First modules arrive on Fair Isle for observatory rebuild


A significant milestone has been reached in the construction of the new Fair Isle Bird Observatory after the first of the building's modules arrived by boat.

Six modular units arrived at around 7 am on Wednesday 19 October following an overnight trip from Kirkwall, Orkney, on a barge with the help of tugs Green Isle and MTS Valour. A total of 34 modules are still to be shipped to Fair Isle, but due to the weather smaller vessels may have to be used.

The first modular units arriving on Fair Isle (Douglas Barr / Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust).

It means the building will effectively be pieced together with pre-made rooms, instead of being built from scratch. The previous building burned down in 2019 and the new one is due to be constructed on the same site.

The modular units had a long journey, having been made in a factory in Sheffield before heading to Grimsby Docks. They then were shipped to Kirkwall in September, where they have remained for more than a month while awaiting a weather window with the right wind and swell conditions.

Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust chair Douglas Barr said it was a "huge" milestone. "We've now moved from the observatory being constructed elsewhere on the UK to now actually physically being on Fair Isle. So you can now see it beginning to take shape actually on the site. That's fantastic to see.

"It's obviously very well received in Fair isle by the residents, because throughout the day from first light there's been a constant stream of them all coming up to see it. I think that exemplifies how important it is to Fair Isle."

Barr added that the weather delays of the last few weeks will have an impact on the timescale, but it is still on course for opening in 2023.