[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Seaweed"][/caption]
For hundreds of years, the seaweed growing on the shorelines of these islands have provided a source for various materials.
Economically, the kelp became a major contributor towards the economy of the Scottish islands in the 19th century. Napoleon's navy was blockading the United Kingdom 200 years ago, and there was no way that the source material for gunpowder, dried bird droppings, scraped from rocks off the coast of South America (guano), could reach the UK. So, kelp was required and used in huge quantities. Dried and processed in kilns, it reduced to potassium nitrate (potash), which is a base material for gunpowder.
When the Napoleonic wars were over, the shipping lanes opened up and guano quickly supplanted kelp as a source for potash. It was overall a lot cheaper than the labour intensive harvested kelp. The latter was therefore no longer needed, and the price plummeted. It meant severe economic hardship for many islanders, and when the potato famine occurred in the 1840s, it prompted a mass exodus to foreign parts. Kelp continued to be used as a fertiliser on the lazybeds, used by many islanders for growing their crops. In fact to this day, seaweed is being used for that purpose.
A few years ago, a factory opened within the precinct of the Arnish Fabrication Yard, which processes seaweed for various uses, varying from agriculture to the food industry.
Local news website Hebrides Today has announced that seaweed will now also be processed at the Creed Park recycling plant on the Lochs Road (the A859 Stornoway to Tarbert road), 2 miles south of Stornoway. The endproduct will be natural gas (methane), which will power vehicles.
From explosives to fuel - seaweed is making a come-back.