Sunday, 13 January 2008

A contrail to America

(With apologies to The Proclaimers)

Some days I walk on the beach, other days I stroll up the hill behind my house. Today was one of the latter, and in conditions of zero wind (even at the top). On a day like this, three human-made noises can be heard remarkably clearly:

  • the automatic announcements on the Calmac ferry, about a mile away

  • people around the island talking outdoors, or from car to car, or on their doorsteps

  • airplanes flying far overhead

And here's a picture of the latter, taken with ease as today there was no wind buffeting the camera and I:


In the largest version of this picture, you can make out a few lumps on the far middle horizon. That's St Kilda. The much closer island, not far from the shore of Berneray and the puddly machair, is Boreray (permanent resident population: 1).

It's an odd kind of feeling, that people in those planes have just seen Berneray from up high, and a few hours later will be settling down to dinner in, or over, the USA or Canada. This is what they would have seen (picture of Berneray by Paul Ashton), a few minutes before I took the picture of them:


As "isolated" and "remote" as some people think - or hope, or wish - the Outer Hebrides are, the contrails are a frequent reminder that in many ways the planet is small. At a click, I can (and do) communicate by text, voice or videolink to colleagues around the world, or watch the traffic in downtown Manhattan, the pier at Santa Monica, California, Shoal Bay in New Zealand, an active volcano in Alaska or the main square in Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle. And that "remote" is relative, and that it's possible to have breakfast in Berneray, lunch in mainland Scotland, and dinner in California on the same day.

1 comment:

  1. On the 3rd January I took flight United UA0955 from Heathrow to San Franscisco (10:30 am). After about 40 minutes I got a fantastic view of your Island at 34,000 feet, just like the one you show.... Unfortunately I didnt have a camera but I remembered the "pan-handle" causeway from the airborne photo you showed sometime ago on your blog. The return flight came back over northern island in the dark so I didnt get a second chance to look!