, the most poisonous chemicals known to (and made by) man is released. The outcome is as yet not known, even now, 33 years later. No humans have died, but animal and plant life did suffer.

Chernobyl? The nuclear reactor (left) that exploded in present-day Ukraine, north of Kiev in April 1986. Somebody decided to run an experiment by not controlling the nuclear processes in a reactor. Result: a fire and a release of radio-activity that reached Scotland.

These three names rank among the worst industrial accidents of the 20th century, with far-reaching consequences. All could have been prevented, and in the latter two cases, lessons appear to have been learnt. Not in the case of Bhopal, as I have outlined in my comment.

Wednesday evening

Went to Port of Ness, 25 miles north of Stornoway, by bus to sample the cuisine of the Beach House restaurant there, which opened a week or so ago. Its predecessor, Sulair, relocated to a hotel in Stornoway. I only knew it to be closed. The weather took a decided turn for the worse, but kindly waited for nightfall (after 4pm) to send buckets of rain our way. The mainland hills, 45 miles to the east, looked as if they had taken delivery of snow. I'll upload my pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday 2 December

Although it's still windy, the wind has dropped down a notch or two to force 6, from force 9 yesterday afternoon. The sun is peeping through the clouds here and there, and the ferry is sailing again, after missing the afternoon crossing yesterday.

I am pleased to note that the British yachtsmen, who had been detained by the Iranian authorities since last week, have now been freed. Following a delay due to a religious holiday, the Revolutionary Guard got round to interrogating the sailors and it transpired that their presence in Iranian waters had been a mistake. The five crewmembers of the "Kingdom of Bahrain" were released and towed into international waters earlier this morning.

If you click on certain newspaper sites more than 5 times in a day, you may be required to pay for further access. In the battle between newspapers and the internet, Google appears to have blinked first.