The promise of geology (part 1)

The first time I went to Lundy, it was – for the rest of Britain – a scorching day with eggs frying on pavements, flagstones being cracked, and temperature records tumbling (fainting from heat exhaustion, perhaps?).  I was in the very early weeks of my degree, and I was still planning to be an ecologist or biologist when I grew up (although I did have distinct memories of my 40th birthday at the time...).  We had been staying in Ilfracombe on the north Devon coast, where we had a remarkably parsimonious meal at our over-cheap hotel the previous evening and a truly frugal breakfast on the day we were setting sail.  As we walked to the harbour along the town’s clifftop path there were  fulmars were among the other seabirds we could see - these were the first fulmars I had ever seen so I was really thrilled with the start of the day.  We got to the harbour, set out on the MS Oldenburg, and, as I was happily taking photos of the coast as we left Ilfracombe... my camera conked out!!!  My cheap, plastic-lensed APS camera died on me and rewound my film after I’d only taken three photos.  We had several more cameras among the group of us, though, so I was just mildly downhearted for all of a few seconds until the first gannet of the day hove into sight and distracted me.  We were soon seeing Manx shearwaters – I had first heard of them when I was about ten years old but this was, again, the first time I had ever seen one and I was fascinated.  Great excitement followed as two Risso’s dolphins appeared off the starboard bow... and as we looked past the bow to Lundy it was obvious that the plateau of the island was shrouded in a thick pall of fog. 

On landing, we looked around us at Rat Island – and we were captivated by a seal that was looking back at us with equal curiosity!  We walked slowly up the path to the village, with ‘up’ being the operative word, stopping to look at the slate that this part of the island was made of and at some Lundy cabbage, a plant only found here (hence the name...).  I should add at this point that most of us lived in very flat parts of the country!  The fog got thicker as we reached the plateau, but the island worked its magic and it simply did not matter.  We loved Lundy.  I won’t bore you with all the details of the day but I will mention the Earthquake, a small area of the island where the granite that forms the bulk of the island had reputedly faulted on the same day as the great Lisbon earthquake in 1755.  We really enjoyed clambering through it!  I will also mention another abiding memory, the sheep that wandered out of the fog on the steep coastal slopes.

A drink at the Marisco tavern was very welcome after we had wandered around, and then we wandered back down the path to the Landing Stage for our trip back to Ilfracombe where, in complete contrast to the previous evening’s meal, we ate a wonderful meal in a different part of the town.  Between the group there were enough photos of the day to copy onto disc for all of us after we got back to our scattered homes.  It really didn’t matter that this had been my last photograph of the day:


  1. Ah, Lundy,
    Surely one of the western Isles of the Dead revered by our Celtic ancestors? The pall of cloud is a dead (!) giveaway. The rats are for the effective disposal of organic matter.


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