It’s a brutal race track but Amory Ross, Team Alvimedica’s On Board Reporter, finds a little time to take in the beauty that surrounds him.
It has been a real ‘Nat Geo’ kind of 24 hours. We first rounded the jagged Muckle Flugga of Shetland fame, which—until 1995 when it became automated—was the northernmost inhabited island in Britain, and the volcanic St. Kilda archipelago of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (one of only a handful that own that honour in both natural and cultural categories). These are places that few people ever get to see, and we ashamedly exert all this energy to sail up to these points only to hurry along without ever taking much notice; they are merely obstacles in the way.
But my trip to Tristan da Cunha last race onboard PUMA, when we were dismasted in the South Atlantic and stranded on the world’s most remotely inhabited island, gave me new appreciation for the unexpected destinations along the way. Nick Dana says the same about his visit to Chilé with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, and Ryan Houston and Dave Swete for Madagascar with Team Sanya. So, today I came up on deck with my prepared Wikipedia stack and gave the boys a bit of a lesson. In case you were interested:
Muckle Flugga is about 300 miles further north than Cape Horn is south. It’s also about 300 miles south of the Arctic Circle. The lighthouse there was first lit on New Years Day in 1858, to protect Her Majesty’s great ships, and standing at 64-feet it remains Britain’s northernmost lighthouse. Rumour has it that the writer Robert Louis Stevenson visited neighbouring Unst, and that it was the inspiration for his map of Treasure Island.
St. Kilda is a group of five islands about 40 miles west of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, and 100 miles west of the mainland; they remain the remotest part of the British Isles. Its sea cliffs are the highest in the UK, with Conachair’s standing at over 1,400 feet above the ocean. These cliffs house the largest seabird colony in the northeast Atlantic with almost one million birds in the summer, including the world’s largest Northern Gannet colony—constituting about 25 per cent of the Earth’s population. St. Kilda has many pre-historic village remains, indicating people have lived there for two millennia at least, and they used to communicate with Scotland via unmanned mail boats set off in a northwesterly wind. St. Kilda’s only residents these days are scientists, conservationists, and military personnel.
Kind of nerdy, but I think it’s far better to know a little about where you’re going! Even if it’s just an obstacle along the way, these are incredibly rare and remote places and the more we know about them, the easier they are to remember.