St. Kilda – Life on a Remote Island

After the Island Invasives Conference, James Russel explores the high latitude island of St. Kilda which has had human influence for thousands of years.

St. Kilda is a remote island group in the North Atlantic off the coast of Scotland. Having made it to Scotland, and then the Outer Hebrides, it made sense to hop one more island to what was once the very edge of the world. After the Island Invasives 2017 conference which brought me this far, I particularly wanted the opportunity to observe what a high latitude island looks like after thousands of years of people living on it – in stark contrast to the literally Antipodes Island which has known people for little over a century.


Village Bay of Hirta, St. Kilda, viewed from summit Credit:: James Russell

Humans have been present on St. Kilda for thousands of years, since at least the Bronze Age. The people led a basic life, and relied heavily on terrestrial resources, particularly seabirds, for nourishment. Surprisingly, perhaps because of the scarcity of wood and value of boats, maritime activities such as fishing did not play a major role in island life. Indeed school teachers had issues teaching island children what a tree even was, except for in its reference in the Bible. The arrival of modern transport and society brought the scourge of modern disease, and ultimately residents started to leave the island from the middle of the 19th century – indeed founding the Melbourne suburb of St. Kilda. The islanders and their way of life have certainly been romanticised by Europeans, but a visit to St. Kilda will assure anyone that life on this island was anything but romantic, and more entirely isolated and challenging. Ultimately, the last island residents left in 1930.


The main street of village on Hirta, St. Kilda. Credit: James Russell

I noticed a few things which were in stark contrast to our conservation culture in New Zealand. Whereas in New Zealand, visiting such an island would entail rigorous cleaning of soil off outdoors equipment (e.g. boots) and disinfecting equipment (e.g. with trigene), such biosecurity did not take place when departing for or arriving at St. Kilda. Although this would be a challenge given the multi-use of the island by tourists, rangers, scientists and military, and even though humans have been visiting the island for thousands of years, given the rapid increase in pest and pathogen spread over the past century (i.e. since the St. Kildans left), this would seem as relevant here as anywhere else.


Fulmar nesting on cliffs were an important component of the diet on Saint Kilda Credit: James Russell

I also met the new ‘sheepies’ – researchers participating in the long-term study of the Soay sheep introduced to the main island of Hirta from nearby Soay. These sheep are an ancient breed introduced to St. Kilda a very long time ago. I realised by the nature of my field (introduced mammal eradication) I only ever undertake short-term studies on mammals introduced to islands, so it was interesting to see an introduced mammal species valued so highly – what my colleague Jean-Yves Meyer termed ‘heritigization’ (the adoption of an introduced species in to the biocultural history of a location) at the Island Invasives conference. However, I was left with a sense that the presence of the sheep across St. Kilda would be a limiting factor to native seabird recolonization, as such browsing mammals impact seabirds elsewhere in the United Kingdom.


Soay Sheep introduced to Hirta, St. Kilda, are where soy milk comes from. Credit: James Russell

Featured Photo: St. Kilda Island, Scotland. Credit: James Stringer
Article was originally printed in National Geographic

About James Russell

Conservation biologist Dr. James Russell works throughout the world on remote islands and other sites to provide conservation solutions by applying a combination of scientific methods. Based out of Auckland, New Zealand, from 2015 to 2017 he is also working on a Scientist without Frontiers programme in Brazil.

View All Posts

Follow Island Conservation on Social Media

[ism-social-followers list='fb,tw,li,youtube,instagram' template='ism_template_sf_1' list_align='horizontal' display_counts='false' display_full_name='true' box_align='center' ]

[ism-social-followers list='fb,tw,li,youtube,instagram' template='ism_template_sf_1' list_align='horizontal' display_counts='false' display_full_name='true' box_align='center' ]

Midway Atoll conservation




%d bloggers like this:

secret nature cbd cbd oil on scalp cbd oil for acne cbd kief nugs cbd and gaba cbd companies in colorado cbd oil cvs pharmacy fda regulations on cbd is vaping cbd bad oral cbd oil for pain pet cbd treats critical mass strain cbd cbd and prostate inflammation cbd oil erectile dysfunction allevia cbd oil where can i buy cbd oil in indiana fairwinds cbd tincture how much cbd oil for cancer cbd and mct oil cbd oil cincinnati ohio can cbd oil help hyperthyroidism how does cbd reduce inflammation cbd therapeutics does cbd oil help with herpes cbd states will cbd oil fail urine drug test can cbd oil show up in drug test cannazall cbd oil coupons for cbd oil how often cbd oil for bipolar 1 cbd e liquid wholesale all cbd oil benefits cbd oil for hives cbd oil for alopecia can i buy cbd oil at walgreens best cbd cream for arthritis pain cbd durban jamie richardson cbd oil shark tank cbd daily promotional code sagely cbd cream lazurus naturals cbd cbd educational posters how much cbd in a day does cbd oil stay in your system how long do cbd oil effects last cbd chewing tobacco does cbd oil reduce infamation reviews of cbd pure hemp oil high quality cbd oil grapefruit auckland cbd nz best time to take cbd oil orally cbd oil for charcot marie tooth disease

paleo diet weight loss success stories diet lose weight fast consumer digest weight loss pills paleo diet weight loss triphala weight loss pills horizon weight loss pills how do water pills work to lose weight keto diet how much weight loss in one week nicole kidman weight loss diet can you lose weight on a high carb diet bean diet to lose weight braggs apple cider vinegar weight loss diet tmz weight loss pill carnivore diet weight loss reddit weight loss pill on dr oz show keto weight loss supplements amazon best weight loss diet for vegetarian quick weight loss pills energy and weight loss supplements keto diet recipes don colbert what weight loss pillsreally work 7 day smoothie diet for quick weight loss what supplement are good nerves and weight loss how to lose weight fast with out diet pill do kelp pills help weight loss private label weight loss pills weight loss pills working weight loss ayurvedic pills xenadrine next gen weight loss pills reviews build muscle lose weight diet plan weight loss pills c135 non drug best weight loss 2020 pills best weight loss pills or tea weight loss pills starting with p protein diet weight loss plan what is la weight loss diet cat renal diet weight loss nano go pills weight loss energy reviews ucdavis weight loss diet plan prescription weight loss pill belviq joe thomas browns weight loss diet no sugar no starch no carbs diet weight loss apple cider vinegar and garcina weight loss diet drug that causes tol lose weight indian veg protein diet for weight loss best and safe weight loss pills paleo diet weight loss plan quantities good detox diet to lose weight does no iodine diet make you have weight loss sweet potato in a diet for weight loss good pills to take to lose weight vitamin pills good for weight loss

pills penis male enhancement pills doha good dick pills sexual health pills for men pro plus pills side effects buy volume pills male erectile dysfunction pills ed pills user stats cheap male enhancement products white pill with letter e zytek xl male enhancement lose weight penis enlargement dr oz andronite male enhancement sex pillssan diego ca cheap natural male enhancement hydromax supplement penis enlargement colorado after sex pill prevent pregnancy prescription drugs ingredients can i take 2 extenze pills homemade viagra shake with no pills how to enlarge my penis naturally essential oils male enhancement penis enlargement subscription male enhancement cenforce 100 generic ed and pe pills buy online number one energy pill zeneohlux male enhancement genetic penis enlargement best rated tablets for 2020 penis enlargement product that actually does beingg on pain pills make sex good penis enlargement in hot tub blue pills band pomenance sex enhancement spray asian market ed pills review sex story sisters sleeping pills levitra pill price having sex on placebo pills number one energy pill himalya sexual health tablets free viagra pills online viagra tablets online shopping in india naproxen male enhancement pills legal male enhancement pills in walgreens extacy male enhancement near me pills that will actually increase penis size viritex male enhancement best sex pills for man without side effects lq male enhancement birth control pills best worst week for sex epiduralpenis enlargement