The end of week 2 came and went, and we began to see friction within our team. After a medical emergency saw one of our team members evacuated off the island by the coastguard and lifeboat, and later returned with limited ability to work in the field, we were starting to lose patients with each other. Several heated arguments broke out. Some, much to our embarrassment, occurred in front of geology students from other universities we were staying with. This was quickly eased by the reassurance that they were also struggling in the high-pressure environment. The weather changed from bright sunshine to storms, with endless heavy rain and high winds. The swarms of midges made it almost impossible to enjoy any breaks in the rain.
The beautiful island had decided to show its rough and wild side. Island fever was definitely kicking in!
Weeks 3 and 4 were a demonstration of sheer mental and physical strength by our whole team. After searching for a way to get a break from the island, we discovered that there was no way of making a day trip to the mainland. I made the decision to join the island’s ranger and some other residents on a wildlife boat trip to get a few hours of the island. The clouds cleared for a few hours and I was ecstatic as we saw Manx shearwater, a pod of common dolphins and a porpoise mother and calf.
We pushed through the end of week 4 and continued to collect valuable data. We managed to find entertainment in the tough environment. We sent Fathers’ Day video messages from the side of a stormy mountain, danced in gale force winds and navigated our way through valleys in heavy fog. Our rendition of ‘they’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard’ carried us home most evenings. We even mastered the skill of shopping on the island, learning the delivery days and navigating the shelf of wacky ingredients for exactly what was needed!
Week 5 and many of us had had enough. With fieldwork nearly complete and the departure of our return ferry drawing nearer, we all wanted to go home. I found comfort sat amongst the rocks looking towards the mainland and completing the last of my interpretations for the Rum volcano caldera. While 5 weeks on the Island had been tough, the geology had been spectacular, and had confirmed by ambition to study volcanology and igneous petrology at a postgraduate level.
On the last Saturday I was glad to be leaving the island, but sad at the same time. We may have complained about the remoteness of the island and how we struggled, but on reflection we all survived. In fact, we were awesome! For every bad memory, there was a good memory; the hysterical laughter over mistaking sandstone for gabbro, drinking with the locals, building blanket forts on the bunkbeds, scrambling down insane slopes, the wholesale delivery of 10kg of sweets and chocolate to the bunkhouse, finding tuffisite veins – the list was endless.
Back on the mainland, the sight of tarmac roads, car and trains were almost overwhelming. We raided the co-op and wandered around the town, dazed by the sheer number of people! The team dispersed in Mallaig. After emotional goodbyes, I boarded a train that would take me back to Glasgow, then onwards to home in the south. I promised myself that I’d remember the awesome experiences we had!