Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It sounded like a good idea in 1821

A misty day with just enough rain to break out the Goretex. But not a bad day for walking, but not much of a day for photography. Raining and blowing when I rounded Land’s End – the westernmost point in England, or at least Cornwall – so I had to take a picture looking back when the rain tapered to a soft drizzle. Even so, you can barely see Longships Lighthouse a mile off Land’s End.

After that, a standard day marching up headlands and down into valleys. Lots of interesting rocks, but not much else.

Except the markers at Gwennap Head to help mariners avoid Runnel Stone. The theory, when these cones were installed in 1821, was that if the black and white cone is completely hidden by the red cone, you’re on top of the reef. Which you probably know, from the crunching sound and the water rushing in.

That may be why no less than 30 steamers were wrecked on Runnel Rock between 1880 and 1923. Today, there is a buoy with lights on top of the reef, which also sounds a moaning wail like “the hoot of an unhappy owl,” the local guidebook says. In fairness to the 19th Century, it seems to have been a difficult feat to position a buoy atop Runnel Stone in a stable way. I’m not enough of a buoy scholar to know why.