The footpaths of Dungeness

Dungeness is a shingle promontory on the south coast of Kent. Technically a desert and the largest expanse of shingle in Europe, it’s not a traditionally beautiful location. Its vast flatness gives the illusion that nothing much grows there, two nuclear power stations dominate the skyline, and debris from the fishing industry litters the beaches, all of which act in stark contrast to the area’s nature reserve status. Here are just a handful of the compelling sites This Way explore on their Dungeness map.

Image courtesy of This Way

Image courtesy of This Way

1 Dungeness A and B

Two nuclear power stations and their trail of pylons dominate the skyline. Dungeness A has now been decommissioned, after being switched on in 1965, and is slowly being demolished. Its huge neighbour, Dungeness B, remains operational, powering 1.5 million of London’s 3.5 million households. As a visitor, the sheer proximity of the power stations can add an unsettling undertone, a reality that becomes especially stark when reading the ‘emergency procedures’ boards dotted around the estate. However, if you are lucky enough to spend a night in Dungeness, there is a gentle beauty in the mass of twinkling lights.

2 The Boil

Out to sea, just in front of the power stations, The Boil is a bubbling mass of water. It’s easy to spot as it’s usually surrounded by a cloud of seabirds. Nuclear power stations use 100 million litres of water per hour; when the water has run through the cooling system it’s pumped back into the ocean, now a warm 12ºC. Sadly small fish get caught in the filters and are pumped back into the ocean through the same pipes, creating a rich feeding ground for seabirds.

3 Old Lighthouse

The drift of shingle has reshaped the land enough times that five lighthouses have been and gone since the 1600s. Historically, lighthouses have been vital on this headland, which has been a hotspot for shipwrecks. Today, two lighthouses remain. A walk up the 169 steps to the top of the no-longer operational Victorian ‘Old Lighthouse’ gives impressive views across the shingle ridges.

The Dungeness Map, by This Way, is a double-sided map detailing 11 points of interest in this curious place, £5. This Way also offers six- and 12-month map subscriptions where every month a postcard featuring a walk and stories from across the UK is delivered to your door; this-way.co

Adrift in the Atlantic

French biologist Alain Bombard was so convinced that castaways could survive purely on the sea’s natural provisions that he set out to prove it on a most extraordinary voyage

Screen Shot 2019-02-14 at 10.06.25 AM.png

In the spring of 1951, French biologist and physician Alain Bombard was asleep in the residents’ quarters of a hospital in Boulogne-sur-mer when he was woken by a call: the trawler Notre-Dame-de-Peyragues had missed her course in the mist and broken up on the outer breakwater of the harbour. Bombard arrived at a scene that would stay with him for the rest of his life: 43 men piled up on top of each other “like dislocated puppets”, their feet bare and lifejackets intact. The doctor and his colleagues failed to revive a single one of them.

Bombard thought about how one simple error of navigation had caused the deaths of 43 men and orphaned 78 children. He thought of the 150 fishermen killed each year just in his region of France, and the 200,000 who suffered the same fate every year around the world. More than a quarter of them made it to a lifeboat, only to die in prolonged agony from lack of food and water, or the well-documented perils of losing one’s mind at sea.

Bombard became convinced that castaways could survive for long periods of time by feasting on what the sea could provide, and that countless lives could be saved if lifeboats were fitted with a few simple pieces of equipment: fish hooks, fine nets for collecting plankton – a source of vitamin C – and presses for squeezing fresh water out of fish. He even argued that drinking small amounts of seawater – a maximum of one and a half pints per day – could prolong life, contradicting centuries of evidence to the contrary. But how could he prove such a thing?

To demonstrate his point, in 1952, Bombard embarked on a singular voyage. In the hope of saving thousands of future castaways, he determined to sail across the Atlantic Ocean in a 15-foot (4.5m) inflatable dinghy, using only the sea for sustenance. Onboard the aptly named l’Hérétique, he would have a sextant and a watch for navigating, his fishing kit, and a tarpaulin for shelter and catching rainwater. Emergency rations would be sealed within the craft, and checked by officials once he reached the other side of the Atlantic.

He set his sights on the West Indies, plotting a course between two dreaded dangers: the Doldrums and the Sargasso Sea. The former was an area of low pressure, where two powerful trade winds “meet in a tremendous conflict in a no-man’s land of violent storms, unpredictable turbulence and disquieting calms” (Alain Bombard, The Bombard Story, 1953). The latter was far more frightening.

On 19 October 1952 Bombard set off from the Canaries, cheered on by friends and accompanied by a “veritable convoy” of yachts. Even though the stiff breeze that sped him away from the harbour abandoned his lifeboat shortly after and left him drifting, he slept well that first night, tucking his tarpaulin up to his neck like a blanket and dropping off under a “lovely, luminous sky”.

Screen Shot 2019-02-19 at 10.58.10 AM.png

It didn’t take long for the reality of his solo voyage to sink in, however. After two more nights drifting aimlessly, a light breeze, which soon became a tempest, pushed l’Hérétique further into the Atlantic where it tossed the inflatable craft about like a cork. Confident in the lifeboat’s stability, Bombard decided to sleep it out, waking soon after to find himself completely surrounded by water. He began frantically bailing, scooping water out with his hat for the next two hours while more waves broke over the boat.

Being only a few days into his voyage, Bombard felt confident in his ability to weather the storms. But as October wore on, l’Hérétique continued to be buffeted by gales. The sail ripped; if he managed to sleep at all, Bombard did so shivering, encrusted with salt. When not bailing water or stitching up his sail, he mused on the nature of fear and despair. Above all, he was afraid of fear itself, recognising that increasing tiredness and exhaustion led him to expect the worst.

To keep his growing melancholia at bay, Bombard busied himself with catching fish, squeezing water out of the small ones using a makeshift press and cutting slits in the larger ones and drinking straight from their bodies like some Gollum of the Atlantic. He trapped seabirds and ate them raw and netted two daily spoonfuls of plankton to top up his vitamin C levels and keep scurvy at bay.

Sea-fearing

But fear kept creeping in and, come late October, Bombard had become fixated by the condition of his boat. Each day, he inspected the inflatable craft meticulously, noting where friction had worn the rubberised canvas thin, prising barnacles off to keep its undercarriage in tip-top condition, and putting his ear to the material to check for sounds of rubbing like a doctor with a stethoscope.

So imagine his horror when, in the middle of the Atlantic, he began to be hounded by swordfish. By now, Bombard had become a dab hand at batting away sharks, but he was defenceless against swordfish, fearing that he would enrage them if he engaged in conflict (swordfish were, he had read, prone to fits of fury). He described “12 hours of terror” fending off “a large swordfish of undeniably menacing aspect … seemingly in a rage, his dorsal fin raised like hackles”.

It’s worth noting that, by this point, Bombard was also completely lost. “[I] can no longer determine my longitude with certainty,” he admitted on 26 October. “I shall just have to guess it from the time the sun reaches the meridian”. Stubbornly, he pushed on, but his body was beginning to show the effects of his journey. He started to lose toenails and developed a rash. Losing weight, he found it impossible to get comfortable; every position he sat or lay in caused him pain.

By November, having failed to read an accurate longitude for weeks, Bombard was convinced that he was approaching the end of his journey, unaware that he hadn’t yet passed the Cape Verde Islands. Expecting to see land each new day, and being sorely disappointed, his mood dwindled. And as the days wore on, he started to become increasingly superstitious: he became obsessed with seabirds, which teased him to despair with their promise of land; Wednesdays took on a special meaning; and he believed that he could calculate wind speed by simply listening to its note against the sail.

The only tangible presence being his own, Bombard began to take comfort in the creatures around him, documenting his encounters with all the drama and character you would expect from someone who hadn’t had human contact for months. He was visited at four o’clock each day by the same petrel and was kept company for almost the entire journey by a shoal of ‘dolphins’ – actually dorados, a large type of fish, which jostled around his boat. “I began to share their sensations and reactions,” he wrote, “eating the same food and catching the same flying fish”.

Between the horror of swordfish attacks and the creeping onset of paranoia, Bombard also experienced moments of pure wonder – a half-eaten shearwater carcass illuminating the sail with a ghostly phosphorescence – and at times, he became overwhelmed by the beauty of his surroundings, writing long eloquent odes to the ocean. Staying awake one evening to check the time of the moonrise, Bombard was overcome by the feeling of what a strange and formidable element the sea is, writing:

It seems to form part of a system so entirely different from normal existence that it might belong to another planet. But there it is at my feet, alive yet inscrutable. Here and there lights appear in the depths... They look like stars half hidden in a cloudy night sky. The fish around me leap and swim to and fro, protagonists of an unseen and mysterious existence. Life at the surface is only the thin upper layer of another world.

Approaching desperation

Around mid-November, time began to weigh heavily on Alain Bombard. He suffered a 14-day bout of diarrhoea and would go days without sleep. To top it off, the skin on his feet had started to peel away in strips and he was down to his last couple of toenails. Towards the end of November, the wind disappeared entirely and our castaway drifted for over a week, his mood ebbing, his eyes aching from straining on the horizon. Unbeknown to him, he had reached the edge of the Sargasso Sea.

Stewing in his own thoughts under a terrible sun, Bombard soon fell “prey to every emotion”. His paranoia became overwhelming; he believed the clouds were deliberately avoiding the sun so as to deny him shade. He decided that he would not attempt to fight the next storm, trusting his fate to God. “What have I done to deserve all this?” he wrote, dictating his will and final wishes, and holding the authors of his castaways’ handbook accountable for his inevitable death.

But just as Bombard was falling into despair, a miracle happened – and it did, in fact, fall on a Wednesday. He ran into the Arakaka, a passenger cargo steamer out of Liverpool. At first he was reluctant to board, fearing it would invalidate his experiment, but when the captain shouted his location over the tannoy – and it was 600 miles (966km) further east than he thought – Bombard scrambled aboard shouting: “This is it. Fifty-three days, I give up”.

He accepted a shower and a light meal: a fried egg, spoonful of cabbage and a slither of liver. He knew he would be held accountable for his self-imposed rule breaking, but his need for human contact was too great and accepting this hospitality, arguably, saved his life. The encounter gave Bombard the morale boost he so sorely needed, and he set off with renewed vigour on 10 December, having been taught how to read longitude.

On Christmas Eve 1952, the French biologist staggered on to a Barbados beach, 65 days after setting out from the Canaries. He had lost 55 pounds (25kg), was severely anaemic, and found it hard to walk, but he was alive. And, crucially, he had proved his point, at least in his own mind.


This story featured in issue 8 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

Issue 8 (special edition)
10.00
Cover:
Quantity:
Add To Cart

For more extraordinary tales of remarkable journeys, pick up a copy of our latest book The Odysseum: Strange journeys that obliterated convention (Chambers, 2018)

Shooting Snowdonia

We caught up with photographer Colin Nicholls to ask how he found shooting the wild uplands and abandoned slate quarries of northwest Wales

Colin Nicholls doing what he does best.

Colin Nicholls doing what he does best.

How did you find shooting the Snowdonian landscape? And how did this compare with shooting East Anglia for issue 7?

I am a big fan of Snowdonia, so to get to head there on a press trip was a real treat. I found it very different to East Anglia, much more walking up mountains and hills, and a much rougher landscape altogether. As expected for Snowdonia, we encountered some wet weather, so my weather-sealed cameras came in very useful. I enjoyed visiting both places but seeing and climbing mountains is something that always excites me.

What were the highlights of the trip for you?

Definitely going back to the Dinorwic slate quarry. I first visited there a few years back and loved seeing the abandoned slate workings that overlook Snowdon itself. To explore the remains of a Goliath of an industry – it really is like stepping back in time. We also had incredible weather up there with the light painting the landscape, and we were met along the way by some wild goats, one of which features on the cover!

Any low points?

I’m pretty easy going so it takes a lot to dampen my spirits, however the first night we camped the wind was howling and I got about two hours sleep. Safe to say the next day was a struggle but it was all good fun.

Where would you most like to photograph next and why?

I think for the first couple of months of the year I’ll explore my local area of Herefordshire. There’s so much around here that’s overlooked in favour of the ‘bigger’ and more well-known places to visit, and with photography being so much about light it’s nice to know that if it’s going to be a good day I can head out somewhere close for a quick and successful trip.

You're a frequent visitor to Iceland, aren't you? What draws you back again and again?

That I am! 2018 saw my fourth trip to Iceland, where I drove solo around the country, camping along the way. It was incredible! At the time Iceland was having the worst summer for 100 years, but I was lucky and the weather turned and I had some crisp, clear days and got the opportunity to take photos that make me very happy. I shot a fair bit of video, too. Overall the trip was one of the most content times of my life. I keep getting drawn back to the country’s endless beauty, epic landscapes and sparse population – it’s a place I’ll continue to visit for the rest of my life.

Who are your landscape photography heroes?

That’s a very hard question. I tend to take inspiration from a wide range of photographic disciplines. Interestingly I find war photography to be one of the most inspiring – people tasked with documenting the most hostile places in the world, while having to bear in mind the technical aspect of photography and tell a story. I try to surround myself with photography books and follow decent photographers on Instagram. Seeing what other people are up to, create stunning images, is a real drive for pushing my own abilities.

Colin, you’re known as the ‘king of snacks’ on long press trips. What’s your ultimate photography fuel?

Ha, awesome question. Cold cans of cola are number one on a hot day hiking up mountains. And cereal bars. I can survive on those bad boys for days.

Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 10.56.16 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 10.56.58 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 10.57.49 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 10.59.05 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.00.10 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.04.23 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 10.59.53 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.04.02 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.23.12 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.24.48 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.24.14 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.24.33 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.07.29 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.09.14 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.09.45 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.10.23 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.11.26 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.11.51 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.12.12 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.13.49 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.13.03 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.15.07 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.15.39 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.16.39 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.22.11 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.18.19 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.17.47 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.18.55 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.17.27 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.19.39 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.34.54 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.33.51 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.35.43 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.35.18 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.36.17 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.38.14 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.39.02 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.41.00 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.42.33 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.45.17 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.45.00 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.47.51 AM.png
Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.45.52 AM.png

Colin shoots on a Fuji X-H1. Follow his work on Instagram or on his blog colinnichollsphotography.com

His stunning images feature in our 36-page special on Snowdonia in issue 8 of Ernest Journal. Pick up a copy today.

Issue 8 (special edition)
10.00
Cover:
Quantity:
Add To Cart

Venison jerky

Using time-honoured techniques adopted by cultures around the world, Jake and Amie of Jake's Cured Meats are your guides to making the perfect hiking snack.

Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 1.33.29 PM.png

You’ve been tracking your prey for hours, then finally you get the shot. You lock it in your sights, take a couple of deep breaths, squeeze the trigger: crack! The animal drops, silence. A moment of reflection, respect for the beast. You remove the entrails, leave for the birds. The inescapable symbiosis of life and death. The march back home begins; the glow of embers awaits you. Skin, butcher, roast, eat. Hunger satisfied, you deal with the remaining meat; rub it with salt and hang it in the fireplace. The smoke flows around the meat, transforming it into a perfectly preserved meaty jewel. 

Before refrigeration, food preservation was key to survival. This was often achieved by drying, which allowed a single kill to last for months, providing a powerful protein punch. From the ancient Egyptians to the Native Americans, many cultures developed their own methods for drying meat. This allowed pioneers and adventurers to push ever deeper into uncharted territory. When Captain Scott set off for the South Pole he took with him pemmican – a mixture of dried meat, fat and berries. 

Curing meat is still something of a black art. The complex flavour changes that take place during the curing process is still not fully understood. Good hygiene is essential and always buy the best quality meat you can. This recipe is for venison jerky but you can use any kind of lean meat; beef, lamb or turkey, for example.

Ingredients

500g venison haunch
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp Worcester sauce
2 tbsp honey
4 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 orange zest and juice

Method

1. Pop the venison in the freezer for 45 mins to 1 hour. You don’t want to freeze it, just to firm it up slightly.

2. With a sharp knife slice the venison into thin strips.

3. Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a bowl, then add the venison strips. Cover and leave overnight to marinade in the fridge.

4. Once the meat has finished marinating, preheat the oven to 80C.

5. Lay the meat on a baking rack or something that will allow the air to circulate around the meat.

6. Bake for 3-4 hours or until the meat becomes dry and chewy, then remove from the oven and allow to cool.

7. Pack into an airtight container and store in a dry, cool place ready for your next adventure.

Words by Jake and Amie, who make cured meat snacks in the Brecon Beacons; jakescuredmeats.co.uk. 

The Mail Train

Not so long ago, any letter or parcel landing on a doormat in London would have just disembarked from a surprising journey... underground.

Images courtesy of the Postal Museum

Images courtesy of the Postal Museum

Stretching for 6.5 miles in a tunnel deeper than the Tube, the Mail Rail transported post between Whitechapel and Paddington for 75 years until its closure in 2003. Since then, the stalactite-filled
tunnels and abandoned platforms have lain dark and empty. Until now.

The Postal Museum in Clerkenwell has opened part of the Mail Rail to the public; running battery-powered passenger trains on a 20-minute subterranean tour. While the Mail Rail is undoubtedly the star attraction, the museum is a thigh-rubbing joy to wander itself, for its interactive displays (you get to sort post and put your face on a stamp) and fascinating insights into what has kept this great British institution ticking for so long. 

Open everyday (except 24-26 December) from 10am to 5pm. Last train departs at 4.30pm. Journey lasts 15 minutes. For more info, visit postalmuseum.org

The Mail Train features in issue 7 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

Issue 7
10.00
Quantity:
Add To Cart