View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Sunday 11 March

Commemorating the first anniversary of the Japanese tsunami put me in mind of that other tsunami, seven years ago on Boxing Day 2004. It was triggered by an earthquake of similar magnitude, but had a far worse loss of life - about a quarter of a million people died on the fringes of the Indian Ocean. Another day worthy of remembrance. In exactly six months from now, we'll have the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.

Today was grey and drizzly in Stornoway, with the odd blink of sunshine behind the clouds.
I spent a large part of the afternoon transcribing more evidence from the Napier Commission of 1883 and the Dewar Commission of 1912. I have also unearthed the predecessor of Lord Napier's report, namely that by Sir John McNeill of 1851; in my possession is the successor report to Napier, taken in 1902. The transcriptions take the shape of cleaning up OCR renditions of scanned images of the original documents.

All these reports show the conditions of crofters and cottars (landless people) in the Highlands and Islands, which (particularly following the potato famine of 1846) was particularly dire in 1851. However, things were still so bad in the 1880s that it something not far off an uprising in the west of Scotland, leading to the setting up of the Napier Commission. Sir John A. Dewar headed up a commission to look into the provision of medical services across the Highlands and Islands, which (in 1912) was poor in this part of the world.
You'll be hearing more about this from me in the days and weeks to come.

A year ago today

Friday morning, 11 March 2011. Switched on TV to be greeted by scenes of horror from Japan. An earthquake, measuring 9 on the Richter scale, has hit Japan. Half an hour later, a tsunami of up to 40 feet in height has swept onto the country's eastern coastline, causing unbelieveable scenes of devastation. Villages, towns and cities swept away in an instant.

To date, 20,000 people are known to be dead or are still missing.

What followed was even worse. The tsunami knocked out the cooling system of the nuclear plant at Fukushima, leading to a meltdown in three of its reactors. This caused two large explosions, which spread radio-activitiy over a large area. The radio activity will take decades to decay, leaving the area around Fukushima unfit for habitation for generations.

A natural disaster, compounded by a man-made disaster.