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Behind the scenes: Live webcams from Rum

Tim Scoones Tim Scoones | 16:50 UK time, Friday, 2 October 2009

Kirstine Davidson, one of the webcam team who will be folllowing the red deer rut on Rum, has sent this story back about the trials and tribulations of the project.

Transmitting live images from the Isle of Rum, a remote island off the west coast of Scotland, was never going to be easy, although I probably underestimated quite how many complications there would be. But as I sit here in the sunshine at Kilmory, listening to fairly positive murmurings from the technical and camera team, I can't believe it was only a week ago that we weren't sure if we would make it here at all.


Flash, one of the stags from Autumnwatch 2006 and 2007

The problems started when we attempted to organise a recce. Firstly, there was no space on the ferry on the day we wanted to come over. Then we were unable to find an available rib (a rigid inflatable boat for the non-nautical among you). Then we tried to arrange an alternative date, but discovered that once again the ferry had no space, this time because they were transporting cattle to the island.

But there was a rib available on that day, so we went ahead and made plans to visit. As the recce date got closer, the weather reports got worse and prospects of making the crossing got more and more unappealing. When the day arrived, we began the long drive north, but we only made it as far as Birmingham before receiving a call telling us to turn around and go home. There were force nine gales forecast and there was no way the rib could make the crossing. I was quietly relieved - I get seasick in a lift.

This unfortunately left us too tight for time to fit in a recce. So decisions about the plausibility of the webcasting were based on photographs, maps and numerous conversations with people on the island. Including calls to Ian, our production coordinator, who was in a payphone, due to the lack of mobile phone signal. Who said Autumnwatch wasn't thoroughly 21st century?

Eventually we decided it was worth a punt, although Jo and Phil, our technical guys, were quietly concerned about a large ridge that sits between the village green, which is the main rutting area, and the hut that we would be transmitting from.

So, armed with two vans full of kit, we embarked on the ten-hour journey to Mallaig. Apart from some heavy traffic around Glasgow (a popular spot, we discovered, for personalised number plates) and getting stopped by the police around Oban (apparently they often get people in white vans "up to no good" in those parts), our journey went smoothly.

When we arrived in Mallaig that evening, we had a conundrum about how to get everything we needed across to the island. One of the Land Rovers that had been delivered was a short wheel base, and there was no way all our kit would fit inside. Luckily one of the vans we had driven up in was less than 2.1 metres high, the height restriction for the ferry to Rum, so we decided to take that instead.

We woke the following morning to find that the sun was shining and we had a remarkably smooth ferry crossing. I even spotted what looked like a common seal, and a couple of porpoises on the way out.


The fantastic Kinloch Castle

There's only one place to stay on Rum. To our delight, Kinloch Castle is a fantastic Edwardian pile. There are lots of rumours about what went on there. It's an interesting place. The décor is fantastic and there are all sorts of surprises, including a very early Swiss needle shower and giant organ. I think we're in for a very authentic experience.

We finally got to check out the feasibility of the webcasting yesterday. Thankfully the dish had no problem seeing the satellite from behind the hut, so we knew we could definitely send back some pictures. I shouldn't have worried. These were the guys who were part of the team who sent back live pictures from the Masai Mara for Big Cat Live.

So now I'm sitting in the sunshine. Flash, one of the deer who featured in Autumnwatch 2006 and 2007, is about 100 metres away on the laundry green surrounded by females, occasionally roaring. He'll provide some action.

But the main rutting will happen on the village greens, behind the ridge that Jo and Phil were worried about. They've managed to set up another antennae that can see us, and the village greens, so we're hoping we can use radio links to bounce the signal across and to see those deer too.

Things are going well. Jo and Phil are working their magic. So hopefully in a few hours, we'll be bringing you live images of the red deer rut in Rum. The only downside is those blessed midges.


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