Day 4 |
Sep 05, 2012

Isles of Scilly, UK 

By Kara Weller, Biologist

Co-ordinates: 50° 01 ’ N – 06° 31’ W
Weather: sunny clear skies
Air temperature: 13° C

The sun was shining brightly on the sea early this morning and a gentle rocking motion of the waves made for a comfortable and peaceful ride as we cruised south. Leaving Ireland behind us we were heading for the small group of islands in the southwestern part of the UK – the Isles of Scilly. But as the distance to get there was reasonably long, a morning at sea was in store for us, which gave ample opportunity to sleep in and relax before reaching the destination of today.

The lecture program started off with a talk from our Viking archeologist Colleen who gave a lecture about the Vikings of the British Isles. The raiding parties from Scandinavia first came to the south coast of England in the 780s and from there began a fascinating era of conquest and settlement.

Later in the morning Robin gave a briefing about our plans for the day at Tresco, which was followed by a talk from our photographer Richard about photography basics in which he gave many great tips for how to take better pictures.

The sun continued to shine, however the wind was blowing fairly steadily as we approached our anchorage near the island of Tresco, the second biggest island of the Isles of Scilly. Shortly after lunch the Zodiacs were launched and we headed to shore in a slight bit of chop but over beautiful blue waters to a small concrete jetty and a path leading us to the famous gardens.

Tresco is famous for its Abbey gardens, which were established in the 1830s on the site of an old Benedictine Abbey. Since the Scilly Isles experience such a warm climate due to the Gulf Stream, a wide diversity of plants are able to grow 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. The establishment of windbreaks made all the difference to these gardens, which do experience a mild climate, but fierce winds at times.

A guided tour of the garden was offered and we marveled at the wonderful plant life and diversity of so many beautiful plants. Although at the end of summer now, the garden was still magnificent, and the tree foliage in particular was enchanting to see. People wandered at leisure after the tour to explore further parts of the garden.

It was nice also with the extra time given to explore small coastal paths around the island, some of which led to beautiful sandy beaches and abundant bird life. If it hadn’t been for the steady cool wind it might have looked like a scene from the tropics – azure seas and white sandy beaches.

After exploring and soaking up the sunshine we returned to the Zodiacs and the anchor was lifted and we headed east towards the mainland of the UK. Our first Recap & Briefing was held in the evening during which the lecturers gave us extra tidbits of information in connection with the last few days. And the sun set slowly as we headed in to The Restaurant for another magnificent dinner.