First a little about the guga. It's the Gaelic word for a young gannet, the flesh of which is regarded as a delicacy in Ness today and, indeed, has been for many centuries. In the autumn of each year, a group of 10 Nessmen set sail for Sula Sgeir, a remote and inhospitable rocky island far to the north, to kill a maximum of 2,000 young birds (restricted to 2,000 for conservation purposes and licensed by a specific Act of Parliament). They set up residence for about two weeks in stone bothys. Working in pairs, the men take the fledglings from their nests with poles, catching them around the neck with a rope noose, then killing the birds with a blow to the head. The birds are plucked and salted on site and loaded onto the return boat via a complicated wooden shute, as shown in this video clip.
And now the connection to Tasmania. I haven't tasted guga but, on a visit to Stanley in 2000, I did try a local delicacy rather fancifully called the mutton bird. And my reaction to that was exactly the same as Gary's. The mutton bird is a short tailed shearwater which is ground nesting and is trapped in nets as they leave the nests after their overnight roost. It is salted, boiled and then served with a stomach-turning layer of grease. It really is foul: disgusting is a better word, revolting an even better one. It has the texture of duck and the taste and mouth feel of cod liver oil. It can only be a delicacy to the starving and those without taste buds. If you have a chance to try it, don't. Trust me on this.
|Stanley, Tasmania. For ever scorched on my mind by the taste of the mutton bird.|