Digest>Archives> April 2006

Light Reflections

There She Blows

By By Sharma Krauskopf


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Eshaness is a popular tourist spot for visitors to the Shetland Islands. They come to see the magnificent cliffs, the lighthouse and the blowhole. The blowhole is a large hole on the west side behind the lighthouse which drops 200 feet straight down to the ocean. The tourists think it is a great place to climb. Even when Her Royal Highness Princess Anne visited, she had to check it out by climbing into it. (I thought her bodyguards were going to have a heart attack.) It is a dangerous place to climb not only because of its sheer drop but because storms make the rock very unstable.

When we have gales coming out of the west straight across the Atlantic, the waves often come over the lighthouse, which means they are breaking 300 feet above the sea. Anyone going out the house’s front door, which is on the land side, can get really drenched by some of these waves during a westerly gale. I usually stay in when it’s that stormy as it is extremely dangerous, so I have only gotten one of these salty showers a couple of times.

The blowhole resembles a geyser as the sea is forced up through the hole when the wind is just right. In all my years at Eshaness, one of my frustrations has been trying to take a picture of the blowhole doing its geyser imitation. First, it only does it when the winds are dangerously high. Many times, I have bundled up in my wet suit with camera wrapped in plastic wrap and out I have gone to try and get that all elusive picture. I always have the same problems. First, I need to stand still so the camera is not moved, which is not easy in a 100 mile an hour winds. I have found a way to steady the camera by hugging the tower and lodging the camera against its window ledge. About one out of ten shots, I can keep the camera still. The most difficult problem of all is when it is that stormy, the air is full of salt spray and not clear. So any picture that I was able to hold the camera still comes out resembling a yellow fog. When it is the most dangerous, I stay in the house and try to take pictures out of the west-facing windows. I get pictures; they are mostly of water droplets in the air or a stream running down the window. It is the blowhole but no one can tell.

Often, the best time to take pictures of the stormy sea is after the actual storm is over. Bruce Wilcock, a local blacksmith and professional photographer, can always be seen dressed in his oil skins driving his heavy van in

the lighthouse area as storms begin to calm down. He has taken some magnificent photographs. Many of which I have hanging in our Michigan lake house.

Last time I was over, he told me he had a special picture for me so I drove down to the forge to get it. I went crazy when I saw what he had made for me — a picture of the blowhole doing its geyser imitation. Finally, I can show you and all my friends the Eshaness Lighthouse blowhole’s dramatic beauty.

This story appeared in the April 2006 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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