The Orkney Islands played an important role in the "Ultima Thule" northwards rush in the Victorian era. They were by the time 'discovered' as an important step in Pytheas's trip to the far north.
Arctic ? Anyway, the Orkneys were an important call in his arctic demand.
Three centuries after, writing in the 1st century AD, the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela is the first to name the Orcades, which he finally defines and locates correctly.
Stromness, the second largest town in mainland Orkney, is charming with rare architecture and winding streets.
Coordinates: 58.9°N, 2.9°W
Population: ~ 2 200
A distinctive seafront - piers and a forest of chimneys over terraces of houses, enclosing spaces and sheltering from the wind. Two buildings emerge above the rest - the Town Hall tower and the Parish Church.
A picturesque port town with sandstone jetties that follow the shoreline:
The best view is from the ferry, as he approaches Hamnavoe harbour.
Quaint closes and narrow old streets, lanes and alleys huddled between stone buildings - so is Stromness.
The main street changes name as it winds and waves along the shoreline, often just one dwelling off the water’s edge - Victoria Street, Dundas Street, Alfred Street.
The safe harbour of Hamnavoe
By 1590, Stromness had established itself as a seaport. In the 17th cent. most of the people were in some way connected with the ships and the sea.
This was the most important architecture project in Stromness waterfront in recent years. The old Hudson Bay "Haven" outpost was renovated, together with another old gabled house; and both received company of a new building. The Piers Art Centre was born, and changed also Stromness cultural life.
The Centre is housed in two 18th century buildings. Now a contextual building joins these gable ends facing onto the harbour. The complex is a modern and interesting art gallery.
Stromness hosts a number of artists and craftspeople; the now famous Pier Arts Centre offers a substantial gallery for artwork.
This centre displays a permanent art collection, but it is also used for itinerant exhibitions,which change during the seasons.
As late as 1642, Stromness still consisted of five or six houses and a few thatched huts. From the earliest habitation of Orkney, the sheltered Hamnavoe would have been a favoured fishing spot for fishermen from the nearby farming communities. Norsemen named the bay Hamnavoe (hamna meaning small islands; voe meaning inlet). The modern name of Stromness reflects the meeting of sea and land: strom meaning tidal stream and ness, being the peninsula of land which protrudes to the south, creating the sheltered bay.
Stromness flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries as a result of increased trade with the New World. From around 1702 the Hudson's Bay Company began recruiting in Stromness, and by 1791 had appointed a Stromness merchant as their local agent. By the end of the 18th century, three-quarters of the Hudson's Bay Company's workforce in Canada was made up of Orcadians.
In the Napoleonic era (19th cent.), Stromness strengthened its position as an international trading and servicing port from a safe harbour to the Americas and mainland Europe. Distilleries, shops and taverns boomed, establishing a thriving main street. The ships of the Hudson's Bay Company watered and took on stores in Stromness until the early 1900s.
The song: Farewell to Stromness
NEXT: hopefully, a celebratory post, as 'Ultima Thule' reaches the 200 000 counted visits !