Stromness Town

That wind did presage rain, enough that it drove us off site today after only an hour’s work. Wet weather made a good excuse to visit the Stromness Museum just down the street from our house. It specializes in the maritime and natural history of the area (as opposed to the archaeological history, which the Kirkwall Museum covers).

Displays included lighthouses, lifeboats, famous local sailors and pirates, many stuffed birds, shell collections, artifacts from the British and German navies from World War I and II, models of sailing ships, expeditions to the arctic, a tin fiddle, etc. I spent a good three hours there, and then hit the library to catch up on blog posts, email, some Facebook, and updates for Angry Birds to play on the way home.

At this point I have two days of digging left. Thursday evening the site director will be having everyone over to his house for an end-of-season party. Friday at 9:00 am I have a bus to catch from Kirkwall to a ferry that goes over to the mainland at John O’Groats (a new route for me). Thence an express bus to Inverness, and after that either a train or bus to Glasgow, and somehow to the airport.

After dinner three of us drove over to Kirkwall to attend a lecture by a Japanese professor who’s traveling on his sabbatical. He spoke about Jomon Ware, a kind of pottery he’s excavated and studied for a while now. If you thought our 5,000-year-old pots were old, check out his. They date back to 14,000 B.C. – yes, they are sixteen thousand years old (by C14 dating of carbonized plant remains stuck to their pieces). His lecture packed the venue with some 75 or more people in attendance. That demonstrates the keen interest in such things in Orkney, where it’s said that if you scratch the landscape it bleeds archaeology.

Back from the talk we found a heavy fog settled over town, so I went out and shot half a dozen immersive panoramas for later posting. The fog drapes the town and makes it feel even older than its few hundred years. All that’s really missing is the noise of horses and wagons on the stone streets to push back time.

One of the coolest items in the Stromness Museum is a large collection of then / now photo pairs. To create these, the photographer found numerous early photos of the town – back to sailing ship days – and then went to the exact spot and shot what’s there now. Much has not changed. Much has. Comparing and contrasting the differences and similarities adds perspective to both views.

Stromness definitely beats Kirkwall for me in terms of atmosphere. It does not offer nearly as much to do in terms of venues and shopping, but it’s more on the sea, and offers easier access to seaside hikes. And it does not have modern cruise ships parked in the harbor.

The house to the right of the white one in the photo is where we’re staying.

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