Subterranean river discovered in Rousay!

After the problem of the weird underground chamber filling up with water from yesterday, today the pump was retrieved and along with all its hoses was loaded onto the boat this morning, aided by a set of portable wheels and the downhill slope of the Tingwall slip. Successfully hauled it down to site, read the instructions, filled it with oil & petrol, primed it and prepared to spend a long time swearing at it (having had many unpleasant experiences in wet archaeological holes in the Cambridgeshire fens in winter with a recalcitrant industrial pump). Took a picture before chucking the pump hose in, as the water had settled out a lot and you could see some of the stonework better:


The light at the bottom is the sky reflecting in the water, and you can see some of the 'inverted corbelling' leading down into the depths, with about 60cm or so of water below that. All very tantalising, and our pump started up fine - albeit after a small hiccup caused by not reading the instructions quite as well as I thought and missing the throttle lever (ahem!) - and it got going and pumping out a treat - water gushing out at speed - yippee!!


Thought the hole would soon be empty, and we'd be able to see all the stonework that was excavated by touch yesterday - but no: although the pump was hammering away the water level wasn't dropping more than a few centimetres and you could see water pouring in to make up the difference - it really was like a river was running in there - I mean we knew it was a spring because of the depth of water but a river? Ridiculous or what? Then Julie pointed out that we probably weren't doing the site much good by having all that water running underneath it, and since the new Swandro River didn't seem to be running out we had to admit defeat.

We also have the question of what is it? There's definitely a big flag at the bottom, but there also seems to be a massive lintel at the side nearest the steps down, directly under one of the side slabs, and there's a small chamber or space under the lintel where the floors a bit deeper. It's got to have been dry when it was constructed or you'd never have been able to build it - and it does remind me of a very small version of Mine Howe in Tankerness what with the whole weirdness of it. The pic below shows the corbelled roof of the cell it's in, reflected in the water when the flash went off, wasn't going to stand waist deep in water to look up and get a proper photo of the roof, sorry!


Besides which there might be something lurking in the depths and I might get dragged down into the underworld, or have I just been reading too many bad fantasy novels?

Anyway thanks to having to backfill this and other wet bits tomorrow we spent some of the day filling rubble sacks with small rounded beach pebbles as an alternative to sandbags, that would just get a soggy and disgusting:


Sames a shame but there you go, the big backfill starts tomorrow, everything is already aching in anticipation!

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Swandro - Orkney Coastal Archaeology Trust 

Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation No: SC047002 

Patron: His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay

Registered office: Bayview Birsay Orkney KW17 2LR   email: info@swandro.co.uk