Aberdeen is a harbour city and since the 1970s, Aberdeen harbour has been the main hub for supplying the oil platforms in the North Sea. Indeed, Aberdeen was one of the cities that were always mentioned in the maritime weather report every day at midnight on the radio news when I was a child.
The importance of the North Sea oil industry for the city of Aberdeen became very obvious as soon as the plane touched down at the airport. For starters, Aberdeen Dyce Airport is also one of the busiest heliports in the world and you could see the large helicopters carrying crews out to the oil rigs in the North Sea waiting on their landing pads right next to the runway. One of those helicopters actually crashed into the North Sea while I was there – luckily, there were no casualties, though it wasn’t the first incident of that sort.
And just in case you somehow missed the helicopters and their significance, the posters inside the airport terminal left no doubt whatsoever that this city defines itself via the oil industry. Because there were lots of posters of oil rigs silhouetted against the setting sun, including one emblazoned with the words “This is home”. Interestingly, Aberdeen Dyce Airport also had the most skewed gender ratio among passengers I have ever seen. I estimate the passengers waiting at the terminal were approx. seventy to eighty percent male – ship and oil rig crews as well as the oil industry in general is heavily male dominated.
Another thing that’s striking about the harbour of Aberdeen is that it is located right next to the city centre. This is actually pretty rare – most harbour cities have their harbours far outside the city centres these days for all sorts of practical reasons. Antwerpen in Belgium is the only other city I can think of where the harbour extends right into the heart of the city.
In the following, there is a bunch of photos of Aberdeen harbour, ships, the coastline as well as Footdee, a charming fishing village quite literally in the shadow of Aberdeen harbour:
Surprising view down a sidestreet in the centre of Aberdeen to see a ship moored at the bottom of the street.
Supply ships moored in the harbour of Aberdeen maybe a hundred meters from the main shopping area at Union Street and quite literally next to the central bus station and Union Square mall.
Aberdeen harbour with yet more supply ships and oil tanks. As the name implies, supply ships carry supplies to oil platforms. My Dad used to design quite a few supply ships back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, though this latest generation of supply ships is quite a bit bigger than the ones from the 1970s.
In addition to a very busy harbour, Aberdeen also has a nice stretch of sandy beach, something which is quite rare in the UK. Here is a look across the beach and the North Sea. On the horizon, you can see 8 supply ships of varying sizes lined up like pearls on a string and all heading for the harbour.
A supply ship about to enter the harbour. The two lighthouses mark the harbour entrance.
A look across the beach at the Aberdeen harbour entrance with three lighthouses and two antennae.
A look along the beach promenade.
Amusement parks right by the beach are a staple of British seaside towns. Aberdeen is no exception, as this pirate themed amusement park shows. Attractions include a ferris wheel, a Schwarzkopf rollercoaster, a minigolf installation and a Huss pirate boat, a giant swingboat. A similar pirate boat ride made by Bremen based manufacturer Huss was my favourite ride at the Freimarkt as a kid and teenager. Luckily, the park in the photo was closed or the pirate boat would’ve tempted me.
A closer look at the ferris wheel of the beachside amusement park plus a glimpse of the rollercoaster.
Once you come to the end of the beach promenade, you suddenly walk straight into Footdee, a charming fishing village. The current incarnation dates from around 1800, but the village is far older than that. The modern building seen in the background is the marine operations centre of Aberdeen harbour.
View along a street in Footdee. It’s hard to imagine that something like this exists just a few metres from a busy seaport.
Footdee is quite literally located in the shadow of the harbour, as this picture of massive oil tanks looming above the Regency era row houses shows.
The church of Footdee, rendered in the familiar grey granite.
Footdee has a surprising number of unique and charming houses and gardens. This one is decorated entirely with a maritime theme.
A garden in Footdee.
This shed and wall in Footdee are decorated with figurines of angels, gnomes and various animals.
This house in Footdee is decorated with colourful plaques and various statues, including a family of meerkats.
An interesting fountain in Footdee shaped like a lion’s head. It doesn’t look as if the fountain is still in use, considering the duck figurines below the faucet. Also note the garden chair with the sailing ship decorations in the background as well as the Indonesian mask on the door.
A selection of driftwood, seashells, sea glass and other wave born treasures on a window sill in Footdee.
Here’s a BBC news report about a storm that occurred in September 2012, about a month before I visited the area, and left Footdee covered in foam. Check out the video of cocker spaniel Bailey frolicking in the foam.
On the other side of Footdee lies this building known as the Roundhouse. Until the 1980s, it was the operation centre, a sort of traffic control, for Aberdeen harbour. Nowadays, it’s a museum, though still topped by a radar antenna.
The new Maritime Operations Centre, built after the Roundhouse became too small for such a busy harbour.
Some kind of ruin overlooking the harbour entrance.
Model ship in the window of the Aberdeen Maritime Museum.