Tag Archives: Round Island

Shipwrecks and Valhalla

The list of wrecks in Scilly waters numbers more than 530 and in the 18th and 19th centuries there was an urgent need for improved navigational aids.  In addition to those mentioned in the previous post, several lighthouses and lightships were added, especially in the expanse of water between the Islands and the tip of Cornwall.  On a clear night, from Peninnis on St Mary’s it is possible to see the beams from nine other lights.

Of the many shipping disasters recorded by far the greatest occurred in 1707 when Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell and his fleet were returning to Plymouth following the failed siege of Toulon.  Having been driven off course  strong winds, navigational errors led to his ship, HMS Association, and three others crashing on to rocks just south west of where the Bishop Rock lighthouse now stands, with a loss of almost 2000 lives.  Ironically, this greatest of peacetime maritime disasters in British history happened before the advent of telecommunications or even newspapers as we now know them, and it was several days before the scale of the disaster was reported.

The Association also carried in its cargo silver and gold coins, together with cannons plundered from an earlier mission.  The site of the wreckage was eventually located in 1964 and some of the treasures were auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1969.

In recent times, in 1967, the Torrey Canyon ran aground on the Seven Stones reef, about eight miles north east of St Martin’s, loaded with 120,000 tonnes of crude oil.  The spillage of almost 31,000 gallons was washed up on the Cornish coast with devastating consequences for seabird and marine life.

Around 1840, Augustus Smith, the ‘Lord Proprietor’ of Tresco, began to assemble a collection of retrieved memorabilia, mostly figure heads from wrecked sailing ships and early steam ships.  He created  a gallery  –  appropriately called Valhalla  – in the Abbey Gardens on Tresco.  The pictures below are from the collection.

3 Comments

Filed under Colour, Pattern, photography, Sea, Texture, Uncategorized

Scilly Markers

Because of the proliferation of rocks and islets the waters around the Isles of Scilly have always been hazardous to shipping, especially in the days of sailing ships when vessels were at the mercy of the winds.  Waters were less well charted and navigational aids were limited in their effectiveness.

The first lighthouse on the Islands was built on St Agnes in 1680.  It was coal fired until 1790 when it was converted to oil.  It stands 23 metres tall and is located at the highest point of the Island, some 500 metres or so inland.  It was eventually decommissioned in 1911 when the Peninnis lighthouse was built on St Mary’s.  The St Agnes now stands as a quite prominent daymark.

The daymark on St Martin’s is a distinctive feature of the landscape and is very conspicuous with its red and white bands.  It was erected in 1683  and is the earliest surviving dated beacon in the British Isles.  It is 11 metres tall and stands at the edge of Chapel Down, overlooking the north east coast of the Island.

By far the most important lighthouse is Bishop Rock.  Its importance to shipping approaching from the south west and, indeed, to those passing by on other busy routes, cannot be overestimated.  It was built with great difficulty in the treacherous seas in 1858 and reaches a height of 44 metres above the mean high water mark.  It is the second tallest lighthouse in Britain.  It was capped with a helipad in 1976 and became fully automated in 1992.  Its light flashes every 15 seconds and has a range of 20 nautical miles (37 km).

4 Comments

Filed under Colour, Flowers, Nature, Pattern, photography, Sea, Shore, Texture, Uncategorized