June highlights:

The Shetland Community Wildlife Group, Cadet programme, Shetland Lighthouses, Scallops, How to make your own lighthouse and information about World Oceans Day and the Day of the Seafarer!

Book of the Month

From Myths to Meids: Maritime Heritage of Fair Isle, Papa Stour & Skerries by Charlotte Slater

From Myths to MeidsShetland has a rich and diverse maritime heritage, from Vikings to the Hanseatic League, Da Haaf fishing to Herring stations up to the modern day with oil and gas exploration and pelagic fishing, everything in Shetland is influenced by the sea.

From Myths to Meids was written as part of the Shetland Maritime Heritage Asset Atlas Project which was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It gathered together some of the research into maritime heritage which had been done on the islands of Fair Isle, Papa Stour and Skerries during the project.

The book by no means covers everything in the islands, but gives an introduction to the subject and hopefully will encourage you to find out more.

To see some of the work that was done during the project, check out blog posts here or check out the reports here.The book is still available in a number of local shops and libraries in Shetland however with the current situation due to COVID-19, you can get in touch through the contact page if you would like a copy. They are £8 RRP and all the money goes  goes towards keeping this website running. You can also download the book as a PDF completely free here.

Back to the top

Kid’s Book of the Month

A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea adapted by Jessica Law and Illustrated by Jill McDonald

a hole in the bottom of the sea

This is a free online book on the Book Trust website which you can listen to, read along or read along with signing.

Find out about lots of different creatures you can find in the sea! Click here to head to the Book Trust.

Back to the top

Project of the Month

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Shetland Community Wildlife Group

The Shetland Community Wildlife Group (SCWG) is a brand new Heritage Lottery funded project being led by NAFC Marine Centre UHI. The project is being widely supported by a range of local and national organisations including the Shetland Biological Records Centre and Scottish Natural Heritage who will be offering their expertise and scientific advice.
SCWG is a citizen science project that aims to bring together people from all walks of life who have an appreciation of Shetland and want to help collect valuable data about all aspects of Shetland’s natural environment that can be used to create more robust data sets that can be used for planning decisions.
If you are interested in getting involved or want more information, you can head over to the project website: www.shetlandcommunitywildlife.org or speak to Kathryn (the project officer) directly by emailing her at: shetlandcommunitywildlife@outlook.com

Back to the top

Course of the Month

Image Credit: NAFC Marine Centre UHI

Merchant Navy Cadet Programme

The Merchant Navy is the international commercial (civilian) shipping industry. It includes a huge variety of different kinds of ships that operate in every part of the world’s oceans, including: oil tankers, container ships, cargo vessels, cruise liners, car ferries, tugs, oil support vessels, research vessels and superyachts to name but a few. 

NAFC Marine Centre UHI offers two cadetship paths which are detailed below. The cadet programmes are a mix of classroom work and sea time and each cadet is sponsored by a shipping company who pay all expenses and a training allowance. To listen to the experiences of past students who undertook  the cadet programme, click here.

At NAFC Marine Centre UHI, you can train to become a Deck (Navigation) Officer or an Engineer Officer. You can find summaries below or head to the their website.

Back to the top

Fish of the Month



Pecten maximus

The king scallop is a type of inequivalve mollusc which means that the valves (shells) are different shapes with the right shell being curved and the left being flat. It lives on the seabed from just below the low water mark down to over 100m. It prefers sand, gravel or mud and sits with the flat shell on top with a layer of sediment camouflaging it1.
Scallops have a firm, white disc of meat that has a sweet delicate flavour, and a bright orange roe. Both parts are edible but have different tastes and texture. The membrane and intestine are discards. They can be steamed, pan fried or grilled and need minimal cooking2.
Scallops are hermaphrodites and release male and female reproductive cells separately. Spawning is synchronised with other scallops in the area to improve cross-fertilisation. Scallops spawn for the first time in their second autumn and every spring or autumn after this.
Scallops stop growing in the winter, resuming in the spring creating growth rings on the shell which can be counted to age a scallop, similar to a tree3.


1 Sea Shore of Britain and Europe by Peter Hayward, Tony Nelson-Smith & Chris Shields 1996
2 www.fishisthedish.co.uk/learn/fish-guide/species-of-fish/scallops
3 www2.gov.scot/Topics/marine/marine-environment/species/fish/shellfish/scallop

Back to the top

Heritage Topic of the Month

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The seas around Shetland have been known to be treacherous for hundreds of years causing a huge number of shipwrecks. But it is only in the last 200 years that lighthouses began to be built around the Northern Isles of Scotland and even after their construction, the dangerous seas have still led to the demise of shipping from many nationalities.

For many years seafarers had chosen to go through the Sumburgh Roost rather than chance the Pentland Firth, even though the Roost posed its own risks, and it was thought that a light was needed to guide ships safely. In 1821, the first lighthouse in Shetland was constructed at Sumburgh Head. John Reid from Peterhead was the builder and Robert Stevenson was the engineer1.

In total there are 33 lighthouses around the Shetland coast with 7 having associated keepers cottages, Bressay, Eshaness, Fair Isle North and South, Muckle Flugga, Out Skerries and Sumburgh.

Huge technological advances such as radar, automatic monitoring and solar panels in the early 20th century revolutionised the lightkeeping industry. A huge automation programme began in the sixties, but the discovery of North Sea oil in the 1970s led to a new phase of building of lights. These were all built as automated lights2.

The last lighthouse to be automated in Britain was Fair Isle South in 1998. A small ceremony was held on the 31st of March 1998 with HRH Princess Anne in attendance. Angus Hutchison was the final keeper to leave the light, a fourth generation keeper3.

For more information about the Shetland and Orkney Lighthouses, check out our blog post here.

1 Scotland’s Northern lights: lighthouses of the Orkney and Shetland Islands by Sharma Krauskopf 2003
2 At Scotland’s Edge by Keith Allardyce & Evelyn M Hood 1986
3 No more paraffin-oilers by Ian Cassels 2000

Back to the top

Tabu Word of the Month


Tabu words were words used at sea while at da haaf fishing instead of using the “land” words. For example an otter would have been called a dratsi. The practice arose from superstitions that go back through the centuries and it was thought using tabu words would help to calm the sea gods amongst other things.

Most of the words that have been collected, are either nouns relating to animals and things left ashore or activities done whilst fishing and indeed the fish themselves. Nearly all of the known tabu words are of Old Norse origin.

Occasionally there are several words for the same animal. Sometimes this was related to how the speaker was describing the animal and sometimes it was a regional difference with fishermen from different areas using different words for the same thing.

For Further Information:
Shetland Words: A dictionary of the Shetland dialect

faks(in) noun.

long, high, foam-crested wave; (v) waves breaking to form ‘white horses’.

[Old Norse. fax: a mane, which in Norse faks can also denote a fringed border]

Back to the top

Activity of the Month

This month’s activity is making your own lighthouse!

Things you need:

  • A cardboard base- leftover packaging, cereal box, what ever you have available
  • A cardboard tube – kitchen roll tube, poster tube, pringles tube any will do!
  • paper/card
  • paints/pens/crayons/pencils
  • tape
  • glue
  • an led tealight
  • clear yogurt pot or plastic glass

Step 1: Start by making your cardboard base look like the sea! You could cover it in blue paper, or paint it blue. You could use scrunched up white paper or cotton wool to make waves. Remember to leave a space for your lighthouse to sit!

Step 2: Cover your cardboard tube with white paper.

Step 3: Create your stripes! you could use coloured tape, strips of coloured paper or even just draw them on using paint, pens, crayons or pencils!

Step 4: Glue your lighthouse to your base and if the tube has a lid place it on. If not you will need to cut out (ask an adult to help you) a circle of card to fit the top of your lighthouse and glue or tape on.

Step 5: Make a rocky island around your lighthouse. You could use scrunched up grey or silver paper, tissue paper or if you have been to the beach and picked up some pebbles why no use those!

Step 6: Place your led tealight on the top of your lighthouse and put your yogurt pot or clear glass over the top. Secure with a few bits of sellotape.

If you have a shot at making a lighthouse, share a photo with us on our social media accounts Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

Back to the top

What’s on this Month


The theme for World Oceans Day 2020 is to call on world leaders to protect at least 30% of the blue planet. Check out the World Oceans Day website for resources and a link to their petition.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council are holding a youth-a-thon livestream event for 24 hours from the 6th – 7th of June with 24 sessions on a hold host of topics related to sustainability and conservation of our seas. Topics include creative writing, plastic pollution, marine biology and activism with lots more on offer!

The youth-a-thon will offer young people across the world a chance to:

  • Learn more about conservation efforts and environmental topics of interest
  • Connect with a global community of young changemakers
  • Join the movement to take action to protect our shared ocean, climate, and blue planet!

You can register for the event here and also follow @r.singblue on instagram.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Day of the Seafarer was set up in 2010 by the International Maritime Organisation to recognise the contribution seafarers make to the world’s economy. This year with the current COVID-19 pandemic, the theme is getting member states to recognise how seafarers are important key workers and to provide them with support during these uncertain times. The campaign also aims to celebrate the contribution seafarers have given during this time, many have been away from home for months with no idea when they will be able to return with current travel restrictions.

For more information check out the International Maritime Organisations website and follow the hashtag #SeafarersAreKeyWorkers

Back to the top

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s