“A BBC feature documentary about a Gaelic island community in Scotland embarking on their epic annual seabird hunt in the treacherous North Atlantic.
Every August ten men from Ness set sail through the gales of the North Atlantic for Sula Sgeir, a desolate island 40 miles off the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Following in the footsteps of countless generations, they leave their normal lives behind to hunt for the guga, the meat of the young gannets.
The men spend two exhausting weeks on the uninhabited rock, sleeping in stone huts amongst ruins left by Celtic monks a thousand years ago. They work ceaselessly, catching, killing and salting 2000 birds using traditional methods before returning home with this rare meat so cherished by the people of Ness.
These are the last men allowed to hunt seabirds in the EU and the UK and for 50 years this ancient tradition has remained hidden from the cameras. In 2009 we sailed with the hunters and filmed their unique voyage.”
The dead birds are then brought back to Lewis and boiled in milk and served as a delicacy. A delicacy for some for others their salty, oily flesh is an acquired taste: ‘ like salt-mackerel-flavoured chicken’, as Lewis writer Donald Murray put it.
A short extract from a wonderful documentary with Robert Macfarlane: The Other Side of Essex – Unexpected Wilderness, a year-long exploration of Essex right on the county’s edge, on the north shore of the upper Thames.
“Essex illustrates perfectly how, across England, we misunderstand, overlook and underestimate the power of our own wild places. This film reveals our misconceptions, and brings reassuring and surprising news – and hopefully will encourage us to act fast to protect our last remaining native wildernesses.”
The peat and clay beds at Formby have an interesting story. Coastal erosion in the form of storms regularly expose new layers revealing footprints of humans and animals including red deer, aurochs, wolves, oystercatchers and common cranes.
About 7500 years ago a series of sand bars or barrier islands developed along the coast off Formby Point, resulting in an intertidal lagoon between them and the shore. For 3000 years, animals, birds and people left their tracks along the muddy shoreline. Some were baked hard by the sun, each tide covering them with a thin layer of sand and silt. Then about 4500 years ago the shoreline moved westwards, sealing in everything. (dedicated website)
The prints are quickly worn away and so researchers, including my father as a volunteer, have to work fast to record them. The study has found that most prints were made by children with a smaller number of women and relatively few adult males. The adult males were often found in the same areas as red deer – presumably hunting them – while women and children may have been on the mudflats collecting shells or looking for nesting birds. See video 6,000 year old footprints in the sand.