Transect 1 Shetland – Day 3: Northmaven

By Derek Fabel

The writing is in the sand

The writing is in the sand

After a leisurely start we were on the road 8:45 to North Maven, the northern most part of Shetland Mainland. The target areas for sampling were a very distinct set of bedrock ridges extending for several kilometres in a northwest direction on the west coast of North Roe. We had spotted the bedrock ridges on air photos and satellite images, but now it was time to set foot on them. Tom, David and I drove to the end of a 4×4 track, shouldered our packs and set off looking for the ridges. After strolling through 3km of rocks, heather and bogs we were standing on what we previously had only seen on a computer screen. The shapes of the ridges, and smooth bedrock features on them, show they have been covered by flowing ice. When the ice melted away it left behind boulders that had been carried by the moving ice to the area. The boulders are of different rock types and thus were eroded from different source areas. The boulders are what we were after, and we quickly collected samples from the tops of six of them.

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While we were sampling boulders, Matt and Richard, the sedimentologists in the team, went along the Esha Ness coast looking for sedimentary deposits related to the last ice sheet that covered Shetland. In the afternoon the two groups met up in North Roe and did a vehicle swap so Matt, Richard and Tom could visit a famous Quaternary site at Fugla Ness at the northwestern tip of Northmaven. Fugla Ness was a stunning location, with a well exposed interglacial peat deposit between two glacial tills, apparently 130,000 years old and containing roots and stumps of Pine trees. For Tom, Matt and Rich the most exciting new (?) finds were a set of striations in the gabbro bedrock and these were buried by the Fugla Ness interglacial deposits and so are at least 130,000 years old and testify to previous glaciation of Shetland.

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David and I went north towards Fethaland, to look for some more rocks. After collecting three more samples, we looked at some glacial moraines near Skelberry, and promptly collected another three samples from some large, very, very, very hard granitic boulders. It was now 7pm and we were supposed to meet Chris, Vince and Saskia, who had flown in from England today, at Frankie’s fish and chip shop (the most northern chippy in the UK) in Brae. They were duly seated munching on fish and chips. Unfortunately Tom, Matt and Richard did not get back in time for a sit in meal. They enjoyed their fish suppers at Mavis Grind while the sun was setting.

Well worth the rushing and much deserved

Well worth the rushing and much deserved

Another long and very productive day, done. Out Skerries tomorrow.

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