Updated: Mar 1, 2020
The pen smudges as the thick, damp drizzle speckle the paper. The early promise of a blue sky day has faded, along with the islands, into the sea mist.
Down at Great Par the sea is a flat glassy grey and the sky a thick, pale whiteness. Castle Bryher, a towering rock just beyond the entrance to the bay, is shrouded in fog, pale and mysterious looking.
The water laps slowly and rhythmically onto the shore, the tide creeping in. In the distance I can hear the roar of a swell but here on the beach is stillness. A scampering blackbird feeds on the sandhoppers that are buried amongst the seaweed strand.
The cool water flows like satin over my skin and the movements of my body and breath are all that disturb the silky surface. I swim out to the furthest buoy, far enough out to feel far from the land, but not far enough to feel lost in the ocean.
Here I stop, legs dangling down into the abyss, suspended in the brine, not making any movement or sound, barely breathing. I lift up my goggles, staring silently into the distance. It feels beautifully eeiry and once again my mind drifts to thoughts of shipwrecks.
Nearly 120 years ago, on April 18th 1910, a ship called The Minnehaha, en route from New York to London, struck Scilly Rock, just beyond Bryher.
She was not sunk and all of her 64 passengers were rescued by the gigs Czar and Golden Eagle. The cold and shaken passengers were landed here on Great Par, in weather simaler to today’s but in the dead of night.
How incredibly relieved they must have felt, to find this tiny island, as one by one they set foot upon the sand, each wrapped tightly in the red woollen blankets from the stranded ship, and taken into warmth and shelter by the folk of Bryher.
What a witness to history this amazing island has been.