Perhaps it’s just me but isn’t it funny how remote places with wild histories are attractive. Last year after my holiday I left the Shetlands that are a very beautiful collection of Islands with a feeling  of the modesty of the location in a very harsh environment, being at 60degrees latitude brings with it certain unique features.

As I left I had the feeling that I needed  the wildness and uncompromising feeling of the  West Coast next year,  and the most extreme place on the West Coast is St Kilda,  almost 100 miles off the mainland and only just visible from the Outer Hebrides on a bright clear day even so they are obscured by the curvature of the earth.

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Taking a 9 day trip we sailed (yes sailed) from Oban over a couple of days to St Kilda,   we struggled with the weather because we were on the edges of 2 storms, one as we set out and another mid week however there was a 2 day window we could spend on St Kilda.  The wind direction and weather means that getting into Village Bay can be quite restrictive and there are  conditions when you simply should not be there.

I have been to St Kilda before so knew what to expect,  last time once on the Island we walked North towards Mullach avoiding the Bonxies, this time I wanted to head South West arround the other side of the bay to Ruaival.

Of course we spent time in Village Bay and on the evening of the first day it was great, the light was lovely, I was shooting on film mostly in black and white.

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Whilst there I also picked up George Seton’s book ‘St Kilda Past and Present’  that is a survey of the island and island life when he went in 1876. This draws on much of the islands history known at the time and goes back way into it’s past. This is a fascinating book that lacks the romance of some of the more narrative publications. A few weeks later it was wonderful to sit in bed reading about islands I had recetly left and see in my minds eye the same landscape he described as good as unchanged.  It describes a way of life and lifestyle and a series of connections that you would not expect.  The one that has made most impact is that of sailors leaving Norway on a journey that took them to the Orkneys and then onto St Kilda well over 130 years ago.

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There was a huge problem with child mortality,  later attributed to infant tetanus that is described in detail, it is facinating to see how the arguments unfolded about the cause of this very high mortality, at that time the actual cause was not known.  From Seton’s book it reads as if it was happening in real time rather than almost 150 years ago.

 

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