This September I was lucky enough to participate in (and visit) the Orkney International Science Festival.
Orkney is a place I have always wanted to visit, and if you don’t know where it is, it’s located off the North East tip of Scotland. It’s home to ancient stone circles, viking settlements and lots of excellent seafood and beer.
The science festival was great. There were public talks every day in venues around Kirkwall (the main city in Orkney). I met a few people that travel to Orkney each year especially for the science festival which usually runs in September.
I attended some great talks on diverse topics from brewing viking beer, the life of James Hutton and how a project about knitting can help us understand mathematics better (more about that here in Frontiers Magazine). My favourite talk though was given by Tom Stevenson from the Museum of Communication in Fife about the developments in communication during wartime and the role Orkney played in the world wars.
Which leads me swiftly on to some of the awesome science-y things you can visit in Orkney even if the science festival isn’t in town.
Orkney is home to the Orkney Wireless Museum this is a volunteer staffed treasure trove of anything related to wireless communication and sound. I didn’t get to spend enough time as I would have liked in here and I definitely want to return for a closer look and browse.
The museum is basically one room crammed from floor to ceiling with collections of radios, gramophones and transmitters. It’s free to visit but does take donations to help support the upkeep of the museum. They have a website with some further information about the museum and its history. Due to its reliance on volunteers you may find that the museum isn’t open when you expect it to be.. . (just a warning there). The museum is only open between April and September (like many attractions in Orkney). It is also open on a Saturday.
This is a wireless receiver from 1912. That’s over 100 years old (stating the obvious there).
As we were travelling to schools with our science show we got to visit some interesting places around the island. It’s a beautiful place and we were blessed with incredible weather. What I didn’t realise about Orkney is that it is actually a collection of islands (I thought it was just one island). Some of which are connected by bridges. These were originally constructed y by Italian prisoners of war who were held on Orkney during WW1. They were built not as bridges but by barriers to German U-boats.
The Italian prisoners of war also built this incredible Italian chapel which is well worth a drive to see. It’s really easy to get around Orkney by car. It can be really windy though!
These ‘bricks’ are all painted on.
In the area you can also see the remains of the scuttled German fleet from 1919 in Scapa Flow. These are all based around 30-40 minute drive from Kirkwall.
You can see more of my photos from Orkney by clicking on the photo below
There’s also some very interesting geology in Orkney but I think I will leave that for another trip.