Surrounded By The Sea
The Isle of Tiree is about 23 miles from Ardnamurchan, the nearest point on the Scottish Mainland. However, the island is about 4 hours from the port of Oban. Ferries coming to Tiree have to navigate the Sound of Mull before crossing to Coll and then sailing down the Passage of Tiree to the pier at Gott Bay. Ferries are not the only shipping to be observed. Much of the traffic goes North/South to the west of the island, but often from our window we see small inshore fishing boats and coastal traffic. It is possible to identify the various ships using one of the marine traffic tracking programmes (AIS).
Recent activity in the waters around the island have seen the Northern Light House Vessel Pharos in Hynish Bay en route for Skerryvore Lighthouse. The NLV PHAROS is a Multi-Function Tender which came into service in 2007 to support the maintenance of the Board’s Lighthouses and other navigational aids. The vessel works with a contract helicopter and has her own workboats to provide access to and re-supply of some of the most remote assets in Scotland.
The recent work by Briggs Marine replacing the sub-sea electricity cable to the Island of Coll and linking Tiree to the national grid appears to have temporally been suspended pending the arrival of the correct cable and the return of the cable laying vessels from the Clyde.
In this past fortnight two survey vessels have been working in the Passage of Tiree. One of them the Bibby Tethra was surveying between Calvary Bay (Isle of Mull) and Scarinish (Tiree). This ties in with the planned route for the fibre optic submarine cable from the Dervaig Exchange on Mull and the exchange at Scarinish. In December 2013 HIE (Highlands and Islands Enterprise) announced, “Specialist vessels will lay 20 fibre optic submarine cables in a precise operation during May to October next year.” If the announced dates are kept to Tiree should receive a much improved broadband some time between July and December 2016.
The initial submarine telegraph cable was laid by ROC from Calgary Bay, Mull in 1942 and comes ashore 300m to the west of the telephone exchange, The automatic exchange was then installed in the 1960s. The present BT Tower with its various dishes dominates the skyline at Scarinish and can be seen from much of the island. Although many on the island have very slow broadband speeds, Tiree is regarded as a pioneer in the provision of broadband through a community unitive known as Tiree Broadband. Once again the sense of the digital divide is beginning to show and for businesses and educational purposes a fast broadband connection is vital. Surveys have shown that most UK residents regard fast broadband as an essential utility alongside access to clean water and electricity.