Day 2 |
May 11, 2010

At Sea And Fowey, England

By Rich Pagen, Ornithologist

Coordinates: 50° 20'N and 4°3 8’W

Weather: Intermittent sun, clouds and rain showers

After a restful night rocked to sleep by the gentle swell, we awoke with the Prince Albert II plying the waters off the south coast of Cornwall. Grey skies and light winds dominated the scene, and in the distance we could make out green pastures ending at eroded cliffs that tumbled down into the sea. Sipping a cup of coffee out on deck was the perfect way to take it all in.

Following a hearty breakfast, many of us joined Historian Imogen Corrigan in The Theatre for her talk entitled, “From Sheep to Shelf”, during which she discussed how the illuminated manuscripts were planned and made. This tedious work, carried out with a plume in one hand and a knife in the other (to scrape off excess ink), was often performed by monks and scribes. In effect, they also had to be chemists in order to understand how the various inks would react to the parchment and to one another. The works that Imogen showed us were incredibly detailed and beautiful, and we looked forward to the opportunity to see some of them later on in the voyage.

Horticulturist Toby Musgrave followed with a lecture entitled, “The Plant Hunters”, which recounted the history of plant collecting around the world for gardens back in Britain. The story begins with Joseph Banks, who shared a cabin with Captain Cook on Cook’s famous trip to Tahiti, New Zealand and beyond. Banks returned from this journey with 1,300 new species of plants, which sparked both Royal and private interest in plant collecting and horticulture. It was a fascinating look at the personalities who risked life and limb to discover and collect plant species previously unknown in Britain.

Following lunch, we boarded Zodiacs for the pier in the town of Fowey. From there, we had the option to wander around town on our own, or join one of two different excursions.

The first tour was to one of the finest houses in all of Cornwall, Lanhydrock House. This house, which was built in the Jacobean style during the seventeenth century, was almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1881. It was rebuilt in the Victorian style, and we had the opportunity to visit nearly all the rooms and galleries in the house. The gardens outside were exquisite as well.

The other tour was to the famous Lost Gardens of Heligan, which were designed in the nineteenth century Gardenesque style but were forgotten about and overgrown for many years. During the 1990s, they were rediscovered and cleared back to their original condition. Highlights included the many huge rhododendrons in flower, and the steep narrow valley called The Jungle, which was decorated with Giant Sequoia and other large trees. It was also fascinating to learn that pineapples had been grown there using decomposing manure to raise the temperature of the plant beds, which were watched over meticulously 24 hours a day.

Back on the Prince Albert II, we donned our Sunday best and met Captain Luigi Rutigliano and the Expedition Staff for the Welcome Cocktail Party, during which we mingled over champagne. We all had a very enjoyable evening that was rounded off by a superb dinner.