Book cover showing black and white image of a seal pup, yello and red sticker 'Let the seals live!'.

Selkies

We have just finished scanning and cataloguing a wonderful batch of Gunnie’s seal slides. Gunnie Moberg seems to have held an affinity with selkies. She became part of the group ‘Selkie’, the Orkney based campaign that along with Greenpeace were successful in preventing the 1978 proposed grey seal cull. Gunnie provided photographs for the campaign and one of her seal photographs was used on the front cover of Sue Flint’s book Let the seals live! (image above).

Gunnie crouches next to a seal pup and tickles its upturned belly

 Image of Gunnie Moberg above is titled on back ‘Friend and Selkie – Two of a kind’

Here is a dramatic extract from the book detailing a tricky time between leaving the cliffs of North Rona and rejoining the Rainbow Warrior:

Gunni (sic) had packed her camera up well in layers of plastic bags and was being transferred in the small inflatable when an enormous surge of water came in, overturning the dinghy and throwing Gunni into the water. For a minute she and her precious photographic equipment were under water, Gunni holding on to everything for dear life, trying to convince herself that what goes down must come up.
Sue Flint  ‘Let the Seals Live!’ 1979 Thuleprint Ltd. Shetland

Seal pup looks directly into camera with fin held up to its mouth

image: Gunnie  Moberg D135/1/203

Seal pup on beach stones next to pile of seaweed stipes known as 'tangle' in Orkney

image: Gunnie Moberg D135/1/195

In the Orkney Archive there is a compilation of sound recordings on tape. If you ever want to come in an have a listen its reference is D31/TR/50. On the cassette there are all sorts of seal tales and songs. Soon if anyone searches the word ‘seal’ they will also come across Gunnie’s photographs.

The story of Gunnie’s sea adventure has echoes of the 19thC Walter Traill Dennison folklore tale about a seal who returns a favour and saves the life of a fisherman. There is no mention of seals rescuing her but as the handwritten bookmark keeping the page announces  ‘Gunnie didn’t drown!’

Seal pup half in sea half out

image: Gunnie Moberg D135/1/210

Read Sigurd Towrie’s translation of the Walter Traill Dennison story The selkie that deud no forget on the Orkneyjar website here.

I am a man upon the land, I am a selkie in the sea.

Another Orkney Folk Festival is over, to ease the pain here is Orcadian Kris Drever signing the famous seal lament  The Great Selkie o Suleskerry.

8 thoughts on “Selkies

  1. Some wonderful memories of Gunnie that I first met when we were involved with the campaign to halt the proposed slaughter of 3,000 adult grey seals and related pups back in 1978.

  2. This is a fantastic record of Gunnie’s stunning selkie photos – see also selkie myths in the work of Tom Muir and in the Orkney Selkie trilogy: Song of the Selkies, Return of the Selkies and Clan of the Selkies.

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