SHETLAND: RUGGED NORTHERN BEAUTY
Saskatchewan and Shetland are a long way apart – nearly 6000 kms. as the crow flies – but their landscapes share an undeniable similarity.
The sky and the rolling prairies dominate the flatlands of southern Saskatchewan, a landlocked province in Western Canada. Cattle and grain, railways and gravel roads, grain terminals and oil rigs stand out in the mostly-empty landscape.
The land in Shetland, the rugged island archipelago north of mainland Scotland, is more hilly but equally empty. The sky and the land, the sea, beaches and rugged cliffs are stunning, but quiet, almost reflective.
We spent a few days in Shetland this winter, touring from Sumburgh, the most southern point on Shetland Main, to Saxavord Hill near an abandoned military radar base at the north end of the island of Unst; from the bustling capital of Lerwick to the rugged cliffs and lighthouse at Eshaness.
Even the economies of Saskatchewan and Shetland are similar. Farming – grain and cattle in Saskatchewan and sheep, fish and mussels in Shetland – are still important, but the oil industry has become more significant in recent years. Shetland is a major service centre for Scotland’s North Sea oil field. However, the field is now in decline. The government has insisted that oil companies remediate the field and remove and dismantle all production platforms. Much of that work will be done in Shetland which will provide much-needed work.