Papa Stour: ‘not many roads……’

By Rich Chiverrell

A voyage to Papa Stour

A voyage to Papa Stour

Our last but very definitely not the least of the islands visited of this BriticeChrono Transect 1 ten day mission to Shetland. A tremendous place to the northwest of mainland in St Magnus Bay, where our aim was to sample rocks and sediment, and to record any indications of ice flow. We are testing a hypothesis that ice flowed west and northwest from Shetland into the North Atlantic. A sprint across the island from Lerwick to catch the 35 minute ferry crossing from West Burrafirth to Papa Stour. The ferry man greeted the idea of us taking a car to Papa Stour with the brilliant line ‘Papa Stour there are not many roads…..’. Transporting a vehicle was in anticipation of finding materials to survey, radar image or drill. We arrived around 940am, and received welcome advice about access, directions, location of toilets + tea coffee making facilities (the ferry waiting room). We split into Team Cosmo and Team Stratigraphy and set about exploring Papa Stour with the deadline provided by 4pm return boat…..

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Sediment team (Chris, Matt and Rich) explored the extensive 2km main (only) road, only getting lost once (maps!!), starting exploration on foot from the airport. Walking across the runway to examine sections in Hamna Voe and our first of numerous glacial tills, a 1-1.5m till over bedrock but with a moraine ridge morphology. Moving back down the road to the Kirk at Da Biggins, we walked the cliffs from Kirk Sand to the pier at Housa Voe with glacial sediment all the way. The sections below North House were excellent with 1.5m of till burying striated bedrock. Comprehensive assessment of the striae showed three cross-cutting sets splayed between north and west but dominantly northwest. A quick lunch preceded a brisk assessment of sediments at West Voe again glacial till over bedrock. So the islands are covered with glacial sediment and there are low subdued moraine ridges, ice flow from the south east (mainland) but sadly none of the elusive sands for OSL dating.

Meanwhile Cosmo team were searching for glacially transported boulders on top of volcanic lavas (Rhyolite) on the north coast, visiting the western and eastern Peninsulas. They sampled a variety of lithological materials (granite, psammite and sandstone) in the three boulders. Then moving back towards the port on the eastern peninsula and five boulders on a moraine, all erratic materials (one gneiss and four psammites). A job well done…..



The teams reconvened at the pier, with an excellent haul of rocks, and enjoyed the reverse down a steep gangplank to board the ferry home. And now for our last night in Lerwick……

A hard ten days work

A hard ten days work


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