Saturday, 21 November 2009

From Scotland to Shetland by Sea

The scheduled ferry services between Shetland and mainland Scotland are known as "life-line" services as they are essential to preserving an acceptable standard of life in the islands. The same definition applies to sevices to Orkney, and the Western Isles. As a "life-line" the route attacts subsidies from Central Government and therefore the contract comes up for periodic renewal. In the lifetime of Saxa Vord the companies operaying this service to & from Shetland were, in turn :-
North of Scotland Steamship Company
P&O Scottish Ferries
St ClairII
When Saxa Vord opened ferry services between Aberdeen and Lerwick were operated by the North of Scotland Steamship Co using a vessel known as the MV St Clair (officially she was the MV St Clair II). This ship was built in 1937, displaced 1641 tons and was renamed the St Magnus in 1960 when she was replaced by the MV St Clair III
St Clair III
The St Clair III was a much more modern ship, she displaced 3302 tons but she was not a RoRo vessel. Cars coming to & from Shetland had to be winched on board as cargo - fewer people had cars in those days. P&O Scottish Ferries took over the route in 1971. The St Clair III was on the route until 1977 and you guessed it, she was replaced by the MV St Clair IV.
St Clair IV
The MV St Clair IV operated to and from Shetland until 1992. She was the first vessel on the route to allow vehicles to be driven on & off. She displaced 4,407 tons. Her schedule required 3 round trips per week. However, in 1987 the MV St Sunniva III was also introduced. Her route usually went via Orkney but it meant that there were now 6 sailings each way between Scotland and Lerwick every week.

St Sunniva III
The naming of the Sunniva was not popular among some superstitious islanders. A predecessor bearing the same name was lost when it ran aground in fog on the Island of Mousa in 1930 - fortunately all aboard were saved. The St Sunniva displaced 4,211 tons and was in use on the crossing until 2002.
St Clair V
In 1992 the MV Clair IV was replaced by the MV Clair V . This vessel displaced 4,321 tons and was the last P&O Vessel on the route. The "life-line" contract to Shetland & Orkney was put out to tender in 1999 and was won by Northlink. North link was a company set up by Caledonian MacBrayne, which operates to & from the Western Isles and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Northlink began services on the route in 2002.
Hrossey &Hjaltland
The 2 Northlink ferries operating the service now are the sister ships the MV Hrossey & the MV Hjaltland. They displace 5250 tons and complete 6 round trips per week (some via Orkney). In the early Spring this can be reduced to 3 trips a week during maintenance periods.

Travel to and from Shetland by Air (Updated 30 Jul 2011)

After WWII British European Airways (BEA) used captured German JU52’s to connect Shetland to the mainland but in 1947 BEA introduced Douglas DC-3’s (Dakotas) onto the route from Aberdeen to Sumburgh. It was the DC-3 which operated the service whilst RAF Saxa Vord was being built and for the first few years after the Unit was commissioned.
In the early 60’s the DC-3s were replaced by the Dart Herald, a twin engine turboprop. About 50 of these aircraft were built. They operated the service until 1966.
The popular Vickers Viscount was introduced in 1966 and for a short period it and the Dart Herald were both used on the route. Flight frequencies were a lot less in the 60’s, I seem to remember 1 flight a day from Aberdeen in the winter and 2 a day in the summer. The Viscount operated the scheduled services until the 1980's. In the meantime BEA amalgamated with British Overseas Airways Corporation to form British Airways (1974).
The Vickers Viscount was replaced by the Hawker Siddeley 748, or "Budgie" as it was sometimes known.  A development of this aircraft, the HS 780, was bought by the RAF as the Andover. A further development of the HS 748 was called the Advanced Turboprop (shortened to ATP) and this was introduced to the Shetland services in 1989.
                                                             ATP                            Photo: Gordon Carle
Later BA franchised Loganair to operate the Shetland - Mainland routes on their behalf. By now it was possible to travel from Shetland to Aberdeen, Inverness, Glasgow, Edinburgh & Kirkwall on direct flights. Loganair eventually replaced the ATP aircraft with smaller aircraft like the Jetstream 31 and the Shorts 330.
Loganair bought its’ first SAAB 340 in 1999 and now (in 2011) owns 14 of these aircraft - they have been used on the Shetland services for a number of years. Flybe took over the routes from BA in 2008 but have continued to use Loganair to operate them.

Air Transport Within Shetland

                                 Loganair Islander at Fair Isle                     Photo: Dave Wheeler / CC BY-SA 2.0

An airstrip was built on Unst as a community project by the Royal Engineers. It was opened in 1970 and Loganair, operating Britten Norman Islander aircraft, operated scheduled services between Unst, some of the other Shetland Islands and Tingwall on the Shetland Mainland. This service ceased a few years ago. Passengers on clear days were rewarded with some of the best views of Shetland. For a short period the Islander services connected to a scheduled Shorts 360 flight to & from Edinburgh.

Many servicemen and civilians were thankful for Loganair's operations in Shetland as they also operated the Air Ambulance Service on behalf of the SAS (Scottish Ambulance Service in this particular instance).


Arrival of Radar Equipment on Unst - 1955

The photographs below show the arrival of some of the radar equipment on Unst in 1955. The main landing site was alongside the pier at Baltasound. Landing Craft were used as they were able to make use of the slip built by Marines during the Second World War - the slip was intended for use by Flying Boats.
Photos: Rita McMeechan (Carle)