My memories of the Klondykers

Photo by Billy Sandilands

I'm currently in the research phase of a small, self-directed project, formed around memories of the Klondykers in Shetland.

This project has been lingering in some form in my head for quite a while. It came about when I was very much focused on my artwork as a product likely sometime in 2013.

I heard about Fjara cafe being built in Breiwick bay, Lerwick (possibly read this article). I wondered how I could approach the owners about selling my work in the cafe. However, I wanted to make some site-specific work that was sympathetic to the location and appealed to the clientele more than my loud obnoxious prints at the time.

Some of my memories of the bay are from childhood when these large Russian and Eastern European fish factory vessels were anchored side by side for what seemed like forever. My dad would call them “rust buckets”. And you’d often see the workers on land collecting supplies. It was like this mysterious other world that was intriguing to a young mind - especially the language and Cyrillic typography and bold graphic packaging.

Unfortunately, several Klondyker ships were lost around the coastline of Shetland. I have a vivid memory of being on Jonathan Wills' boat tour of Bressay and Noss, as we came around the head of Bressay lighthouse Jonathan announced “this is what happens when you don’t use an anchor at sea during a storm”. And we saw the shipwreck of the Klondyker Lunokhods that ran aground during November 1993. I remember that pile of rust and wood shrapnel very clearly as it was shocking and quite eerie.

This is about another wreck not far away. There are stories about items that washed ashore such as tinned fish. There seems to be a local interest with Facebook posts recently shared of the ships and the shipwrecks.

It also comes off the back of a screenprint I made in 2011 called The Goodwill Merchant blogged about here. That print was inspired by a shipwreck here in Shetland by the same name, so I wondered about stories based on other shipwrecks and ocean pollution.

Head over to the Exploration section to see work in progress on the Klondyker project.