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Archive News

Exciting New Developments on the Website
Protecting St Kilda from Foot and Mouth Disease
MV Elektron Grounded in Village Bay
Iron Age St Kilda Revealed
Puff Inn License Application
Work Parties Go Out - Eventually

Exciting New Developments on the Website

Check out the site in August for details of new books about St Kilda, an expanded section on the prehistoric stone quarries and an introduction to the new St Kilda Archaeologist Marcia Taylor.

Later in the year we will be expanding the site with more information on seabed surveys of St Kilda, new photographs of the islands and much more! We'll also be adding a What's New section to help people who have visited before.

A Gaelic version of the site is planned and we are currently raising funds for this.
If you'd like to contribute a donation towards the expansion of the website, please contact Sandy Weir of the NTS Development Department at: or write to:

Development Department
Wemyss House
28 Charlotte Square

Tel: 0044(0) 131 243 9343
Fax: 0044(0) 131 243 9589.

Protecting St Kilda from Foot and Mouth Disease

Visitors to this website and to St Kilda will know about the importance of the Soay sheep on Hirta and Soay, and the Blackface sheep on Boreray. The Soays have a pedigree going back thousands of years and are the most primitive domesticated sheep in Europe, and both Soays and Blackface have been the subject of a long-term international research project into their natural behaviour. They are arguably the most important flocks in the UK.

The National Trust for Scotland has carried out Foot and Mouth Disease Risk Assessments for all the properties in its care, and had by early April 2001 already opened or partially opened around two-thirds of them. However, given the importance of the sheep, it is likely that St Kilda will be one of the last properties to be formally opened to the public.

Please consult the NTS website for up-to-date information on access to St Kilda, and to all our other properties throughout Scotland:

MV Elektron Grounded in Village Bay

Until recently, the St Kilda base was supplied with food, fuel and other essentials by army landing crafts. Now the civilian craft, MV Elektron performs this function. The supplies are transported to St Kilda in summer and autumn, as it is impossible to land stores on the islands in winter, except by helicopter.

Bad weather delayed the last re-supply of St Kilda in 2000, but the Elektron finally beached in Village Bay at 11pm on Saturday 14 October 2000. Fuel and supplies were off-loaded but by 4am the next morning, very strong south-westerly winds arose which caused her to drag her kedge anchor as she tried to pull off.

Elektron grounded in Village Bay
Photograph: Scottish Natural Heritage

The winds then rapidly turned her broadside to the ramp on the beach and she was lifted on to the boulder beach, her engine rooms swamped. Attempts to get the nine Serco staff and six crew ashore became so risky that the coastguard helicopter from Stornoway had to be summoned to complete the task.

The storm then caused damage to her hull which, fortunately, is especially strengthened. Monday dawned calm, however, allowing the salvage operators to drain 40,000 litres of fuel oil from the ship's own tanks into tanks ashore. The risk of pollution was further minimised when a crane working on St Kilda was positioned to lift off a further 7000 litres of lubricating oils and 25 barrels of waste oil from the base. The return of gale force winds on Tuesday pushed the Elektron a little further up the beach so the remaining gear and vehicles (including a council bin lorry!) were left on deck, and her empty tanks filled with sea water, to prevent her moving again.

On the next spring tides, on Friday 27 October, after one unsuccessful attempt, the Elektron was finally towed off the beach by the salvage tug at 8pm. However while the vessel was under tow to dry dock in Liverpool she experienced further difficulties in high seas and the salvage crew had to be airlifted off 30 miles south-west of Barra. A decision was made to divert to Belfast but then the stricken vessel developed a 20-degree list, so the local lifeboat had to deliver emergency pumping equipment before she eventually berthed safely.

The whole incident from beginning to end, in appalling weather conditions, was fraught with difficulty, but the professionalism of the personnel on St Kilda, the rescue services and the salvage team ensured that a major accident was averted.


Iron Age St Kilda Revealed

For the last three years, archaeologists from Glasgow University have been examining terraces on the eastern slopes of Mullach Sgar, to the south and west of the main village (see St Kilda Today - Archaeological Investigations).

In summer 2000, they discovered the remains of an Iron Age building with walls preserved up to 1.5 m high, and areas of flooring which have remained undisturbed for around 2,300 years.

From this building and another horn-shaped structure they have recovered an abundance of pottery, some dated to around 300 BC, and including decorated sherds and part of a large bucket-shaped vessel.

Work party volunteers on Mullach Sgar
Photograph: GUARD
It is unusual on St Kilda to find such well-preserved remains, and associated dating material, which will greatly assist in understanding how people lived in this remote and often inhospitable place.

Associated with the pottery were crude stone tools of the type discovered some years ago by Professor Andrew Fleming (see St Kilda Today - Prehistoric Stone Quarries). For the first time we can be certain that the use of these stone tools stretches back into the prehistoric period.

The archaeologists are looking forward to next year's excavations. Book early to join an archaeology work party and assist them in their quest for further evidence of life on St Kilda in prehistoric times!

The Iron Age building on Mullach Sgar.
Photograph: GUARD

Puff Inn License Application

One of the joys of arriving on St Kilda after a long and stormy sea voyage is the welcome which awaits at the Puff Inn. The remotest pub in Europe was opened by soldiers from the Royal Artillery unit which manned the army missile tracking station on St Kilda. Recently, the management of the station was transferred to DERA (Defence Establishment Research Agency) which is due to be privatised in July as QinetiQ. As a result, the Crown exemption which allowed the Puff Inn to operate without a license will no longer apply. An application for a license has now been lodged with the appropriate licensing authority in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.

We do not anticipate any objection from the resident puffin population on St Kilda, or from the Soay sheep. Watch this spot for further information and details of opening hours approved by the licensing authority.

We are pleased to report that the Puff Inn has been granted a club license, so we can all look forward to that welcoming drink!

The Puff Inn
Photograph: National Trust for Scotland
Work Parties Go Out - Eventually
Marcia Taylor, St Kilda Archaeologist 2001

During late June and July of 2001 two National Trust for Scotland (NTS) Work Parties visited St Kilda. Six parties had originally been planned, starting in mid-May, but four had to be cancelled because of the threat of infection from Foot & Mouth Disease. Consisting of an equal mixture of men and women, each Work Party of 10-12 members spent two weeks living and working on the main island of Hirta.

The first Work Party's main role was to help with repairs to the many drystone walls that cover the village area. The St Kildans originally built these walls and buildings, but each winter they suffer from the severe weather that the island experiences. Although only a few party members had previous experience putting up drystone walls this was never a problem. Everyone discovered new talents within themselves as they learnt to lay the stones and to pick out the right size and shape to fit the sometimes very awkward spaces. By the end of two weeks a very efficient and expert team had emerged.

The second Work Party's programme of work was to maintain the restored cottages along the Village Street and the other buildings on the island, such as the church and schoolroom seen by all visitors to St Kilda. During this party's time on the island the Village was brought back to life, as it was filled everyday with industrious sounds. Small groups of people could be seen all over, busy painting, hammering or re-slating. Roofs were repaired and doors re-coated as the all important re-weatherproofing was applied.

Thanks to the good spirits and willingness of all the 2001 Work Party members, a tremendous amount was achieved and the island is as ready as ever for the upcoming winter and for the appreciation of future visitors to St Kilda in 2002.

More information about St Kilda Work Parties is shown HERE.

© The National Trust for Scotland