Dawn at the Tomb of the Eagles, Orkney

Awoke to the sound of rain on the hotel window at 3.00am this morning but, as we hoped, the sky rapidly began to clear as dawn approached.

We arrived at the Tomb of the Eagles in plenty of time to cover the modern glass roof panels and set up our cameras. We were interested to record the effects of direct light from the rising sun as well as camera obscura projections.

Film recorded while setting up our equipment at Tomb of the Eagles (Visuals: Ronnie Scott / Edit: Aaron Watson)
 
 Dawn Sunlight reflecting upon the sea, as seen from inside the chamber at tomb of the eagles
Dawn Sunlight reflecting upon the sea, as seen from inside the chamber at Tomb of the Eagles (Photo: Aaron Watson)
 

In particular, I was intrigued by the potential of sunlight reflecting from the surface of the sea. To observe this we placed a screen at the passage entrance which only allowed light to enter via small hole - the aperture.

This projected the scene outside upon the wall of the chamber. The image was upside down and back to front, but the disc of the sun is clearly visible along with light reflected from the surface of the sea. This animated, shimmer and sparked in the darkness.

 optical projection of the rising sun upon the chamber wall inside tomb of the eagles
An optical projection of the rising sun upon the chamber wall inside Tomb of the Eagles (Photo: Aaron Watson)
 
Film showing some of the effects of solar projection inside the Tomb of the Eagles. To enhance the clarity of the image a fabric screen was used for part of the sequence (Video: Ronnie Scott/Aaron Watson)
 

We then removed the aperture, opening up the passage to allow direct sunlight to flood into the chamber.

This film shows the final few minutes of direct sunlight upon the chamber wall. To condense the effect, this footage has been speeded up (Video: Aaron Watson)
 
 ronnie filming direct sunlight inside tomb of the eagles
Ronnie filming direct sunlight inside the Tomb of the Eagles (Photo: Aaron Watson)
 
 Watching the last rays of the rising sun leave the chamber inside the Tomb of the Eagles
Watching the last rays of the rising sun leave the chamber inside the Tomb of the Eagles (Photo: Aaron Watson)
 

Overall, we have had a busy but highly successful morning of observations. And, much to our relief, we still made it back to the hotel in time for breakfast.

An overview of this research will be posted on the archaeo-optics pages in due course.

We are indebted to the managers at Tomb of the Eagles, Freda and Kathleen, for their support, enthusiasm and provision of access.

www.tomboftheeagles.co.uk