On Thursday I attended my second official St Kilda meeting to finalize the scanning team and equipment before voyaging out there this June/July to scan Village Bay. Although the primary focus of my research is the creation of archaeological reconstructions, understanding the interpretive processes governing the collection of data which in turn will inform the reconstruction are just as important. Being in the field as part of the scanning team this summer means that I’ll be able to observe and evaluate the decisions made during the scanning firsthand. Evaluating the varying degrees of subjectivity involved and really scrutinising at what stages interpretation begins to occur and to what extent. Ultimately giving me a far more complete and rounded view of the processes of archaeological reconstruction from the field to the desktop.
St Kilda was inhabited up until the 1930s when the remaining inhabitants were evacuated to the mainland. The main island of Hirta is now home to a handful of people working at the QinetiQ base, restoration work parties, various rangers and researchers each year….and a whole lotta sheep! The scanning this summer aims to document the entire village area below the head dyke, and a number of select structures elsewhere on the island.
At the Thursday meeting there was a lot of discussion over concerns about the weather, not only during our time on Hirta, but also preceding the trip where we will have a window of only a few days to get out to the island on the boat. The issue is the direction of the prevailing wind on Village Bay – it could be a bright sunny day, but if the wind is a north-westerly then you risk reaching Hirta and not being able to get off the boat at the harbour wall for the huge swells battering the bay. I remember the anxiety of waiting for the phone call from Angus (St Kilda cruises) each night for the best part of a week the first time I journeyed to St Kilda. Hearing his ominous Harris tones of “aye, we’ll noooo be going to St Kilda the day”.
So fingers crossed for this year!