Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Up Helly Aa: This year’s striking Viking galley revealed after months of construction work

2024's 30ft iconic vessel features radiant blues and silvers to reflect the Guizer Jarl's costume.

The Viking galley at the centre of this year’s Up Helly Aa celebrations has been unveiled following months of hard construction work.

The boat, named Ethena, features a stunning mix of blues and silvers, and will sail through the streets of Lerwick on a journey to its final fiery destination tonight.

For more than 150 years, the final act of Up Helly Aa throws blazing torches onto the wooden galley, setting it alight.

It is quite the spectacle – the ferocious fiery flames illuminating the cold, dark Shetland night, quickly reducing months of construction work to ash.

The mast is attached to the galley and is one of the finishing touches. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

The 20-strong group who designed, built and painted the galley spent most of the winter – around three months in total – crafting the impressive vessel.

The 30ft spectacle was designed on instruction from Guizer Jarl, Richard Moar, to reflect the colours of his costume, ranging from dark blue to light blue with silver accents.

2024 galley’s striking blue gradient colour mimics the sea waves

The head has dark red spikes, a long red tongue, a fringe beard and fiery yellow eyes, giving the galley a unique character.

The sturdy design will ensure it weathers the fierce Shetland winds as it joins the 64 guizers, part of the Jarl squad, which for the first time ever will contain female participants.

Guizer Jarl Richard Moar and daughters (L-R) Jenna, who will be one of the first women to participate in a Jarl squad and Bethany. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

Galley foreman Neil Fraser, who is due to become Jarl in 2032, says “thousands of man hours” have gone into creating the galley.

The design is kept top secret until the morning of Up Helly Aa when it leaves the shed for the first time.

Up Helly Aa: Galley foreman Neil Fraser.
Neil Fraser, current galley foreman, who will become Guizer Jarl in 2032. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Neil said: “It’s a huge amount of work and it’s not something we really advertise.

“One of our ex-Jarls said, ‘You want to open the galley shed on the Tuesday morning, have Up Helly Aa and then close the door and put it away for another year’.

“He says you don’t really speak about what goes on behind the scenes.”

Neil says the skills passed on through generations, such as joinery, woodwork and painting, are “crucial” and help keep the spirit of Up Helly Aa alive.

Men work on fixing the oars to the side of the galley. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

One of the biggest aspects of the Up Helly Aa preparations is how social the process is, with the team working through the winter twice a day.

Neil added: “Guys gathering together, helping each other out, working for a common goal, I think that is even more invaluable.

“The friendships that the guys have in here are life-long, it’s a very tight-knit gang.”

Up Helly Aa: Erland Isbister posing with the head of the galley.
Erland Isbister, who was in charge of spray painting the head and tail. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

This was echoed by Erland Isbister, who has been a part of the team for six years and always looks forward to getting started on helping to build the next galley.

He has taken over from his dad and brother who were responsible for spray painting the head and tail, and this year was his first working solo.

He said it usually takes a couple of days to complete, with the head usually being the most striking part of the boat’s design.

Describing the team as a “good bunch of guys”, he said they all feel a huge sense of pride when the boat is finally revealed and is brought out into the daylight.

Final preparations being made to the boat in the galley shed. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

He said: “It’s something I really look forward to, and it helps fill in the winter when it is dark and cold.

“It’s great to work with so many people you can count on. I live near the park, so the morning procession is my ‘alarm clock’ for Up Helly Aa.

“It’s always exciting in the run-up to Up Helly Aa, the town has a real buzz, a lot of hype.”

Guizer Jarl, Richard Moar puts the last shield on his galley for this year’s Up Helly Aa. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

Final preparations

On the other side of the Lerwick yesterday, around 30 volunteers were preparing more than 1,100 torches for the evening procession.

The process consists of soaking 90 torches in paraffin for two hours and then transferring them to another container.

Tonight, around 40 marshals will be ready with a flare to help light the hundreds of torches for the procession through the town.

A group of volunteers work to get more than 1,000 torches ready for Up Helly Aa
A group of volunteers work to get more than 1,000 torches ready for Up Helly Aa. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

This year’s galley is the last for foreman Ryan Leith, who will be Guizer Jarl in 2027.

He is stepping back and allowing Neil Fraser to oversee the build next year.

Mr Leith has been involved with the festival since he was five years old and is the second Guizer Jarl in his family after his father in 1978.

Up Helly Aa: Men work on finishing the galley
Final touches to this year’s Up Helly Aa galley. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

He said: “When the galley leaves the shed and seeing people’s reactions, it’s such a proud moment.”

You would think having all the hard work of building the galley, only for it to go up in flames would sting, but Ryan says that is his “favourite part”.

He added: “It’s not just a visual spectacle. When you’re here, you can appreciate the smells the burning of the galley gives off and the sounds when the torches get thrown in, it can be very loud.

“It all adds to the atmosphere.”

Up Helly Aa: Meet this year’s Guizer Jarl who will lead the first-ever female-participating squad