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Published: 25 March 2017

By Andy Ross

The colours of nature

This week I have embarked on  a virtual "voyage of discovery", travelling underwater with the help of old books and rediscovering the fantastic colours of the marine environment. 

Rejoicing in names like "Brown Tuning Fork Weed" or "False Eyelash Weed", seaweed often washes up on the beaches here in Yell, and the colours are amazing. On Breckon Sands we get fans of pink weed, and sometimes entangled in amongst them, pipefish or starfish. A walk on that beach is always inspirational. 

At the other end of the island, West Sandwick Beach also has lots of colour. Pink sand washes out of the dunes and down to the sea, tinging the beach with red stripes. Sea urchins, half gnawed and scooped out by otters, can be found in among the rocks, and their intricate structure has to be seen to be believed. Next time you find one, break it open gently and see how the curved ribs of the shell are etched with lines and patterns which look just like porcelain. We do not often get large animals washed up, although I have seen some quite big creatures brought ashore including lobsters rich in their resplendent blue armour, and once, a porpoise. 

It was an urge to know more about this life that encouraged the collecting of books and publications. These provide many happy hours of reading and researching, and my favourite are the saturated colours and imaginative stylings of the late Victorian and early twentieth century illustrators, before photography made for more realistic renderings of these things. Nothing quite beats sitting down in front of a roaring fire and looking through books for inspiration, does it?