Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Sea Blues

.. It seems unlikely that any coast is visited more wrathfully by the sea’s waves than the Shetlands and the Orkneys, in the path of the cyclonic storms that pass eastward between Iceland and the British Isles. All the feeling and fury of such a storm, couched almost in Conradian prose, are contained in the usually prosaic British Islands Pilot:

"In the terrific gales which usually occur four or five times in every year all distinction between air and water is lost, the nearest objects are obscured by spray, and everything seems enveloped in a thick smoke; upon the open coast the sea rises at once, and striking upon the rocky shores rises in foam for several hundred feet and spreads over the whole country.

"The sea, however, is not so heavy in the violent gales of short continuance as when an ordinary gale has been blowing for many days; the whole force of the Atlantic is then beating against the shores of the Orkneys, rocks of many tons in weight are lifted from their beds, and the roar of the surge may be heard for twenty miles; the breakers rise to the height of 60 feet, and the broken sea on the North Shoal, which lies 12 miles northwestward of Costa Head, is visible at Skail and Birsay."

-- Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us, 123-4


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