Monday, February 08, 2010

Pigs & Lighthouses - Sunday 7 February 2010

Off to Sumburgh Head as it was a calm and relatively sunny day and it was good to do something after the snow of the last few weeks. Had to stop off to see the Swinister pigs - they are apparently due to give birth in the near future. Flushed 8 Jackdaws from the pigs trailer where the pigs sleep. Had seen them there last week but was surprised they are hanging around. Anyway - pigs are great :)

Some snow from last week is still on the hills and in the ditches - Ross decided to see how deep it was.

Headed off to Sumburgh Head Lighthouse - looking down the Broad Geo of Smithfield on the north side. Guillemots nest on the large centre stack and on the lower ledges of the right side cliffs. As it was calm several hundred Guillemots were ashore prosepcting nest sites.

Looking North West towards Fitful Head.

On the south side of 'da head', just north of 'da bairns' Fulmars are selecting their breeding sites again for this year.

And on to the lighthouse - a new interpretive board has arrived, along with improved walkways and observations points - courtesey of the RSPB.

The old foghorn is still present.

The lighthouse - from the south side.

The name Sumburgh comes from Norse - Sun Borg, the South Broch.

The Sumburgh Lighthouse was designed by Robert Stevenson. On Mr Stevenson's inspection voyage of August 1815, he stated that Sumburgh Head was an eligible situation for a lighthouse and he will survey the rock and report as to the proper site for a lighthouse.

The building work started in January 1819 with Mr John Reid of Peterhead as the building Contractor. Sumburgh had walls of double thickness to keep out the damp, it also had 26 reflectors instead of the normal 21 and in 1822 the annual cost of maintaining this station was £650.00.

The most serious offence a lightkeeper could commit was falling asleep on watch, as this might allow the light to be extinguished, impair its efficiency, or even alter its character by letting the revolving machinery run down. There was fifteen cases of this kind in the second half of the 19th Century, the worst was a conspiracy at Sumburgh Head in 1871 by which two lightkeepers agreed not to report the other for sleeping at his post; one of them was a Principal lightkeeper with 23 years service - both were dismissed.

The optical apparatus is group flashing with Stevenson's equiangular refractor showing flashes every 30 seconds. The contractors were Chance Brothers & Co Ltd of Birmingham and also James Dove & Co of Greenside, Edinburgh.

The steps up to the base of the light & also now the steps to the Sumburgh RSPB office.

Looking north from the Lighthouse buildings - Compass Head in the foreground with Bressay and the Noup of Noss in the distance.

A trip up to Compass Head - looking north towards Sumburgh Airport

While there we noticed a helicopter landing at the Sumburgh Hotel (the red dot)...

a private helicopter landing at the hotel

the Sumburgh Hotel

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