Half way around the Isle of May we pulled into the little harbor on the North Sea side of the island.
Brian and Tam had held back as long as they could, and finally had their fun by jumping in the water. In February. In the North Sea.
I, however, am not a nutter. I took the path of the less crazy and just dipped my feet.
Now I can truly say I have been in the North Sea during the winter while wearing a dry suit, but didn’t have to risk hypothermia to do it. Perfectly sensible, don’t you think?
February is the off season for visitors to the island, so while we did really enjoy ourselves there were a few things we missed. During the summer there are rangers at the visitors’ center who can give you guided tours, or just informational talks about the history and wildlife. As it was, we did our own research and very brief tour, and still completely enjoyed ourselves.
This little sign at the harbor was a big help too.
The only thing we didn’t manage to see was puffins. I have a soft spot in my heart for puffins, but they don’t live here during the winter. During the summer the rocks are covered with between 45,000 to 100,000 breeding pairs as May holds the largest single breeding colony in all of the UK.
But in the winter there are none.
Once across to the west side we had a fantastic view of the cliffs we had just seen from the water. Looking straight down to the sea we could still catch a glimpse of just a few pairs of nesting Guillemots.
We also saw dozens of huge rabbits all across the grassy areas. I wonder if they use the puffin burrows as their own little homes during the winter? Can they coexist like that, or would they interfere with each other?
Maybe we’ll have to come back some day during the summer so I can ask a ranger.
From the center of the island you can see for miles in every direction.
A small hike up the hill gave us this incredible view of the lighthouse, built in 1816 on the site of the original which was built in 1636.
During the last Sunday in January of 1791, tragedy struck the island lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper, George Anderson, lived there with his wife and six children. That night there was a huge storm and the coal fire fueled light burned all night through it, but the following night the fire was never lit. The weather was still too bad to send anyone to check on it, and it wasn’t until the Wednesday following that a crew reached the island to investigate.
What they found was that George and his entire family were dead except for their smallest child, a girl named Lucy who was less than one year old. She was found alive lying next to her mother’s body by a young man named Henry Dowie. The family had died after being suffocated by fumes from the smouldering ash pile that had built up against the walls of the lighthouse over several years.
Henry never forgot the incident, and apparently kept in touch with young Lucy. Nearly sixteen years later he proposed to her and they were married. Three years later they emigrated to New York in America and raised twelve children together.