The Elektron pulls up at the beach
This week we had the excitement of a visit from the Elektron, the landing craft that resupplies St Kilda over the summer. Amazingly enough, the Elektron comes all the way out from Oslo for the job and is the only commercial boat in the northern hemisphere that is fit for the task. Without a deep water jetty for landing supplies, the boat has to beach itself on our only bit of sandy beach at high tide, then wait for the tide to go out again and leave the front of the boat high and dry. The bows then open and a ramp is lowered to allow vehicles on and off. As well as bringing in vital supplies, such as building materials, up to 120,000 litres of diesel for the Power Station, food and alcohol (yes, some folk on the island count that as vital), the Elektron’s visit allows for services that are taken for granted on the mainland – the bin man arrives to swap over skips (as he pointed out, it’s the strangest job he does - including journey time it takes him 2 days to do a 10 minute job!), the recycling skip gets emptied, and the septic tank lorry comes out. Once all the tasks are completed, the boat waits for the tide to come back up, closes the doors and floats off and away until the next time.
This month’s visit saw a major resupply of alcohol for the Puff Inn bar. Unfortunately, the Elektron suffered a fuel pump problem on the way out and ended up drifting engineless for a few hours off the coast of South Uist – suspicions were raised that a repeat of the Whisky Galore saga was about to unfold (updated to Lager Yahoo for the 21st century), but luckily the problem was fixed and the precious cargo arrived safely.
One of the reasons that St Kilda is such a haven for seabirds is the lack of rats, and the arrival of a large boat on the beach means that extra precautions have to be taken to ensure that there is no possibility of a rat jumping ship. All goods that are taken on board are stored first in a rat-trapped area, a Pest Control Officer comes out on the journey and certifies that the ship is rat-free before it’s allowed to beach, the whole unloading process is monitored by the Ranger and rat traps are put out around the landing slip and Base for several days after the boat’s visit. It seems like a lot of work at the time, but the consequences of rats arriving here would be so huge that all the effort seems more than worthwhile.
Sarah, Seabird and Marine Ranger