St Kilda, a place name that has always been associated with isolation, windswept and remote and this island chain is my first port of call for my mission with Wild Wonders of Europe. St Kilda is a group of foreboding islands lying 64 kilometres (40 miles) west of North Uist, Outer Hebrides in the North Atlantic Ocean. The islands have a rich human past with a small community that inhabited these islands for millennia until their evacuation in 1930.
Now these islands are left for nature and they are over half a million seabirds that return each spring to breed, making St Kilda the most important Seabird colony in Europe which has rightly earned it World Heritage status.
My mission for Wild Wonders was Gannets and as the Island of Boreray and its out lying Stacks of Stac an Armin and Stac Lee support 60, 428 breeding pairs making this the largest Gannetry in the world then this was a must for me to try and visit. I had set the Goal of landing on Boreray and permission was granted but that was the easy part. First leg was to get to the Outer Hebrides which is in itself no mean feat, a 14 hour drive and a four hour ferry crossing just to get in position. I had arranged for a small boat but with plenty of power to take us out from Leverburgh on the island of Harris but it all depended on a window of opportunity for the weather to be kind and that window never opened for the first three days. The long term forecast was not looking to good either so a decision had to be made and instead of twiddling my thumbs on Harris I decided it would be better and more productive to wait on the Monarch Islands another archipelago 8 miles off the west coast of North Uist and get picked up from there if and when the weather changed.
I had never been to the Monarchs before and these beautiful low lying islands proved very productive with good numbers of waders and Fulmars proving to be very confiding. I had already been on the islands for four days which only felt like one when we got the call from the boatman advising us that the following day looked promising as the wind direction was changing and more importantly the swell of the sea was going to be much calmer. Its not easy transferring from a Zodiac to a boat at 4.00 in the morning and being burdened with heavy equipment, enough food and water to last a couple of weeks and my legs wishing I was still in bed made it even harder but with everything on board off we set for this next adventure.
I am not the best at dealing with boats and within half an hour I could feel the sign of sea sickness coming on and this was not a good sign as we still had another four hours ahead of us. So I found a little corner and laid down which usually works for me and thankfully it did this time because it wouldn’t have been the best four hours of my life. I kept going on the deck to check out the Islands and see if they were getting any closer they were but ever so slowly. The weather was also looking grim with a squall coming in from the Atlantic not the weather that was forecasted this could spell bad news. We eventually got to the Island of Boreray and with the low lying cloud surrounding the island it resembled something prehistoric and I was half expecting a pterodactyl to come flying from the mist to greet the boat.
Boreray was called the impenetrable fortress by the St Kildians and this description was spot on as I have never seen anything quite like it. Our boatman said there was only two places where we could possibly land and it was not looking possible for the first one and this was by far the easiest one, so our chances of landing was looking slimmer by the minute. There was a good six to eight foot swell and to get from the boat to the Zodiac was difficult, so to get from the Zodiac to wet rocks was going to be even harder if not impossible. We had a time limit for the boat and so a decision had to be made quickly regarding safety and was just too much of a risk to even attempt it. I have learnt from many attempts at trying to land on some of the remotest Islands in the UK that you have to be prepared for this disappointment and in this case it was just not worth the risk. Boreray certainly lived up to its name as the impenetrable fortress but what a beautiful place, certainly one of the great Natural wonders of Europe.
Danny Green / Wild Wonders of Europe
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.