Innovation across the Islands in the Western Nordic Atlantic

Svalen in Grutness Voe, at pier used by Fairisle ferrySvalen, at Grutness Voe   July 1st 2018

Blog written by Karen

Finally at and now at Grutnessvoe in the South just neighbour to Jarlshof – this amazing historical site showing the remnants in history at Shetland 5000 years back until this millennium . We are now 7 onboard Svalen as Karen arrived after a days delay Thursday with Logan Air – the Scottish Airline – of course with tartan neck protectors.

We feel very welcomed in many ways at these islands in the North. Claire White, who is an old friend and student of Johns, now famous folk musician and journalist for BBC-Scotland, opened the doors for us together with her husband Michael. Lerwick harbour is wide, deep, with not too much tide and for the weekend we are here also hosts the Bergen-Shetland-Bergen sailor race. However, we are not competitors, we just go with  – or against – the wind.

JOhna dn Claire White , Claire and Michaels home, East Quarff.jpg

The kick-off for the grown up women on the boat was  participating in the weekly knitting club in Scalloway with Michael’s mother Barbara and having a local museum tour with his father Robert – with a lot of focus on the Shetland bus and the Norway connections including Jens Stoltenberg opening the museum in 2012. Another visit was to the Shetland Museum being of very high quality – according to our Museum Director on-board! Showing how this great land formerly united with Scandinavia especially Norway now with Great Britain provides a proud 6000 years history since people settled here and now with 23000 inhabitants. For those interested in history – this is less that half of the population at the Faroese Islands today – but in 1839 the population was three times as high on the Shetland Islands than on the Faroese Island according to the Danish Governor, Amtmand Christian Pløyen. Amtmand Pløyen sailen to Pløyen   was   an   open-minded   innovator, and became responsible for reforms which affected nearly all  aspects  of  Faroese  life.  In  pursuing  his  many visions,  one  of  the  most  important  and  spectacular projects that Pløyen organised was a trip to Shetland, Orkney and Scotland in 1839. While    his    fellow    Faroese    were    studying techniques of fishing and fish-curing, Pløyen himself toured  Shetland,  Orkney  and  mainland  Scotland  to search ways of benefiting the Faroes. He liked what he saw, and the trip resulted in the bringing of important developments in conventional fishing to Faroe: first of all the introduction of the long-line with its hundreds of hooks left in the sea. He further ‘popularised the use of Scottish and Shetland seed-potatoes; he introduced the  labour-saving  Shetland  peat-spade,  which  soon superseded   the   native   mode   …   and   encouraged intercourse  not  only  with  Denmark,  but  also  with Shetland  and  Leith’  (John  West).  Pløyen  also  was  aconstant  advocate  of  free  trade,  thereby  rejecting  the existing monopoly trade run from Copenhagen.

The book by Pløyen Karen was introduced to The Faroes a month ago and found in the bookstore in Thorshavn. It then turned out that Robert (the museum curator in Scalloway, and Michaels father) had this book in English published in 1899.

Innovation also happens in 2018 in knitting across out nations! Hege, Marianne (who Karen met on the plane to the Shetland, and who was a keen knitter, running the Facebook site «Strikk») and Karen exchanged knitting ideas, how to cast on and off, as well as patterns with the Scalloway knitting club. The cast created and taught by Barbara Johnson you can see at the video. This makes a stronger and more elastic edge to the sweaters.

So of course, Hege and Karen, had to get on with new knitting ideas the following day at both Jameson as well as at Jameson and Smith – and so so they went back to the boat with shetland wool, patterns and new ideas to bring back to Scandinavia.

BronzeAge wheelhouses at Jarlshof, Shetland

Saturday, June 30th we left Lerwick heading South towards Jarlshof!  The sail was in full sun, with views to Brochs, to sheep, to high cliffs and with a good wind in between, but also a bit annoying small waves. But arriving to Gruetness Voe made the whole difference! A jewel of a little pier beside the harbour and beside Jarlshof surrounded by seals (at least partly), ponies, stonewalls, kittiwakes, terns, Shetland sparrows, starlings and an inviting hill to climb – in full sun – it could not be more perfect. We could delve into more than 4,000 years of human settlement in the same location. Neolithic people first settled at this site in Shetland around 2700 BC, and it remained in use until the AD 1600s.Discoveries made here include oval-shaped Bronze Age houses, an Iron Age broch and wheelhouses, Norse long houses, a medieval farmstead, and a laird’s house dating from the 1500s.

Some climbed the hill, some investigated the white sandy beaches, some cooked with Danish potatoes and Scottish smoked haddock, and some went out on the dinghy – and so we slept a long night and decided to have a resting Sunday waiting for the right wind to the Fair Isle on Monday 2nd!


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