Friday, 12 February 2010

Seals on Sweyn's Holm

Today was a brilliant day in all senses.
I was indulged by two friends and went with them to Gairsay and around Sweyn's Holm. Ancient seat of the 'ultimate Viking', Sweyn Asliefson.

setting off

The good weather had brought out the creel boats and the wildlife. It was busy out there!
waiting to cross

As we rounded the weat shore of Gairsay we were rewarded with beautiful views of Rousay
Eynhallow sat on the horizon, shimmering like Heather blether, home of fin folk and mermaids.

Eynhallow sitting between the Mainland and Rousay

photo - Johnny
Although the coasline itself was not spectacular, the scenery around us was.
There was lots of opportunity to just admire the views and see familiar places from a different perspective.
photo - Johnny
The water was still and clear and quiet.

The water was so clear we could see sea urchins crowding on the rocks below...

...and check creels from the surface.
Rousay raised a cloud.
I spent a lot of time just looking at the scenery.
Rounding the corner into the channel between Gairsay and Sewyn's Holm we had some close encounters with few curious inhabitants, but soon realised we had arrived in the land of the Selkies.

I attempted to record the sound here by taking video footage but was unsuccessful.
The loud and distinctive calls carried clearly in the still air.

Before long we were travelling with an escort of selkies.
Some of the larger males were huge.
A few swam under the kayaks, too fast for a digital camera to capture.

After a break we completed the journey, around the Hen of Gairsay and into the sun, back across the swirling and boiling tide to Rendall.
NK's account here.
Circumnavigation of Gairsay - 12.6km.


  1. nice post, what are selkies?

  2. Selkie is the Orcadian dialect name for seal. The traditional folktales here explain how the selkies can shed their skin and come ashore in human form. It is bad luck to hurt a selkie - they are regarded as gentle creatures.
    There must have been a couple of hundred of them...

  3. I'm guessing creel is lobster/crab pots?

  4. Yes that's correct. It is quite a big fishery here, though most of it goes off 'sooth'.