|MS Oldenburg @ Lundy|
This is how my day began when I boarded the MS Oldenburg for the 12 mile crossing to Lundy.
“Good morning everyone,” said an authoritative male voice over the PA system. “Welcome on board the MS Oldenburg. Our journey time will be approximately 2 hours and the crossing today will be slight with a bit of rock and roll.” Having crossed The Solent from Southampton to the Isle of Wight many times and been informed by the captain on the odd occasion that the crossing would be a bit “wibbly wobbly”, I knew that the announcer on the MS Oldenburg was not about to start playing Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
|Ilfracombe harbour from MS Oldenburg|
As we sailed out from Ilfracombe harbour, one of the forecasted intermittent showers added its contribution to the already damp benches and I was glad that I’d worn my waterproofs.
“My dad said there’d be a squall in the middle of the crossing today.” Said the young woman sitting next to me. She was cradling a young child who was wrapped in a blanket and proceeded to continue the conversation with me through her daughter. “Grandaddy’s a fisherman. Isn’t he?” she said to me via the child. I kind of played along and ignored the by proxy questioning and asked her how he knew there’d be a squall on our trip today. “I don’t know, “she said, “but he goes out in his little boat all the time doesn’t he? He’s even taken Grandma over to Lundy once in his little fishing boat.”
“Have you visited Lundy before?” I enquired. “When I was very small, I don’t really remember it.” She replied. “Yes, mummy was over on the island when she was just a bit older than you are now.”
|Approaching Storm from the Atlantic|
We were travelling at the stern and facing the direction we’d come from which meant that despite the conversation I’d just had with the woman, I was unaware of the approaching squall until the skies darkened and a large heavy raindrop hit my hand. I was mildly relieved when they decided to move inside to avoid the presageful storm as I wasn’t quite sure how to handle this medium of talking through your child.
It turned into the kind of weather that would make a hardy adventurer crawl into a cave but the enthusiastic twitchers behind me were not deterred and as we rocked and rolled our way through the storm, I was left listening to their intense jargon-filled chatter. I wondered how someone like me with considerably more experience of tweeting than twitching was going to cope with bird watching on Lundy Island. I was there to see some puffins as I’d heard it was a great place to observe them fly in and out of their nests on the western side of the island and I thought that even with my limited knowledge I’d be able to identify a puffin if I saw one.
|Looking for puffins|
Puffins have nested on Lundy Island for hundreds of years; even its name, Lundy, is believed to have come from Old Norse meaning Puffin Island and a count in 1939 reported a total of 3500 puffins. However, over the years rats managed to hitch lifts on boats visiting the island and decimated the sea bird population by predating on their eggs, reducing the number of puffins to just 5 at the turn of the millennium.
The Seabird Recovery Project was introduced in 2002 to eradicate the rats and restore the bird population to Lundy. According to Julian, the information officer on the MS Oldenburg, Lundy Island has been rat free for the last 10 years. “We are the only supply ship to the island,” he said proudly. “We bring all the grain for the farm and food for the shop but vigilance is very important” he added, pointing to the emergency rat trap at his feet.
The Oldenburg is nearly 60 years old and still retains many of the brass fittings of her original build. The abundant use of gaffer tape on certain sections of the boat didn’t make her any less seaworthy as we landed safely on the island approximately 2 hours after departing from Ilfracombe. With the storm well behind us, I packed my waterproofs away and stepped off the boat to begin my climb to the top of the island.
If this has whetted your appetite for a trip to Lundy Island, you can find out more from the Landmark Trust's Lundy Island Website