Studying Across Europe: A Vulcan's Tale

A UH Hilo student’s journey across different parts of Europe: Further exploration of Scotland

Description of photo
Staff Writer Breandain Clarke
Photographs courtesy of Breandain Clarke

As I said in the last article, this current article I would be discussing London, though due to my trip to London happening at the end of this month (after our article submissions are due) my London article will be coming out in the January issue! This is not a complete shame, since I have so much more to talk about!

So for now, I will be talking about some of the other adventures I have been on in Scotland I wasn’t able to fit into the last issue.

One of the recent highlights has been chasing geese all around Stirling and the surrounding areas. Mari Svobodova, my girlfriend, is writing her dissertation on the pink-footed goose.

In order to graduate with honors and high marks, she has been working on a pink-footed goose project that might help in saving the lives of many geese in the area. Since September, we have been biking from Stirling to the surrounding towns of Airith, Falkirk, and Gargunnock, all to gather data on the feeding and vigilance of the geese in stubble and winter wheat fields. What happens is that many of the farmers attempt to shoot the geese. In order to gauge their vigilance we have been utilizing a bird scarer, a megaphone which shouts various bird calls. We then track them in the sky, and follow them to the next field, documenting their feeding habits thereafter. Mari is hoping this project will dissuade farmers from shooting them, and instead utilize bird scarers.

This usually happens in the more rural areas, far away from people and the busy towns I have become used to. It is usually quiet in the surrounding nature, which reminds me a lot of the times I would to King’s Landing, just past Richardson’s beach park, if I ever needed to get away from everything.

Since we have been chasing and watching the pink footed geese, I could not help but think about Hawaiʻi’s national bird, the nēnē goose. An interesting fact about the nēnē goose is that they quickly adapted to the sharp volcanic rocks by shortening the webbing on their feet, and elongating their nails for climbing. They have smaller wings because they have no natural predators to evade or long distances to travel. This is the biggest difference between the nēnē and the pink-footed geese, as the pink-footed geese travel from Iceland, which is about an 800 mile flight distance. The pink-footed geese also have predators to evade in the form of dogs, foxes, and rifle wielding farmers.

Also, their physical resemblance is a bit different, the pink-footed goose is a bit bigger than Hawaiʻi’s nēnē. After helping in documenting and collecting the data from over roughly 500 geese so far, I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that the nēnē goose is far cuter than the pink-footed goose. Even though the nēnē are missing what the pink-footed goose is named after, their faces are a lot more adorable than their pink-footed cousins.

One of the areas we visit regularly for goose chasing is Falkirk, which is roughly 20 miles from Stirling. In Falkirk there is the Helix park, home to the Kelpie sculptures, as seen above. I remember the first day we landed in Scotland and while we were driving to Stirling, we passed these sculptures and I was blown away by their size and beauty.

Sculptures of Kelpies Kelpies are a gaelic mythological creature that haunt rivers and streams, taking on the image of horses to lure young children. Once the children are on the kelpies, their magical hide sticks to them, and they drag the children under water to eat them. They also take on the image of a naked woman, as well as a hairy young man hiding in the river. Although their myth is quite terrifying, the sculptures of them are magnificent.

During one of the very few sunny days in Scotland, we took a quick hike to Stirling Castle, which can be seen from the window in our kitchen. Once we were through the main gates, nestled on the southside of the castle was the Queen Anne gardens, and right away I thought about Queen Liliʻuokalani Gardens. Though the Queen Anne gardens are a lot smaller than Queen Liliʻuokalani Gardens, it still had walkways and plenty of views to blow any garden enthusiasts away.

Inside the castle, visitors are swept away to the renaissance by way of a tour through the castle, showcasing tapestries as well as several small galleries and even a display in the great kitchens illustrating a day in the life of one of the many cooks preparing a royal banquet.

Having been away from Hawaiʻi for nearly five months now, there are many things only really found in Hawaiʻi that I have been missing greatly. One of these things are poke bowls. There is nothing more satisfying and, quite frankly, refreshing than eating poke after a long day of working and adventuring. Another thing are the beaches on all of the islands of Hawaiʻi. I miss merely driving a couple of minutes and being able to jump into the ocean. Please, to any readers who will eventually be leaving Hawaiʻi after college, do not take for granted the beautiful, luscious beaches. Once they are unattainable to you, you will miss them.

With fall semester coming to a close, I hope it has been a great semester. I hope you have learned, experienced, and obtained a lot of useful tools for your respective futures.

Well, until next time vulcans, be ready for your finals, keep guzzling down that water, and remember who you are, and everything you have accomplished so far. For those graduating this semester, well done! You are so amazing, and you should be so proud of this accomplishment! Aloha nui loa.