The Shetland Islands are quite remote from the UK mainland and for many folks, that is the main attraction. Relatively close but a long way away at the same time. The place has got shedloads of empty space to wander about in, wonderful birdlife to observe, no major roads or railways, few people, silence, a serene tangible absence of ‘mainland woes’ and a pace of life that suits many, especially those tired of that overused phenomena, the rat race.
An hour by plane north of Aberdeen it’s expensive to get to too. That fact and a dirth of hotel or guest house accommodation (thanks to a huge Total oil/gas plant being built on the islands and the needs of its hundreds of transient workers), means that the kind of leisure visitor to the place is hard-core rather than opportunist, and thoughtful and interested rather than casually loud and ugly.
It’s got a lot of attractions but one that it doesn’t have is nice weather.
Here we be in the middle of June, a few days away from the summer solstice and the temperature on deck is hovering around 7 degrees, the wind is naggingly robust from a point north of west and the cloud base is around 8mm above my safety helmeted head. A glutinous drizzle, distorted by the wind eddying around the square brutishness of the construction vessel, is barrel rolling across the vast deck and soaking all before it, inside and out. Anyone on the brink of thinking it’s a bad day would be turned into a suicide trending manic depressive within a minute out here. It takes a strong soul to see the positive side.
The installation has come to a grinding halt because of the sea conditions. Big things being lifted off bigger things by an even bigger thing have limits and the sea motions, the significant height factored into the average period of the waves (Hs x Tp squared), are too big to work. Too big by far. The forecast if these things are to be believed, has things looking hopeful for the weekend but I’m not so sure. We need a period of around 8 seconds or less to be happy, that and a Hs of around 1.3m or less. So far, the lowest period on the horizon (so to speak) is 9 to 10. Not good. Patience is called for, lots and lots of luvverly patience. Easy to say, difficult to do.
The one module that’s been installed so far, 8529 tonnes of it and valued at around $800 million, just one of three lifts to go onto the smaller of the two jackets.
One of two main hooks used to lift the beast, the weight of the lift rigging wires? 244 tonnes.
Lifted clear of the HLV
Crew changing by crew-boat and crane basket. Not for the squeamish.