View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Friday, 31 August 2012

Friday 31 August

The last day of the month, and the 15th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. In the early hours of 31 August 1997, she died of injuries sustained in a car crash in a Parish underpass. One of the most popular royals, her death led to a massive, nationwide (and beyond) outpouring of grief, something that was missed by the Royal Family - until it was almost too late. I have seen no reference to the anniversary in British websites; the reminder came from Dutch broadcaster NOS.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar [Western Isles Council] has seen the light and scrapped the community skips. Dotted all over the islands, the green skips are available for people to dump their waste into; whether it be defunct household appliances, metal, wood - it was always there. The scrapping of this service will backfire spectacularly, because the uplift from people's homes costs £20 for up to 5 items. Knowing the economic hardship, suffered by many islanders, we can duly expect an increase in fly-tipping. The excuse, for excuse it is, is that the skips are a hazard for children who may be injured when they play in the skips. That is something I find less than likely; the aperture for putting stuff into the skips stands 4 feet off the ground. The reason that refuse workers may get injured through handling the contents of the skips can only be met with scorn.

Today was a day of overcast skies and occasional rain. It wasn't really cold, 15C / 59F, but neither was it vastly warm. The next few days will see more rain and wind. On Monday, the remains of hurricane Kirk will pay us a flying visit - just a near-gale.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Thursday 30 August

A bright and sunny day, but getting a bit cooler than recently - we reached 15C / 59F. A complete turn-around from yesterday. In most places in the UK, the summer has been a complete wash-out. We have had one of our driest summers on record. Tonight will see a pronounced dip in temperatures, with a possible grass frost in some of the mainland glens.

The search is continuing, both above and under water, for the body of the man who went missing on Sunday in Loch Gairloch, 45 miles to the southeast on the Scottish mainland. I have doubts whether he will actually be found, but for the sake of the families involved, I do hope that will be the case.

It remains busy on the tropical cyclones front, but the worst of the effects of Isaac appears to be over. The storm is weakening over the southern USA, which continues to receive huge amounts of rainfall. Of longer term concern is hurricane Kirk, which will merge with a frontal system by next Tuesday to haunt the British Isles. It is yet too far off to determine what newly formed tropical storm Leslie will do. This system is currently expected to veer north to the east of Bermuda.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Wednesday 29 August

An overcast day with copious amounts of rainfall. The weatherstation at Flesherin reported 18 mm, but I suspect that a raingauge at Balallan will have reported rather more than that. I accompanied one of my Facebook contacts to South Lochs. Upon entering the district at Balallan, the rain came down heavily - but it abated as we proceeded further east. Near the coast, there was no rain. On the way back, the rain was torrential at Balallan, with burns in spate flooding the road, and making for very difficult driving conditions. Further north, the rain lessened somewhat. I pity the cruisepassengers who were given tours of the island today. But then, you don't come here for the weather. In other words, autumn is here, and here to stay.

Isaac has rumbled ashore in Louisiana and has dumped more than 22 inches (550 mm) of rain within 24 hours. The storm will weaken gradually as it moves even more gradually north up the Mississippi and Ohio valleys, finally fading near the Great Lakes. Another tropical storm, Kirk, is in the central Atlantic Ocean, and is no threat to land.

Tuesday 28 August

A very windy day with good old fashioned downpours, and feeling quite a bit cooler than of late. Nonetheless, the rain is welcome after a protracted spell of below-average rainfall. Locally, the news continues to be dominated by the canoe tragedy in Gairloch which is known to have claimed three young lives, of children aged 2, 5 and 5. A man aged 32 is missing presumed dead. Although a shoreline search of the Ruadh Reidh peninsula continues, it is my private opinion that his body will have been carried out to sea, into the Minch and into the Atlantic beyond. It is very unlikely to ever be found.

Hurricane Isaac is closing in on New Orleans, seven years to the day after Katrina caused devastation and massive loss of life. Typhoon Bolaven has moved ashore in North Korea and is no longer a tropical cyclone as it traverses Manchuria. Typhoon Tembin is moving north towards the Korean peninsula and is weakening rapidly.

82 years ago today

The family had finished packing up all their earthly belongings. The ship was in the bay, and all were making ready to go aboard, leaving their home of many centuries behind. The dogs couldn't come on the ship and would not be left behind. The head of the household took the family bible and opened it on the table, on the chapter of Exodus. Beside the Holy Book, he laid a handful of grain. They all went outside and walked to the boat which took them to the navy boat in the bay.

All the villagers of Hiort were evacuated on 29 August 1930. Their houses, cleits and culture were left behind. Over the years, a record was created of the culture, the houses were reroofed and the cleits investigated. But St Kilda died that day.

Monday, 27 August 2012

A tale of two typhoons

Courtesy NASA
Typhoon Bolaven, a category IV typhoon, is barrelling north into the Yellow Sea, whilst maintaining a gossamer thread link to its half-sized brother Tembin south of Taiwan. Tembin is a category I system.

Bolaven is weakening as it heads for landfall in North Korea, which will receive large amounts of rainfall.
Tembin is going to be dragged north by its larger neighbour. 

Monday 27 August

A day of very mixed fortunes. After an abysmal start to the day, with heavy rain, it brightened up - only for the wind to ratchet up a notch to force 7, with gusts to 45 mph. As I type this, the sun is going down and the wind is still blowing. We'll keep the wind well into tomorrow.

Yesterday, a canoe overturned in the sea a few miles west of Gairloch, on the mainland. In it were two families, out for the day from Invergordon, north of Inverness. One of the adults went missing and three young children, aged 2, 5 and 5, have drowned. Another child and another adult managed to gain the shore to raise the alarm. The incident was the first headline on national news; initially only two youngsters had died, but it was announced at 7pm tonight that a third one had succumbed to the ordeal. The Coastguard have spent the day scouring Loch Gairloch for the missing man, but the search was changed to a recovery operation which was stood down when the weather deteriorated during the afternoon. Gairloch is about 45 miles southwest of Stornoway and has much the same weather patterns. Loch Gairloch is connected to the open waters of the Minch, and is known to have strong tidal currents, particularly on account of the island in the bay.

I took the above image on 26 July 1994. It shows the area where this tragedy played out yesterday.

The northeastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, from Louisiana eastward, are bracing themselves from a strike by tropical storm Isaac, which is forecast to intensify to hurricane force soon. The National Hurricane Center in Miami is predicting a storm surge of 6 to 12 feet along the Louisiana coastline, at precisely the location and date where Hurricane Katrina impacted in 2005. Isaac is expected to be "only" category I; Katrina was a cat III, downgraded from V, when it hit New Orleans. 

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Sunday 26 August

A bright and sunny day, until evening. Cloud has started to stream in from the southwest, ahead of the first autumnal gale of the season tomorrow. We haven't really had strong winds for a long time, but our unusually long quiet spell is coming to a close, as summer comes to a close.

Summer is definitely not coming to a close in the tropics. Whilst everybody is panicking in Florida over tropical storm Isaac, the folk on the Japanese island of Okinawa have sat through their worst typhoon in 50 years. Bolaven came blasting through at midday GMT, with winds of more than 110 mph near the centre of the storm. The island's airport reported 60 mph. Meanwhile, Isaac is headed west northwest past Key West and looks set to intensify in the Gulf of Mexico. The NHC carries 3-hourly updates on this system.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Hurricane update - 25 August

Tropical storm ISAAC is currently traversing eastern Cuba, with maximum sustained windspeeds of 50 knots (60 mph). The storm will continue to track westnorthwest over the next 24 hours or so, before veering sharply north into the Florida Keys and southern Florida, reaching those parts as a category I hurricane. The system will intensify further, and make final landfall somewhere between the Florida Panhandle and southeastern Louisiana by Tuesday or Wednesday at 85 knots, 100 mph. The National Hurricane Center is issuing 3-hourly advisories, which will increase in frequency as the storm starts to directly impact US territory.

Typhoon TEMBIN is located southwest of Taiwan and is currently looping around to the northeast whilst strengthening. The latest warning quotes its strength at 75 knots or 85 mph. Tembin will skirt the eastern seaboard of Taiwan, which it has already blasted on Thursday and Friday.

Some 750 miles to the north, typhoon BOLAVEN is making directly for Okinawa, which it will impact at 120 knots or 140 mph. Beyond that, the storm will weaken as it heads up the Yellow Sea to impact North Korea. The storm will cause huge problems in Korea, northeastern China and southeastern Russia with vast amounts of rainfall.

Saturday 25 August

I just logged onto a rather buggy Twitter this evening when the news caught my eye that Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, has died at the age of 82. I do not remember the moon landings in July 1969 (I was just short of my 5th birthday), but have always recognised it as one of the biggest achievements of mankind. To quote Neil Armstrong: he took a small step for man, but a big step for mankind. To quote one Twitter user: he has now taken the hardest step of all.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Friday 24 August

Another day of sunshine and showers, and a tad cooler.

The building shown above dates back to 1849. It was established by the wife of former landowner Sir James Matheson as the Lady Matheson Seminary, which has fallen into disuse. Following a spat between the local council and a preservation trust, it now looks likely that this ancient edifice will fall into ruins.

I sent off another four cards for postcrossing, which has now seen me sending and receiving 120 cards over the past 18 months. Three cards were never registered by their recipients - maybe the cards did not reach their destinations.

Anders Breivik has been sentenced to 21 years in prison for the murder of 77 people in and around Oslo in July 2011. He was declared sane, which the man appeared to regard as a triumph. However, having to spend your life in solitary confinement would not exactly be a triumph. It certainly won't bring back the dead, but is a degree of justice for those left behind.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Thursday 23 August

Another day of mixed fortunes in the Outer Hebrides. The cruiseliner MSC Lirica came to call, discharging Spanish tourists for a whistlestop tour of the island. It left at 6pm for Gourock, about 30 miles west of Glasgow. We had sunshine and showers amidst temps of 16C. The longer term forecast posts the first autumnal gale for next Tuesday, August 28th. Meanwhile in the tropics, Isaac is having trouble pulling itself together, and Joyce is being pulled apart. I would not be surprised to find Joyce gone by morning. In the Pacific, Tembin and Bolaven are two category III typhoons. The former is about to pass over southern Taiwan, whilst the latter is powering up on approach to Okinawa. That island will see Bolaven at 120 knots, about 140 mph, in a few days' time.

A few years ago, I would blog up to a dozen posts a day, particularly on the old Northern Trip blog. Nowadays, I post all those items on Facebook and Twitter, and don't give them another thought. However, I am temporarily reverting back to old ways, by discussing a news item on the BBC - I gave my opinion on Facebook, but will expand further here.

An abuse charity is planning to burn copies of the erotic trilogy "Fifty Shades", which apparently features explicit descriptions of sexual behaviour, possibly non-consensual. When I hear of books being burns, I immediately recoil in horror. In 1930s Germany, books that were displeasing the Nazi regime were burned across the land. Fifty Shades is controversial, and I will not read it. I condemn (sexual) abuse in all its forms, and am a verbal supporter of those, like Wearside Women in Need, who will provide aid and succour to those unfortunate women who are victims of abuse. I know one or two personally. However, the charity in question defeats the object of its own exercise because by purchasing the books, they support the author and their publisher. It will also publicise the books further, prompting people to go out and read them. In a civilised society, we do NOT burn books. If there is an issue with a publication, there should be a healthy discussion. Education is a much better and more constructive option.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Newmarket crash

Police have today released the name of the casualty who was killed in a two-car crash at Newmarket, a mile or two outside Stornoway, on Monday afternoon. She was Karin Prior, an occupational therapist aged 50. Her work colleague is critically ill in hospital in Inverness. The driver of the other vehicle sustained non-life threatening injuries. Although Karin was due to be transferred to Inverness as well, she passed away before this was possible. Local news website Hebrides News has printed a heart-rending tribute by Karin's daughter, Bethany.

My thoughts go out to Karin's family and friends as they come to terms with their loss.

Tuesday 21 August

Although the day started out thoroughly wet, with plenty of heavy showers, the afternoon was much brighter and even brought a few sunny spells. A concentrated batch of showers closed the day at around 9.30pm, just after darkness had fallen. We're only a month away from the equinox, and the evenings are markedly closing in. Long forgotten are the long evenings of mid summer, when it doesn't get dark until 11pm. 9pm is more like it now.

In the Atlantic Ocean, the 9th tropical depression of the season has formed, and it looks as if it means business for later in the week. Two typhoons are rumbling in the Pacific Ocean, posing a threat to Taiwan and the coast of eastern China.

Just before 8pm tonight, the main road between Stornoway and Barvas (on the west coast) was reopened following yesterday's fatal accident. Police are still contacting next-of-kin, meaning the identity of the casualties are being withheld. We know that a woman died, another was injured and is stable in hospital, and a man is critically ill in hospital in Inverness.

Hurricane update - 22 August

Three systems that need to be monitored very closely.

Typhoon TEMBIN is carrying winds of 105 mph as it heads for central Taiwan. The storm will bring these winds, alongside very heavy rainfall to the island state late tomorrow local time. Three counties are under warning; this number is likely to increase. Taiwan Weather will carry further updates on these. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu is issuing 6-hourly warnings. In the longer term, Tembin will probably head southwest along the east coast of China, bringing copious amounts of rain to areas that have seen several typhoons already this year.

Tropical storm ISAAC is headed for the Lesser Antilles and will intensify to hurricane strength on Friday. The storm will clip the island of Hispaniola, pass over Cuba and reintensify in the Florida Straits to make landfall in southern Florida at 80 knots (95 mph) in the early hours of next Monday. At five days' notice, this forecast carries a large margin of error. The National Hurricane Center in Miami is issuing 3-hourly advisories.

Tropical disturbance 96L will probably be declared depression 10L later today as it travels west past the 35th degree longitude in the central Atlantic Ocean. Like Isaac, 10L will be a Cape Verde cyclone.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Monday 20 August

A mostly overcast day with some rain into the afternoon, and a bit cooler than of late. We just about managed 16C / 60F. The heat in the south of the UK and on the adjacent continent has also abated and we're headed for some slightly autumnal weather, with wind and rain moving in off the Atlantic over the next few days. A few thousand miles to the south, tropical storm Gordon has caused some very windy conditions in the Azores. The system is currently dissipating between the islands and mainland Portugal.

I have more or less completed the transfer of my links to The site offers the possibility to search for similar collections of links, and an option to form teams of like-minded users. For the moment, my focus is on tropical cyclones as well as on matters Scottish, more specifically Hebridean.

Sunday 19 August

A fairly bright day with good sunny spells. We managed 21C / 70F during the afternoon. Unfortunately, the sun went behind the clouds as I went outside to have some lunch. There was a bit of wind and it got rather cool. I was surprised to see the ferry coming in at 1pm, obviously on its return from a morning sailing to Ullapool. Yesterday's rally will have necessitated this extra sailing, which was in the timetable. On Wednesday and Friday, we still have the customary three sailings a day (departing Stornoway at 6 am, 1pm and 7.45pm, to return at 12.15pm, 7pm and 1.45am). This will continue into September. The tourism season is in full flow. Yesterday saw some very high temperatures in continental Europe. My father in eastern Holland was subject to 34C / 93F, which is the equal to the local record of the past 35 years.

I have continued sorting out links on, but am having a job bringing order to the chaos. As each pearltree has a limit of 16 pearls (links), you have to order and reorder. Also, when uploading links from and as well as my browser favourites, the site puts them up in no particular order.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Saturday 18 August

This morning dawned bright and sunny with blue skies. Not three hours later, we had torrential downpours hammering on the roof. It gave us half an inch of much needed rain, but nowhere near enough to make up the deficit. Although it did brighten up a little, we never saw much of the sun. The mercury managed a creditable 18C / 64F.

Spent most of today sorting out several hundred links which I have stored across several accounts on the internet. Using, I managed to sort them into quite a few categories. I still have the browser bookmarks and the links from to sort out, but that's tomorrow's job.

Locally, we had the car rally. This started at 9.40am, at the height of the downpours I started this post with. Yesterday, a stream of vehicles poured off the lunchtime ferry, which were due to participate in today's race. They probably all left again on the 2.30pm sailing for Ullapool, or alternatively will do so tomorrow.

Friday 17 August

An overcast and rather cooler day than of late. Took the opportunity nonetheless to go on a bustrip to Ness, in the north of Lewis, to sample the lunches of a restaurant in Port of Ness which recently reopened. It takes the bus about an hour to cover the 27 miles to Port, dropping people outside their doors along the way. Bus stops are unknown in this island, and even in the town, people just flag down the bus as it approaches.

The 1pm bus was pretty busy, with people from Barvas to Port having come down in the morning for their shopping to return home in the afternoon. We reached Port at 2pm and ambled down the quarter mile of village to the restaurant, which served a decent fish & chips. Upon returning to the junction where the bus passes the village, we found the vehicle parked up outside the driver's house, where he was having  a cuppa. Just waited for him to reappear, and boarded the bus. It went to the primary school in Lionel, did the rounds of Eoropie, Knockaird, Adabrock, Eorodale and Habost to drop all the kiddies; then returned to the school to pick up the 12- and 13-year olds for their jaunt down the main road towards Stornoway. Returned to town at 4.40pm.

Cross Skigersta Road

Port of Ness from Lionel

Knockaird and the Loch Stiapabhat bird reserve

A lonely house at Eorodale, overlooking Port of Ness

Port of Ness harbour

Knockaird from Port of Ness

Borve Melbost

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Thursday 16 August

A slightly cloudier day, although the sun came back following the passage of a shearline at lunchtime. The wind also abated after midday. We once more managed 20C / 68F this afternoon. Yesterday's wildfire is held to be suspicious, as people were seen in the Strawberry Hill area at the time the blaze started.

I have continued to transfer some of my links to I find that most of the shortened links related to local news stories, with one or two others of interest. I have passed information on a group for the Outer Hebrides to the archivists of the local council, who will advise further on how to expand the group - this currently only has six members, and its founder is no longer in post.

I'll close this post with some of yesterday's pics.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Wednesday 15 August

Although it was marginally less warm today, the 20C felt absolutely sublime in the blazing sunshine and strong easterly wind. The southwest of Scotland was being lashed by rain and near-gale force winds; our breeze measured 25 mph. Went for a 3 mile walk to Sandwick and Plasterfield, east and northeast of Stornoway. Plasterfield is quite high up, and the vantage point showed me - a big column of smoke rising from beyond the Castle Grounds. Once more, we have a wildfire, and it was a big thing. In the half hour it took me to walk back to town, the column grew in density (getting more brown) and firecrews from all over the island congregated on the Castle Grounds to put the blaze out. Police are anxious to speak to anyone who may have seen suspicious activity in the Deer Park area. I have not yet uploaded to Flickr any pics of the walk, except for a selection on Facebook. Will post the pics on here in a separate post tomorrow.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Tuesday 14 August

Sunny and warm today, with the mercury rising to 21C / 70F for several hours in the afternoon. It was t-shirt weather, with the windows open and the mild sea breezes carrying the pungent smell of rotting seaweed inside. By 9 pm tonight, the midges had finally come out with a vengeance, and I'm sitting here with very itchy fingers, as the little  blighters went for me as I watered the plants. Drought? Well, we've had less than an inch of rain in all of August, and we're nearly at the halfway mark in that month.

I've been trying to organise my useful links, by looking at my account, and copying anything useful over to Found the Outer Hebrides diigo group languishing in the doldrums of inactivity (it only has six members). Its founder has moved to pastures new, but I'm going to see if there are others who are willing to contribute to it.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Monday 13 August

Overcast and wet at times, but not much cooler than yesterday. We still managed 18C today, which is quite respectable at any time. We saw brief glimpses of the sun, but not as much as on Friday or Saturday.

The school holidays are drawing to a close this week, and although I don't have kids, the controversy over school buses is certainly not passing me by. It appears that if a child lives less than two or three miles from its school, they are not entitled to free bus travel. For secondary school age kids (12 or over), the limit is 3 miles. Now, apart from shelling out a couple of quid for the bus, the alternative is walking. Pavements are unheard of out of town, and during the winter, darkness falls as early as 3.30pm. Parents are up in arms over this, by all accounts.

I am continuing my look-ups for WW1 casualties from this island, and today came across a family whose seven sons all served. Three did not live to see 1919. They came from the village of North Tolsta, 15 miles northeast of Stornoway.

Sunday 12 August

Another warm day, with slightly hazier sunshine than yesterday. We managed 21C / 70F at midday, after which the high-level clouds moved in to take the edge off the temperatures.

I watched the closing ceremony of the London Olympics, which was quite spectacular; I'm afraid pop-music is not my scene, so that was lost on me. What was not lost on me was the sense of occasion, that a memorable 16 days have drawn to a close, particularly when the Olympic Flame was extinguished on the stroke of midnight. The 70 days when the Torch travelled the length and width of the UK, passing within a quarter mile of my door on one occasion - it certainly was an Olympics to remember. Next stop: Rio de Janeiro, 2016.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Saturday 11 August

A gorgeous summer's day, with the mercury cresting 20C / 68F this morning. A gentle breeze from the northeast kept the worst of the sun's heat at bay, but flies, creepies, damsel flies and dragon flies had a field day.

There was an open day at the Eye Church (properly designated: Eaglais na h-Aoidhe), 4 miles east of Stornoway on the eastern end of the Braighe isthmus, which links Point to mainland Lewis. The church, which dates back to the 14th century, had fallen into disrepair. It is now lovingly being restored at the behest of the Eye Church Trust. As the picture shows, the event was well attended, much helped by the warm weather.

After having a look round, I started the 6½ mile walk back to Stornoway. I began by going down the beach on the northern flank of the Braighe.

At the far end lies the village of Melbost, which shares its village road with Branahuie [Braighe na h-Aoidhe] near the airport. I crossed the main road to Point, the A866, and walked down the shinglebank that leads towards the next hamlet, Holm.

After Holm, the coastline becomes a bit of a maze around fences, cliffs and streams. I managed very well, until this stretch of barbed wire, only a hundred yards short of the Iolaire Memorial. Even the cliffs posed no major problems, although it was a tad hairy past Holm Farm.

The green island with the sharp cleft lies offshore. I had to double back inland to reach the path the Iolaire Memorial. On a beautifully calm day like today it is difficult to imagine that 205 sailors drowned there on New Year's morning 1919 - but it did happen, amidst a force 8 gale. Their loss is still felt in this island.

But even today, the cliffs here claim lives, and following the tragic loss of a 16-year old lad in 1995, two lifebuoys were installed on Holm Point, near the Iolaire Memorial.

From Holm Point, it was a simple walk back to Stornoway, past Stoneyfield Farm, Lower Sandwick and Sandwick Bay.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Friday 10 August

Although the day started fairly cloudy, the sun came out and pushed the mercury to 19C / 66F. It certainly tempted me out for a walk in the Castle Grounds this afternoon. After crossing the Golf Course from the Porter's Lodge to the Marybank Gate, I ventured into the wilds around Strawberry Hill. It took me about 45 minutes to walk to the Marybank Gate, a distance of 2 miles. The next half mile took me 45 minutes, making my way across the very rough terrain. Tussocky heather, rhodondendrons, deep gullies and bogs, not to mention the steep slopes of the hill. Strawberry Hill is 220 feet high.

Path of sorts leading off Strawberry Hill

End of track. How do you mean, drought?

View south from Strawberry Hill Path across the Golf Course Chimney needs sweeping. And it's not the veronica bush that's the sweep

Hurricane update - 10 August

Very busy with tropical cyclones at the moment, although nothing dramatic yet. 
  1. Ernesto is a tropical storm that has crossed the Atlantic and is currently dumping copious amounts of rain over southern Mexico. Although the system is now weakening, it is expected to reemerge over the Eastern Pacific Ocean, and regenerate into that basin's 8th tropical cyclone of the year. It is rare for tropical cyclones to cross between the two basins. Ernesto first appeared as a tropical disturbance on 30th July, around longitude 34 West. At the moment, the system is located at 95 West, meaning it has already traveled 1/6th of the earth's circumference.
  2. 07L is a tropical depression in the central Atlantic Ocean, which is beginning to encounter unfavourable conditions, preventing it from strengthening much. Although the Windward Islands will see it as a tropical storm, the system is not expected to survive much once into the eastern Caribbean. 
  3. Gilma is a former hurricane in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, more than 650 miles from land, which is weakening over waters that are too cold (below 80F) to sustain a tropical cyclone.
  4. The Atlantic still has the remnants of Florence, currently located north of Puerto Rico, drifting west. It is not thought likely that it will turn into a tropical cyclone again. 
  5. Just off Cape Verde we find a tropical disturbance, currently named 93L, which could well turn into a tropical depression within the next couple of hours. It is at this time of year that Cape Verde hurricanes occur, which have the width of the Atlantic to build their power.
  6. The Northwestern Pacific Ocean is also busy. Two disturbances are grumbling away, one near Midway Island, just west of the dateline, and one near Guam. Former typhoon Haikui is giving eastern China a wet day, and former typhoon Kirogi is headed north into the Sea of Ochotsk near Sachalin Island.
 Hurricanes, typhoons, tropical cyclones are all the same thing. It is one of nature's safety valves, designed to syphon excess energy from the sun away from the equator to higher latitudes. Vertically, these systems extend to an altitude of 10 miles (50,000 feet). A combination of the earth's rotation, the energy expended and generated by evaporation and condensation of water serve to create a small but very powerful venting mechanism. Limited only by the frictional effects of water, sustained windspeeds of 180 mph have been observed in the strongest systems. However, in many instances it is not the force of the wind that creates the biggest problem - it is the amount of rainfall. One such system could dump a year's worth of rainfall (as per London average) on an area in a matter of days or even hours. In mountainous terrain, landslides and flash flooding will occur.

I scoff at sensationalism in the media who refer to hurricanes as "monsters" and "killers". It is true that lives are lost, and sometimes in huge numbers, as a result of hurricanes and typhoons. But without them, there would be no life on earth.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Wednesday 8 August

Summer is said to be on its way north. Southern Spain is reporting temperatures of 43C / 109F. Fortunately, we are that far north, we'll be lucky to see anything over 20C / 68F. No sun for us until after dinnertime, and our mercury stopped rising at 14C / 57F. I'm not complaining as it did feel warm today. We tend to set our standards low in this part of the world, but anything over 80F makes me uncomfortable.

I have written extensively about the Pairc Windfarm which appears to be off the agenda. SSE have suggested that a smaller community windfarm could still be on the cards. I'm quite happy that this windfarm is now not going ahead, as it would be a huge blot on the landscape of South Lochs. I have few images of that area, as I was haunting its moors in the winter of 2004/5, not yet in possession of a digital camera. One of these days I will revisit, if I can persuade the bus company to take me the 5 miles down the road from Balallan. Or if I can get my hands on a vehicle.

SSE pulls the plug on the Pairc windfarm

 SSE have today announced that they are withdrawing from the proposed 26-turbine 94 MW windfarm at Pairc (South Lochs) in the Isle of Lewis for environmental reasons. This is major news, for several reasons.
It is good to hear that a major player in the renewable energy market, SSE, now recognises that environmental constraints are a good reasons for not siting a windfarm in sensitive areas. Colonies of golden eagles and other raptors were at increased risk of colliding with the turbine blades. It is to be hoped that this approach will be applied to other windfarm schemes across the Scottish Highlands.

Bearing this in mind, the question could be asked whether the Muaitheabhal and Pentland Road windfarms in Lewis, which have been approved, should not now be reconsidered on their environmental (de)merits. Construction of both schemes is due to begin within the next 12 months.

The implications on a local level are equally major. The Pairc windfarm was one of the schemes that would contribute towards the renewable energy output to be generated in the island, to justify the construction of the interconnector (sub sea cable) to the Scottish mainland. At present, only the Muaitheabhal windfarm in Eishken and the Pentland Road scheme appear to be contributing - and I am not certain that the threshold is now going to be met.

The potential construction of a windfarm on the Pairc Estate has been one of the stumbling blocks for progressing the community buy-out in South Lochs. Had SSE proceeded with the windfarm, this would have caused the value of the land to skyrocket out of the reach of the Pairc Trust, who have striven for nearly a decade to take the estate into community ownership. This being no longer the case, the likelihood of a successful buy-out appears to have taken a substantial boost.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Tuesday 7 August

An overcast day, opening into spells of brightness. We managed 15C; later in the week, it should get warmer. The cruiseliner Silver Cloud called in between 8 am and 3pm for a visit, allowing its passengers a glimpse of the town and the island before heading to Belfast, London and the Mediterranean. Next liner will be the MSC Lirica, which is due on Saturday, as well as on August 23rd. This year, just over 20 cruiseliners will be visiting our small port.

It was reported that all 23 railway open level crossings in Scotland (i.e. crossings without barriers) will now have barriers fitted. This follows a string of accidents in which lives were lost on such crossings. In one incident, three people were killed on a crossing at Halkirk, in the far north of Scotland, when their car was struck by a train in 2009. Whilst applauding the improvement in safety, the question remains in my mind whether it will ever stop the idiots who will try to jump the barriers in their cars, not being prepared to wait the minute or two.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Monday 6 August

I'm birthday boy today and kept it a quiet day. Many thanks for the nearly 70 Facebook contacts who congratulated me on the occasion. Had some cake and a glass of wine, followed by a meal of cabbage, apple, onions and potatoes, one of my faves. I also watched parts of the Olympics this morning, with some track and field events on the menu. Managed to avoid most of the news-based hype, which I dislike.

Another space craft has landed on the planet Mars, 155 million miles away in space. The Curiosity Rover will roam the Red Planet for the next two (Earth) years, looking for signs of past life on the now dead planet.I am following the device on Twitter.

Sunday 5 August

An overcast and grey day, which I spent editing part of the Napier Report, which I transcribed over the past 2 years. I also did my customary daily batch of about 10 names from the WW1 casualty list from this island. I also watched a fair bit of coverage from the Olympic Games in London. I take a passive interest in athletics and weightlifting; how can anyone hoist 450 lb above their heads is above mine, if you catch my drift. A brief post, admittedly, but it's about Sunday, and therefore a quiet day.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Saturday 4 August

An overcast, non-descript day in terms of weather. The sunshine that we were promised in yesterday's forecast never materialised. Today being the first Saturday in August meant that the Stornoway Carnival was on. The lack of floats in the procession was made up for by the hundreds of people thronging the town centre. As per usual, the floats are very topical, reflecting recent events in the island. I share a few pictures to underscore that fact.

The third image deserves an explanation. There is usually a funfair during Carnival week, lasting from Tuesday until Saturday night. This year, the council have stipulated that South Beach carpark, where the funfair usually stands, can only be occupied by anything other than parked cars, for one day. <sarcasm>There is such a lack of carparking spaces in the town centre that we can't have any removed from use for any length of time</sarcasm>. Recently, councillors have been issued with their own iPads for council use - hence the vitriolic reference to the machines on the banner.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Friday 3 August

A beautiful summer's day, in spite of the easterly breeze. We managed a creditable 19C / 66F this afternoon, and it tempted me to go out for an amble. I walked through the town to the Cockle Ebb, the estuary of the Laxdale River to the north of Stornoway. I proceeded along its southern bank to the village of Stenish, which I could only reach by taking off socks and shoes and wade through the river. This was not deep, and the water was warm. Those of you who have read my blogs over the past 8 years know that I don't baulk at fording rivers, but it's a bit more pleasant at this time of year. After walking through Stenish (a tiny village), I took the shortcut over the Carse of Melbost, which is directly beside the airport runway, to Sandwick, and returned to my base through the cemetery and along the foreshore at Sandwick. Five miles on the dot.

A B&B proprietor in the west of Lewis is suing Tripadvisor over alleged malicious and inaccurate postings. Tripadvisor is a website where people can rate and review accommodation around the world. The major complaint is malicious postings which are not policed or removed upon presentation of evidence. My gripe against the site is that someone can post a review of an establishment, even if the proprietor of said establishment does not want anything to do with TA. It is NOT possible to have your listing removed from the site.