Baile Sear, North Uist - February 2006  Ronnie Mckenzie
A photographic survey of an eroding site at Baile Sear

Ronnie Mckenzie, a member of Access Archaeology, has been monitoring and photographing one of the eroding archaeological sites at Baile Sear since the Spring of 2005. The site, which is thought to be a prehistoric settlement, was damaged during the hurricane in January 2005 and has eroded dramatically since.

The rate of the destruction of the site is captured by Ronnie's photographs. These show us how quickly an eroding site can be destroyed, and demonstrate the usefulness of constant monitoring.
May 2005,  Ronnie Mckenzie June 2005,  Ronnie Mckenzie July 2005,  Ronnie Mckenzie
May 2005
The hurricane which hit Scotland in January 2005 exposed a number of sites at Baile Sear, including this probable prehistoric settlement. The dark red feature in the section is a hearth. Note the position of the upright stone (orthostat) to the right of the people.
June 2005
The hearth is still visible in the section, but wave and wind action is slowly eroding the soft sand sediments underlying the cobbles.
July 2005
With each high tide the coast edge slowly retreats, taking with it more of the archaeology. The pebbles covering it are also going, and the black and red hearth deposits are now visible on the ground.
August 2005,  Ronnie Mckenzie September 2005,  Ronnie Mckenzie October 2005,  Ronnie Mckenzie
August 2005
Much of the dark red hearth deposits (peat ash) have now been washed away, and only a small area of the hearth remains.
September 2005
The hearth is now completely gone and more of the site is now visible. The section is getting closer to the orthostat and to the flat stone lying in front of it.
October 2005
One month on, the large flat stone has been washed away and parts of a structure are now visible in the section.
November 2005,  Ronnie Mckenzie December 2005,  the SCAPE Trust January 2006,  Ronnie Mckenzie
November 2005
Dramatic changes have happened to the site after more strong winds. The sea has removed some of the cobbles, exposing the top of a wall of a probable round house (left hand side of the photo) and boulders.
December 2005
Further exposure of the large curving wall has ocurred. At least 2 courses of wall are visible. Across the site the soft sediments are being washed away leaving the partly collapsed stonework exposed.
January 2006
Wind and waves are now causing the wall to slowly collapse. The coast edge has retreated back to the line of the wall, while the large boulders exposed in November have now been covered up by cobbles again.
February 2006,  Ronnie Mckenzie April 2006,  Ronnie Mckenzie June 2006,  Ronnie Mckenzie
February 2006
The large curving wall has now collapsed exposing more soft sand deposits behind it. These are now at imminent threat from being washed away by waves.
April 2006
The stones of the large curving wall have been further exposed and the soft sediments behind it are beginning to erode.
June 2006
Tidal action is scouring into the soft, sandy deposits around the sides of the wall and has removed a large section of archaeological deposits.
August 2006,  Ronnie Mckenzie
August 2006
The sea has deposited cobbles in front and on top of of the soft sandy sediments that surround the structure. But the cobbles can dissappear again as quickly as the appeared and the sandy deposits will be exposed once more to wind and wave action.
September 2006
In a bid to rescue information from the site before it was further destroyed a two-week trial dig was carried out by SCAPE and members of Access Archaeology. The dig revealed substantial structures and in-situ finds and deposits.
October 2006
By the end of the two-week dig a very high tide was battering the front of the site, reaching into the trenches and washing away our spoil heaps!
November 2006
The site is continuously being eroded by sea and wind and the waves have now exposed the top of the blue tarpaulin and sandbags that had been put down to protect the site following the fieldwork season in September/October.
Early December 2006
The shingle has been pushed a little further up towards the top of the mound and the blue tarpaulin protecting the excavated surfaces has been further exposed.
Christmas 2006
By Christmas time the eroding section has receded further east towards the centre of the mound and more archaeology has been lost.
February 2007
During strong winter storms and harsh weather the erosion of the site was exacerbated and the shoreline is now much closer to the centre of the mound.
May 2007
Large parts of the northern end of the site that were previously covered in turf and shingle have now begun to erode, leaving thick deposits of midden material and occupation horizons exposed to the elements.
July 2007
The shoreline has continued to recede and much of the stone work that used to be visible on the foreshore below the turf covered part of the mound has now dissappeared. Compare this photo to that taken in August 2006.
  © The SCAPE Trust