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Life in the Orkneys (clip 1)

Methods of transport between the islands

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First part of a film about life on the Orkney islands. This extract shows the memorial stone at a well where seamen took on their last fresh water before sailing across the Atlantic or to the polar regions. A map of the Orkney Islands depicts the islands and shots of the inter-island cargo and passenger boats which provide a lifeline between the islands.

Questions & Activities


  • How many islands make up the Orkney Islands?
  • How many are inhabited according to this film?
  • What important function do the ships provide to the islands?
  • How do people find out the 'gossip' today?
  • Why is a Viking Ship depicted on the map of Orkney?
  • What was the strategic importance of Orkney and Shetlands for the Vikings?
  • What cargo can you see being taken on and off the ships?


History / Geography / Media Studies: Research the strategic importance of Orkney and Shetland in history. Present your findings either by a report, powerpoint presentation or moving image essay using extracts from the film.

Economic History: Research how the islands received goods and trades in the past and compare how they receive goods today. Identify the similarities and differences.

Geography / Journeys: Find out why Orkney was the last stop for ships to stock up on water before travelling to the Atlantic crossing or the polar region. Plot the route from Orkney to destinations across the Atlantic and to the polar regions.

Geography: The film mentions how many islands make up the Orkney Islands and how many were in inhabited at the time this film was made. Find out how many islands are inhabited today, why those inhabited when this flm was made are no longer inhabited and what methods of transport are available between the islands. How often do these run and how long does it take?

Maths: Research various methods of travel from your location to the Orkney Islands. Calculate the time it takes using different methods of transport and the miles travelled. Present your results in a graph and demonstrate which method of transport is a) the cheapest or most economic; b) leaves the least carbon footprint; and c) is the fastest. Combining all these factors - present your argument for your chosen method. These could combine several modes of transport.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-002-245-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 2009
Date 1957
Genre Sponsored, Documentary
School Subject History, Geography, Media Studies, Economic History, Social Studies, Mathematics
Subject Matter Journeys
Who Campbell Harper Films (production company), Films of Scotland (sponsor)
Where Orkney
Attributes Black and White, Sound
Clip Length 1:24
Film Length 17:38