Tag Archives: Atlantic

‘Scotland’s dodo’ bone found at Scottish Seabird Centre dig

A bone from an extinct bird known as “Scotland’s dodo” has been uncovered following an archaeological dig in East Lothian.

The bone from the Great Auk, a species last seen in British waters on St Kilda in 1840, was recovered at the Kirk Ness site, now known as North Berwick.

It was unearthed during a dig at the Scottish Seabird Centre.

Archaeologists said the find sheds new lights on human habitation of the area in the Middle Ages.

The archaeological dig, by Edinburgh-based Addyman Archaeology, and supported by Historic Scotland, revealed bones of butchered seals, fish and seabirds, including the bone of the Great Auk.

The upper arm bone of the flightless bird was unearthed at the entrance area of an early building and has been radio carbon dated to the 5th to 7th Centuries.

The seabird was a favoured food source in medieval times as it was easy to catch.

Human predation led to the decline of the species, ensuring that by the middle of the 19th Century it had become persecuted and exploited into extinction.

The penguin-like bird was 1m tall and its range at one time extended from the north-eastern United States across the Atlantic to the British Isles, France and Northern Spain.

Tom Brock, chief executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, said: “The discovery of the Great Auk bone on site at the Scottish Seabird Centre is fascinating but also very sad.

“We are so fortunate in Scotland to have a rich variety of seabirds and we must use the extinction of the Great Auk as a warning to future generations to look after our wonderful wildlife and the marine environment as an absolute priority.

“There are both behavioural and environmental lessons that must be taken from this internationally-important finding, and as an educational and conservation charity we will remain dedicated to inspiring people to enjoy, protect and learn about wildlife and the natural environment.”

 

Tom Addyman, of Addyman Archaeology, said: “The discovery of the Great Auk bone at Kirk Ness is an illuminating find, as we seek to understand and document the importance of the area in the history of wildlife and human habitation in the Middle Ages.

“We hope that its discovery helps historians and conservation experts, such as the Scottish Seabird Centre, to educate future generations about the precious nature of our natural resources.”

Rod McCullagh, senior archaeology manager at Historic Scotland, said: “In the last two decades, there has been a renaissance in our understanding of the archaeology and history of early Medieval Scotland.

“The discovery of the remains of domestic buildings and the associated detritus of daily life at Kirk Ness gives us a glimpse of what ordinary life was like in East Lothian at this time.

“That ‘daily life’ involved the killing of such valuable birds as the Great Auk is no surprise but the discovery of this single bone perhaps attests to a time when hunting did not overwhelm such a vulnerable species.”

Source – BBC News    12 May 2014

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Ghost ship with cannibal rats may head to Scotland

An abandoned Russian ‘ghost ship’ infested with cannibal rats may be drifting towards the west coast of Scotland according to salvage experts.

The cruise liner Lyubov Orlova has been drifting across the Atlantic for almost a year after being cut adrift by the Canadian government and now a Belgian salvage company have asked Scots sailors to be on the lookout for the vessel which is worth £600,000 in scrap metal.

Built in Yugoslavia in 1976, the 300 foot ship was abandoned by its owners and crew at the port of St Johns in Newfoundland in September 2010 after they were unable to pay a $251,000 debt.

Two years later the Canadian authorities arranged to sell the hull for scrap to the Dominican Republic but en route the unlucky vessel broke its tow line one day out of port and began drifting towards oil platforms.

When Transport Canada regained control of the Lyubov Orlova, it was then decided to tow it into international waters and abandon the vessel rather than continue the voyage. At the time a statement said that the vessel: “no longer poses a threat to the safety of offshore oil installation, their personnel or the maritime environment. The vessel has drifted into international waters and given current patterns and predominant winds, it is very unlikely that the vessel will re-enter waters under Canadian jurisdiction”

Pim de Rhoodes, a Belgian salvage hunter, who has twice set off in search of the vessel only to return empty handed, said the only occupants now will be hundreds of rats forced to eat each other in order to survive, and that the vessel must still be drifting as not all of its lifeboat emergency beacons have been set off. Mr de Rhoodes said: “She is floating around out there somewhere. There will be a lot of rats and they eat each other. If I get aboard I’ll have to lace everywhere with poison.”

> Why ? If they’ve been drifting for so long, eating each other, all that must be left by now is one big fat rat. A marksman with a rifle sounds like a better option. 🙂

Kris Abelshausen, a logistics manager with Mr de Rhoodes company, Seatec, said the vessel could be drifting towards the Scottish coast: “If anyone spots it we’d like them to let us know.”

Under international maritime law a vessel abandoned at sea can become the property of those who find it, however the owners can attempt to ‘buy’ it back. The Seatec team may choose to either sell the vessel for its scrap value or keep the vessel. Mr Abelshausen said: “It is a huge vessel, larger than the current vessel we have and Mr de Rhoodes is keen to track it down.”

However another possible scenario is that the vessel has already sunk. Last February the Irish Coast Guard spotted that one of the vessel’s emergency position-indicating radio beacons (EPIRB) went off approximately 700 miles off the coast of County Kerry. However two trips by spotter planes failed to find the ship. Yesterday a spokesman for the Irish Coast Guard said the vessel could have sunk in such a manner that not all the remaining radio beacons would have been activated.

A spokesperson for the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency today said the vessel last came to their attention last year and there was doubt that it was still afloat: “We have received no reported sightings of the vessel since April last year – and there is no evidence to suggest it is still afloat.

“Any ‘ghost ship’ entering European waters is highly likely to be reported, due to the large number of vessels passing through the area. We would then act accordingly.”

Source –  The Scotsman, 24 Jan 2014

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