The rain before seven worked for me again this morning, and even if you are getting tired of it I am not. There is something good about lying in bed early listening to the rain and knowing that the day is going to improve rather than be a total washout.
All night long I had heard the crashing of the waves on the shore around me as the tide came in. I am parked up on the top of a sandbank (though with a little gravelled track ) on a sort of promontory in the middle of a beautiful bay, and I am almost as far north as you can go in Shetland
I had fancied trying to get up to the northernmost inhabited house in the British Isles, but the road looked rather narrow and bendy and a sign said 'Unsuitable for Long Vehicles' and at about ten meters Thebus probably comes into that category, plus there was another more temporary sign warning of 'Uneven Road Surface' so there may have been winter damage as well. Instead I took the sign to Norwick Bay, which warned of a dead end, but I hoped there would be space to turn round at the end, and I am pleased I did. Its beautiful here.
There are a scattering of low built houses behind us on the hills surrounding the bay, and you can just see the tops of the houses of Saxa Vord which was an old RAF camp servicing the northernmost lookout point of the British Isles, but otherwise it is just fields and dunes and the bay in front of us, with the sigh and roar of the breakers as the tide comes in
It was pretty windy last night as we were looking for somewhere to park up, but it has felt reasonably sheltered in the bay, plus I am getting more used to being shaken around, and more confident that we will still be upright and in the same place come next morning.
I will have to get myself a car compass. I wonder if the one on my new iphone is being affected by the metal in Thebus - I have checked it outside once or twice, but perhaps Thebus is such a big chunk of metal he is affecting the reading from outside as well. When I parked up it told me the big windows at the front face north, so I left the curtains drawn back and the lights off to see if anything was happening - although on the odd occasion I managed to get a brief window of internet access the sites told me the Aurora forecast was quiet.
But when I went to bed I opened the blind on the large back window and after my eyes were accustomed to the dark I realised that I had parked back to front and it was the bedroom window facing north.
The lights of the Aurora look like a huge town situated just over the horizon but with the greeny light that street lights used to have before they introduced those horrid orange sodium ones. When you are watching you wonder if your eyes are playing tricks in the dark, or maybe you are imagining the pulsating, flowing light. But just before midnight, as if someone had suddenly pulled a curtain across they were gone, and I was lying in total blackness. Somehow you are more aware of the decrease in intensity: the build up seems slower and less noticeable. I thought that was probably it for the night, but just in case, set the alarm to rouse me on the hour every hour till four, and then again at four thirty for good measure, and settling down to sleep opened my eyes for one last check.....and they were back!
The glow is a bit more than from a luminous alarm clock, or akin to very pale moonlight. As I watched the pulsing got stronger and there were some faint flashes, and at one point I a swift parabola of light with an orange yellow rim shot out from the north to the east, and another low red burst like a short rainbow. I lay for round an hour or so, but it seemed to be fading and once again the curtain was drawn and we were once more in blackness. What surprised me that during the display it started raining quite heavily which didn’t seem to affect anything
I have spoken to an avid photographer of the Northern Lights, and he has his camera set up outside the back door the entire time and gets some terrific shots. But he said without a tripod it is difficult to get anything worthwhile, and recommended a minimum two minute exposure. I emailed another lady with a website packed with wonderful images. She travels the world to get good photos of the Aurora, and wrote to say that often when you are watching you see very little, but on checking your photos see wonderful displays. So the photos one sees on the internet are not a 'cheat' as such but perhaps not always what the human eye 'sees'. In any case I didn’t come all this way north to photograph them. I just came to experience them ,and so far I have seen more than enough to say that, and now I will just wait around in hope of a perfect night. The received wisdom is that around the time of the equinox is best so there is still plenty of time for me to see better than the best display in seventy years!
The alarm duly went off, and each time I woke the glow was there but not much else. I had remade the bed so I was facing the window rather than sideways on, but I think I shall try to find a better spot for tonight.
At about seven I was woken by the piping of a bird of some sort, quite loud and strong, so it must have been bigger than a garden bird. I had read that whimbrels nest here, or maybe it was a sandpiper. I have heard Curlews as a child, and it was not dissimilar but not quite the same, perhaps they sing different songs at different times of the year, or perhaps it is a Curlew with a Scottish accent. I will try to find out what it was - it had a lovely melodious call.
I took Phoebe for a morning walk along the top of the sand dunes. Although we have seen sand I have not been able to get down to the shore, as most of the places would have been to steep for my knees, so this was the first time she has felt sand under her feet, and, like dogs in snow, she loved the softness and had a good race about with her backside and tail held down low in that typical dog 'I'm having fun' position.. I encouraged her in a bit of hole digging, which she enjoyed as the soft sand yielded so easily to her great big paws, but sticking her face down into her excavations to investigate she had good a sniff and got sand in her nose so wouldn't try again, and as it was still very windy with a light rain she rushed back to Thebus way ahead of me and waited by the door to be let in.
I hiker came by to stand at the lookout point, suitably muffled against the cold winds and early morning rain, Phoebe didn't like him at all. Generally she is suspicious of people in hats, and ones with hoods up as well warrant severe disapproval. I wonder if that is where our human dislike of 'hoodies' arises - perhaps there is something which changes the silhouette from human to unknown.
By eleven the sun was fully out, and glinting on the breakers in the bay where the tide was now fully in, and changing them from a dark, steely grey-blue, to translucent pale green, I am not a sea person having lived all of my live inland but I presumed the tide was about to turn as the breakers seemed to have lost their momentum, and the water was almost lying calm in the wider bay behind us, and in the sun a seal was casually floating with its chin turned towards the sun getting a dose of vitamin d in case his cod liver oil intake for the day was down a bit. Taking photos of seal's head in the water is a bit problematic, so you can just imagine him in the photo below
View as we arrived at dusk
Then the rain settled in while the waves crashed in on the shore
Phoebe at Norwick Bay Unst