An Ethnography of Shetland’s Oldest Boat, the Sixareen Mary LK 981

Michael John Stratigos, Marc Chivers, Ian Tait

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Mary LK 981 is the oldest surviving Shetland-built boat. Detailed recording of surviving examples of Shetland’s boats has been rare, and where undertaken, has focused on analysing overall boat form rather than their biographies. However, previous work has been critiqued as too narrowly focused on hull form and the direct connection between Shetland’s small boats and their Norwegian (or even Norse) antecedents. This paper presents new recording and analysis of the Mary’s surviving remains taking an archaeological approach combined with historical and archival research providing a more complete biography of the Mary. We argue that the Mary is a unique survival of Shetland’s vernacular boatbuilding tradition and its biography parallels important transitions in Shetland’s nineteenth-century maritime economy. This work has dramatically cast into relief areas for future research into Shetland’s vernacular boatbuilding and wider maritime history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-460
Number of pages19
JournalMariner's Mirror
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2019


  • sixareen
  • Shetland
  • far haaf
  • vernacular boat
  • nineteenth century
  • nautical archaeology
  • boat recording
  • boatbuilding

Cite this