So, here’s an interesting idea. Reading about island studies and definitions, I came across the idea of the ‘aquapelago’. This term is used by Hayward (2012) in  an article in Shima: The international Journal of Research into Island Cultures’.

In his article, Hayward notes that the term ‘archipelago’: ‘has increasingly come to define the land area of a group of islands within a sea’ (p.3). In this definition  the sea is simply the boundary that delineates the island. However, as he notes, the sea itself in terms of the sea-shore, the inner waters and more distant sea spaces, are themselves vital to the constitution of island identities. Therefore he proposes a new term ‘aquapelago’. He states: ‘I propose the latter term in order to provide an expanded concept of the territory and human experience of an intermeshed and interactive marine/land environment’ (p.5).

MV Eynhallow
MV Eynhallow: many jobs in Orkney and Shetland may actually be based in the physical space of the sea rather than on the land itself.

This idea particularly appealed to me following the paper I wrote about the role of the sea in the career paths of people in Orkney and Shetland (which I have previously blogged about). In this paper I talked about how the range of sea-based careers available in island  communities (and Orkney and Shetland in particular) may influence the choices of young people. Hayward’s concept of ‘aquapelagos’ perhaps appeals because when we talk about ‘careers in Orkney or Shetland’ we are also talking about careers that predominantly take place in the waters around Orkney or Shetland…

Hayward, P. (2012) ‘Aquapelagos and Aquapelagic Assemblages: Towards an integrated study of island societies and marine environments’ Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures vol. 6 no. 1



  1. Hi Rosie

    Thanks for the Blog reference to my work, how about writing something for Shima on livelihoods/employment in Orkney and Shetland? Could be a ‘Debates’ piece of around 2000-3000?

    Best Wishes


    1. Hi Phil,

      Thank you very much for your message – it’s great to hear from you, and I’m so pleased you found my blog. I would really like to submit an article for Shima, thank you for the suggestion, so I will gather my thoughts and email you with some ideas… I’ll be in touch shortly.

      Best wishes,

    1. Hi Robert, thanks very much for the link. I enjoyed reading your paper – the comparison between Burra and Whalsay is really interesting. I was particularly struck by the impact of the fixed road link compared to the ro-ro ferry and how these changed both the physical reality and options available to islanders, and also potentially impacted on island identities…. It gets me thinking about all the different kinds of ‘islandness’ and how fixed links / transport links impact significantly on island experiences… Having visted both Burra and Whalsay recently it was interesting to find out more about the historical and cultural differences between the islands that have impacted on their economic development. Thank you for sharing the link.

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