Farewell Orkney

O farewell Orkney I'm leaving soon
But I'll return one day to you
Farewell and know as I leave this shore
I will return to this land once more
© Jenny & Carolyn, Farewell Orkney, AT045, 1996
For the last 10 years see the online Maeshowe webcamera
(every day)

See the archive of Newgrange webcamera
(only Dec. 21st)

The reappearing sun at Orkney

As described in my article in the 3rd Stone Magazine, the sun will reappear from behind Ward Hill inside Maeshowe ((59o 00' latitude, 3o 11' W longitude and 22 m high) around the beginning of December and the middle of January. A picture that describes this process can be seen below:

This reappearing of the sun is of course not only visible from within Maes Howe, due to the fact that this is determined by the horizon! A study has been made of other buildings around Maeshowe, to see if this reappearing could have been captured by other buildings.

In principle the sun can reappearing from behind two steep slopes:

In the below sections a few locations are illustrated with pictures/video's: A Google Map is also available:

View Larger Map

Near Brodgar Farm

Dec. 21st, 1999 AD

The video of reappearing sun is taken at a position near the Brodgar Farm (HY304128).
The direction from this location towards the steep slope of Ward Hill is 217o 40' (+/- 30', compass reading 224o (in 1999) compensated for true north) or using the sun reappearance: 217o 50' (+/- 5'). The reappearing sun can be seen in a region stretching over some 250 m: from HY30151290 to HY30401275.

5000 years ago this would be around HY301130, so the question is: was there something build at that location in neolithic times? The present  landowner has heard that some cists were found in earlier times. The following findings are registrated by CANMORE in this neighborhood (no dates known):

After studying this information (e.g. normally cists are not from the time period we are looking at), the neolithic house could be a clue, perhaps a valid clue for the reappearing sun from behind Ward Hill. The excavations on the Ness of Brodgar could reveal something along the lines I am looking for around the purple area (same length as the red area):
Location reappearing sun in 2800 BCE

The direction from this location towards the steep slope of Ward Hill is 216o 10' (-1.5o change in the sun position over 5000 years).

At Watch Stone

Charles Tait has witness a reappearing sun from behind the Ward Hill at the Watch Stone location in 1998 or 1999 (date unknown, but it was a few days before or after winter solstice).

At Maeshowe

The dates of the reappearing sun from within Maeshowe can be viewed in the table of the sun sets registrated in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Dec. 1st 1998 AD

The below pictures are taken inside or just in front of Maeshowe (HY318128). The sun is here depicted at three different times on Dec. 1st, 1998:
  1. The sun just sets behind the top of Ward Hill around 15:02 UTC
  2. The effect of the sun light inside the Maeshowe chamber when the sun sets can be seen in this video.
  3. The sun just reappears from behind the steep slope of Ward Hill (Glen of Greor) around 15:09 UTC.
  4. The following videos are made synchronously between 15:09 and 15:11 UTC:
  5. The sun just sets behind the horizon around 15:11 UTC

Jan. 11th, 1999 AD

Still pictures concerning this reappearing sunset can also be seen on Charles Tait's pages. One picture of this reappearing sun is copied here:

Reappearing sun light around 15:30 UTC on Jan. 11th, 1999 (© C. Tait, 1999)

Jan. 12th, 2000 AD

Reappearing sun light at 15.27 UTC on Jan. 12th, 2000

Animated picture and video are available.

Jan 31st, 2001

The reappearing sun from behind the Kame of Hoy (Cuilags) has been witnessed by Charles Tait from the entrance of Maeshowe.

Jan 31st, 2001 at 16:25 UTC from Maeshowe doorway (© Charles Tait, 2001)

5000 years ago

5000 years ago, the sun would also have reappeared from behind Ward Hill in the chamber (depending of course on the layout of the entrance, see my article). The biggest difference would be that the sun would shine in at 23/24 days before/after winter solstice. A 22/23 day period happens to coincide with the Megalithic Month mentioned by some people (like A. Thom).
The reappearing sun behind Kame of Hoy back some 5000 years is not visible from within Maeshowe chamber, but visible from the entrance of Maeshowe, the sun would reappear some 43/44 days after winter solstice day (around 2800 BC).

Near Breckness

Near Breckness there is a settlement (HY231096) looking over the Hoy Sound towards Kame of Hoy (part of the Cuilags). The direction of this line is 215o 40' (+/- 30', compass reading 222o (in 2001) compensated for true north). This is quiet close to the reading found at Brodgar Farm of 216o 10' for winter solstice sunset at Brodgar Farm 5000 years ago.
From the settlement the top of Ward Hill is at 180o 30' (+/- 30', compass reading 186.9o (in 2001) compensated for true north). Is this all a coincidence???
After studying the documents on the settlement, no concrete information has been gained. The settlement consist of two or more chambers. These two chambers have passages, but these are directed to Ward Hill of Hoy (if the compass used in 1902 was working correctly). So it is not certain that this settlement has some relation to Kame of Hoy and winter solstice (according to direction in the picture, the passages of the two chamber point precisely to Ward Hill!).

A video has been made on January 12th, 2001 from near Breckness (HY241091). This shows the sun while setting behind summit of Kame of Hoy around 15:17 UTC, reappearing from behind Kame of Hoy around 15:34 UTC and finally setting behind the mountains of North Scotland around 15:45 UTC.

Reappearing sun from behind Kame of Hoy
on Jan. 12th, 2001 at 15:41 UTC

Not on film, but the sun reappeared for a second time behind the mountains of North Scotland seen from this location!

At the Breckness settlement one would see the same effect of the sun setting behind the Kame of Hoy, but then at winter solstice day 5000 years ago. If the second reappearing at that time also happens at Breckness settlement is not yet known.

Last major content related changes: Febr. 1th, 2001