Wild Shetland Scotland's Viking Frontier
2019-02-06 11:55

100 miles beyond mainland Britain lie Scotland's islands above all others. With the restless North Sea to the east and the wild Atlantic to the west. This is a place rules by the sea. It can bring danger, but it’s also the great provider, bringing the endless bounty to the thousands of animals and people who call this ancient isles home. Remote, magical and full of subtle beauty, this is Wild Shetland-Scotland’s Viking Frontier.


It’s late January and the Viking squads are on the march. Up Helly Aa, Shetland’s iconic winter festival, has claimed the streets of Lerwick, bringing light to the darkness of winter. But as dawn breaks, it’s the sea that rules. The Mighty Atlantic unleashes her greatest fury as storm after storm batters these isles, whipping the sea to a frenzy. For wildlife, it’s now a battle for survival. Survival of the strongest. But Shetland’s creatures have mastered this season and have what it takes to flourish here. For ill weather never lasts, and following every storm is the promise of calm. On the isle of Unst, at the most northern tip of Shetland, a young family is enjoying the winter sun. Only a few months old and recently emerged from their underground holt, these otter cubs have been born usually late. It’s strange new world, and the cubs-a male and a female-have a lot to learn. The family will stay together for a year or so, hunting these tidal pools and learning the secrets of the sea. But, for now, it’s all about play. Their experienced mother must always be on guard- the cubs are still at a vulnerable age and danger is never far away. It’s a male, a dog otter. If he’s not their father, he could kill the young cubs. They are unaware of the danger. The mother grabs the first one, dragging it across the deep channel. The second cub follows quickly, sensing the urgency. The male doesn’t pursue them, for now. But this is HIS territory and the young family will need to be on their guard. Shetland is made up of over 100 different islands. Situated at 60 degrees north, they are at the same latitude as Greenland and as close to Norway as they are to most of Scotland. Treeless, with a cool oceanic climate, Shetland is fringed with over 1,000 miles of rich coast. Nowhere is more than three miles from the sea. Its influence is felt everywhere. Inhabited since the Stone Age, these windblown isles have been home to wildlife and people for millennia. Once a critical staging post for the Vikings as they navigated the Atlantic, boat building and fishing are still important to the population here. Everyone lives by the rhythms of the sea. On Unst, the fierce winter storms have brought rewards for some. Tiny sanderlings and turnstones scour the broken help for scraps. Whilst in a secluded bay, the prize is even greater. A minke whale carcass will support these hooded crows for months. As long as they remember the pecking order of the scavengers. Raven’s always come first. Nearby, the otter family has moved to the edge of the male’s territory. The cubs are gaining in confidence- able to swim more independently and starting to explore. Each new object is worth investigating. Like everywhere in the world, climate change and warming seas are causing changes. In recent years, octopus numbers around Shetland appear to be increasing. For the otter family, this is a real treat. The mother must hunt every few hours to satisfy the cubs. And with the threat of the male still present, she chooses a hidden spot to leave them carefully stripping seaweed from the rocks to make them a bed.

现在是1月底,维京小队正在行军。设得兰群岛(Shetland)的标志性冬季节日“海利Aa”(Up Helly Aa)已经占领了勒威克(Lerwick)的街道,为冬季的黑暗带来了光明。但当黎明破晓时,海洋主宰一切。强大的大西洋释放出她最大的愤怒,就像一场接一场的风暴袭击这些岛屿,把大海打得狂乱。对于野生动物来说,这是一场生存之战。强者生存。但设得兰群岛的生物已经掌握了这个季节,并具备了在这里繁衍生息所需的条件。因为坏天气是不会长久的,每一场风暴过后都是平静的保证。在设得兰群岛最北端的安斯特岛上,一个年轻的家庭正在享受冬日的阳光。这些水獭幼崽只有几个月大,最近才从地下的洞穴里出来,通常出生较晚。这是一个奇怪的新世界,而小隔间——一个男的和一个女的——有很多东西要学。这家人将在一起呆一年左右,寻找这些潮汐池和学习海洋的秘密。但现在,一切都是关于玩耍。它们经验丰富的妈妈必须时刻保持警惕——幼崽仍处于脆弱的年龄,危险从未远离。这是一只公的,一只狗水獭。如果他不是他们的父亲,他可以杀死幼崽。他们没有意识到危险。妈妈抓住第一个,把它拖过深海峡。第二只幼崽很快跟在后面,感觉到了紧急情况。雄性暂时不会追逐它们。但这是他的地盘,这个年轻的家庭需要保持警惕。设得兰群岛由100多个不同的岛屿组成。它们位于北纬60度,与格陵兰岛处于同一纬度,与挪威的距离与苏格兰大部分地区的距离一样近。没有树木,海洋气候凉爽,设得兰群岛有1000多英里的富饶海岸。没有什么地方离海超过三英里。它的影响无处不在。自石器时代就有人居住,这些被风吹过的岛屿数千年来一直是野生动物和人类的家园。曾经是维京人横渡大西洋的重要中转站,造船和捕鱼对这里的居民来说仍然很重要。每个人都生活在海洋的节奏中。在Unst,猛烈的冬季风暴给一些人带来了回报。细小的砂屑和石屑在破碎的帮助物中搜寻残片。而在一个僻静的海湾里,收获就更大了。一头小须鲸的尸体可以支撑这些乌鸦好几个月。只要他们记得食腐动物的啄食顺序。乌鸦永远是第一位的。附近,水獭家族已经迁移到雄性领地的边缘。小熊们越来越有信心了——他们能够更独立地游泳,并开始探索。每个新对象都值得研究。和世界各地一样,气候变化和海洋变暖正在造成变化。近年来,设得兰群岛附近的章鱼数目似乎在增加。对于水獭家族来说,这是一种真正的享受。母熊必须每隔几个小时捕猎一次以满足幼崽的需求。在雄性的威胁仍然存在的情况下,她选择了一个隐蔽的地方,让它们小心翼翼地从岩石上剥下海藻,为它们铺床。

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