Out Skerries, the eastern edge of Shetland.

A boiled egg and toast to start the day, excellent, the only downside was the time 5.30 am which hurt slightly! That said Day 4 on Shetland was pretty special. Our numbers had swelled to 8 with the arrival yesterday of BriticeChrono P-I Chris Clark and C3W Outreach Team Vince Jones and Saskia Pagella.  We set off for the ferry to Out Skerries at 6 am. The first of two ferries departed Laxo at 7.10am and sailed to Whalsay, where we caught a second ferry to the dock in Bruray on Out Skerries, the easternmost islands of Shetland around half nine. Slightly cloudy start, but that quickly changed to glorious sunshine and the views from this inhabited collection of rocks in the north North Sea were absolutely stunning.

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The BriticeChrono T1 Team are on Shetland to try and constrain the timing of retreat of ice from the last glacial maximum in this sector of the last British Irish Ice Sheet (BIIS). Running in parallel to this land-based research will be a marine cruise examining the landforms and sediments preserved on the sea floor around Shetland scheduled for July 2015. Our task for 12-13 days is to sample boulders and sediments that will allow us to work out the timing of ice retreat across Shetland. From the distribution of these ages we intend to work out the pattern and directions of ice retreat. So far (see our previous blogs) we have sampled the far south of mainland (day 1), Foula in the south west (day 2), the northwest tip of Mainland; North Maven (day 3) and, today it was the turn of the east and Out Skerries. We are building a grid like pattern of dating sites across the islands aiming to get as far North, South, West and East as we can.

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From the dock on Bruray we walked across the bridge to Housay (the western island) to the end of the road and then onwards to a boulder strewn low (~28m high) hill. Here the bedrock displays clear signs of subglacial streamlining, with striae (scratches made by glaciers) and block removal on roche moutonnee showing ice flow to the northeast. The team split up slightly with Vince and Saskia collecting footage of all the action and interviews with Chris (Project P-I) and Tom (Transect Leader). Derek, David and Matt kept their eyes on the ball, or round boulders to be specific.  Some nice round-ish and very tough granodiorite boulders needed action from the rock saw (once the batteries had been recovered)! The granodiorite boulders lie on schist bedrock (containing quartz veins also sampled for cosmogenic nuclide or surface exposure dating) and these were probably carried to the island from mainland by the ice. Glacial transport was confirmed by an interesting exposure of glacigenic sediments, which showed striated bedrock covered by ~2m of till also containing examples of the granodiorite boulders and a pronounced macrofabric.

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Delighted with our endeavours in the west we headed to the eastern end of the island for a lunch with a view and more boulder sampling, two pegmatite and one granodiorite. This left a very satisfied team to adjoin to the village shop once abandoned by academic moth (Bradwell) who continued his exploration of bright lights: boulders, tills and scenery providing informative updates by walkie-talkie. Both activities provided important sustenance and rest before the ferry back to mainland.

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