Day 10 |
May 30, 2010

Scilly Isles

By Kara Weller, Naturalist and Zodiac driver

Co-ordinates: 49° 55 ’S – 06° 19’W

Weather:  overcast and raining

Air temperature: 13° C

Wind: 15 km per hour from East

A morning at sea awaited us today, which afforded ample time for people to relax a bit, catch up on sorting photographs, and sleep in, or stare out into the foggy sea. The ship was moving a bit more than in the past with gentle swaying motions that felt very relaxing, and it was nice to watch the waves and look for wildlife. A few dolphins were briefly spotted by those who were up reasonably early.

The schedule for the day started with a lecture series. First on the program was Peter’s talk “John Harrison Discovers Longitude but Swindled from Reward” in which he talked about the man who worked hard for 45 years to finally discover the way longitude must work. The British government had offered a reward for this discovery however refused to grant him his prize.

Later in the morning we were treated to another superb lecture from Imogen on “The Hazards of the Journey: Pilgrimage and Travel in the Middle Ages” in which she talked about what possessed people to trudge hundreds of miles, in often appalling conditions, to their pilgrimage destinations. She discussed the spiritual wanderings from the Anglo-Saxon period up to Chaucer’s pilgrims and the means by which they traveled as well as their motivation.

By around noon we had reached the Isles of Scilly. The fog was quite thick and the rain was falling when the pilot came onboard and advised the Captain to anchor in a different location from the usual spot to protect the ship from the swell. This made our Zodiac ride to shore quite long, but everyone set out after lunch in the Zodiacs into the rain.

Through the fog we went passing Hugh Town, the main town on St Mary’s Island, then crossing a channel over to Tresco Island. Tresco is famous all over the world for its beautiful Abbey gardens. Once on to the concrete slipway, people could walk the short distance along a path to the garden entrance and go inside with a local guide to enjoy this incredible garden.

Since the Scilly Isles experience such a warm climate due to the Gulf Stream, a wide diversity of plants are able to grown here that would not survive in other parts of the UK. A wealthy banker purchased the island in the 1830s, and as he was a plant collector and botanist who recognized the unique climate of the Scilly Isles, he began his great work of creating this garden, which is now such a major tourist attraction. Rainy conditions kept it fairly quiet today, but it was wonderful to wander through this stunning garden admiring the unusual plants in their beautiful setting.

A few people who had finished early wandered along the paths that zig-zagged across the island. Many wildflowers were in bloom, and numerous birds could be seen. A few keen individuals set off with our birders Chris Cutler and Rich Pagen in search of more feathered creatures. Others admired the shoreline and the white beach with gulls flying overhead, and the beautiful grey sea and skies.

The rain and wind eased off just a bit in the late afternoon as people slowly made their way back to the boats and the long ride back to the ship. A warm drink, a hot shower and the usual evening’s Recap & Briefing were followed, as always, by an excellent dinner.