It’s not every day that we add a whale to our maps, but surveyor Shaun McGrath did recently…
I first became aware of the Colonsay Whale some time after a visit to the Isle of Colonsay in the Inner Hebrides last year, on a particularly fine day trip to carry out some survey work. It’s a long day as the ferry sets off around 9.30 am from Islay where I was working on detached duty and returns around 7.30 pm. I had plenty of time to get the survey work done and it left me a little spare time to explore the island’s fine sandy beaches before the return ferry. I visited Kiloran Bay in the north, as recommended by the occupants of a house I had surveyed earlier that day. They also said that there was an even finer beach further north, but it was only accessible by foot and would have added a couple of hours to my trip – and made me miss the ferry.
While planning a return to Colonsay for work, I decided to check imagery of the area, which coincidentally had been captured by the Flying Unit at a similar time to my last visit. I looked up the beach I hadn’t had time to visit on my last trip and while scanning the imagery, spotted an unusual shape on the ground, which wasn’t classified in our data. What at first appeared to be a large fish outline inspired a little more research, and I read about ‘The Colonsay Whale’.
The whale is an ongoing artistic installation by Julian Meredith. The outline is fully in place formed from stones on a raised beach. Passing visitors are encouraged to infill the outline with further stones from the raised beach, a giant project given that the whale is 525 feet in length.
After some online research and discussions within our team, we decided that the whale could be classified as a “Hill Carving Site”, and the classification would add value to our data. So the Colonsay Whales has become a part of the 500 million geographic features included in our database. An unusual feature!