BOB DARKE’S DIARY PORTHCOTHAN 1967      edited by Jane Darke

Wednesday January 18th

Wind freshening from South East with rain which continued all day and wind to gale force by nightfall, sea heavy swell. Did some work on boat. An enormous flock of gulls, black backs, herring, black headed on beach this morning. One immature black back pecking at a dead guillemot.

Saturday March 18th

Fine and sunny with cloud cover. Wind North West, fresh, Strong at night and in the morning. Sea moderate. Cool. Saw large fir pole 20ft long on bay so down and rolled it above water mark with Jo and got tractor and jib and loaded and took up to farm later. Large fish on the beach which I think is a haddock one of the cod family.

Friday March 24th

Fine and bright and fresh West wind. Cool. Sea moderate. Much sand gone away from St Merryn Totty Cove exposing more rock than have seen for some time.

Sunday March 26th

Strong to near gale wind and little sign of rest. Heavy sea. Cold. Very high tide night and morning. Heavy showers of hail. The tanker Torrey Canyon breaking up with this heavy weather and more oil pouring out. None here yet but it’s getting nearer and many western coasts becoming badly polluted. This is a tragedy of vast magnitude to Cornwall and its people and the marine life around the coast.

Tuesday March 28th

Fine and bright all day. Cold fresh N.W. wind. Heavy hail shower at night. Sea mod.

Many oiled guillemots on the beach early and the sea shining with oil slick and smelling strongly with the pungent sickly smell of oil. Some patches of solid yellow oil amongst the waves and long rows of brown sticky muck left as the tide receded. Oil everywhere, on the cliffs, in the coves, rocks shining with it and rock pools full of it. Nick and I walked out to Porthmeor, a sorry and sad sight indeed. A seal appeared at Trescore by the Porthmeor rocks, his head shining with oil. Outside, a mile out and stretching to Trevose head, the sea covered with a filament of oil. This may be the end of marine and mammal life as we know it.

Tonight the Torrey Canyon is burning with tremendous intensity and a great column of black smoke rises above the Seven Stones. If the wind changes and carries this black cloud over the land a dead hand will be laid on the valleys and hedgerows as well which God forbid. I don’t know when in all my life the vandalism of man intentional or accidental has depressed me so much.

Saturday April 1st

Dull and dry wind S.E. freshening to S and strong. Sea calm, swell increasing. Warmer. 4 soldiers and a number about 14 firemen on the bay and all came in for tea. Nice people. One told me of their experiences at Portreath and Hayle and Porthleven where the oil has been very bad. Soldiers casting Slick-Gone detergent in all directions to no purpose. Tried unsuccessfully to stop them. Later rang Dr (Mrs) Matthews, Fowey, who promised to get in touch with Nature Conservancy and Marine Biology people at Plymouth.

Bay and cliffs also swarming with enthusiastic bird savers, some even went out in a boat. Total rescued one guillemot. Someone reported a seal. Went to Rowan and Jan Leverton’s later but saw nothing. A Padstow boat was out spraying and there was a heavy concentration of detergent in and around the rocks outside Rowan Cove. Mrs Stanley brought in an eel, several limpets and 2 crabs from Constantine.

Sunday April 9th.

Fine and sunny. Cold fresh N wind, sea slight. Composed a letter warning of the dangers of indiscriminate use of detergent on marine life for Cornish Guardian. Much oil on the sand from Cost-e-Los down to Little Totty and all the rocks denuded of weed and molluscs and ridges in the sand filled with dead sand hoppers by the thousand. A sad sight indeed. Limpets dead. The exotic life of our land is dying on its feet.

Monday April 17th

Fair warm and sunny. Wind light from N.N.W. Sea slight.

Came home in sombre mood and walked to Porthmeor. Army encamped in top of Boathouse surrounded by barrels of detergent. Went out again in the afternoon at low water and on both occasions found the usual slaughter on a grand scale. A preponderance of river and conger eels of all sizes, elvers by the thousand, mainly green crabs, rockling, baby wrasse, 1 frog, 3 large red mullet, 1 small flat fish, 1fair size megrim sole (Totty Cove). One whitebait, a blunt headed fish I didn’t recognise, many blennies and rock bishops, many rag worms, 2 up to 18inches long, 1 conger 2ft 6inches One large whiting. Crab. Whelks by the thousand and limpets ditto. 1 small starfish. 50 empty barrels of B.P. 1002, 2 of Slick Gone. Total 2,330 gallons. Going home I found 3 barrels thrown down into Totty Cove smashed and contents spilled and Round Hole white with it

Tuesday May 2nd

Wind gusting to fresh before showers heavy at times. Very cold. Sea slight. Made some investigation at Boathouse Cove. On flat rock mostly above mean tide line all limpets gone on Cove side, but plentiful on opposite side. A few batches of anemones, some very small, in a limpet denuded pool. Many dead barnacles, one live blenny in the blenny pool. More activity in the bay with track layer and bulldozer blade pushing out long wide furrows and men spraying in detergent.

Wednesday May 10th

Beautiful day again. Hot sunshine. Wind light to calm and sea smooth. Walked out to Porthmeor. Saw Richard and quadrat marks and no new developments there. A few winkles back and some small mullet in the pools. Anemones coming back and a great many newly settled barnacles in the lower part of the bay. Water now much clearer. Gull’s nest two eggs Totty Cove. Cormorant on N. end Trescore.

Evening Nick and I put the new boat to sea with motor and stayed out a good hour. She is a first class sea boat throwing the water well away, dry and comfortable and quite fast. No fish at all, a pleasant trip but she is heavy to handle on the beach and takes a fair amount of water to float. Saw several Terns and a pair of Razorbills in Butter Cove. Young Ravens in Porthmeor. 7 shags on Butter cove point and looks like 3 fulmars sitting under Butter Cove Point.

 

Monday May 15th

Dull with occasional sunny periods. Wind N. moderate and cool. Sea slight. Nick reports seeing a water rat in the river by the bridge this morning. Grass hopper warbler still singing.

Friday May 26th

Calmer today. Wind S.W. bright sunshine and thundery showers, warmer. Sea moderate. Richard and I walked down on the tide line in the evening and observed many very small sand hoppers. Rafts of weed floating off this morning North and some came in the bay. No oil smell or opalescence for some time.

Monday May 29th

Fine start but thunder showers developed and produced heavy rain morning and afternoon. Wind S.E. light. Sea slight. Went to Porthmeor in the afternoon and got very wet. Richard came out later and put out 3 more quadrats. Gulls nest on flat edge opposite Totty Cove Island with 2 eggs has completely disappeared, washed or blown away in last week’s gales. Many anemones coming back, young barnacles still spreading and saw some minute top shells and a single minute limpet. A few limpets were left or returning and saw a few patches of lava weed. Richard saw a small crab. No turnstones about.

Nick went surfing in the evening.

Thursday July 20th

Fine and sunny all day light to fresh W. wind. Cooler. Sea slight. Went out to Porthmeor and found the whole bay completely covered in a thick stifling carpet of green weed also at Boathouse and everywhere else detergent has killed limpets. Everything now stifled by it. Took some film. A really exceedingly depressing sight and clear indication of man’s folly

Tuesday September 5th

Very strong gale and squally showers from S.W. Sea very rough and wind swept and very high spring tide. Went to Porthmeor to try to see Ron’s fulmar and to see boats. Weather very severe. Nick’s boat gone from Bert’s slipway and later we found the remains in Boathouse and picked up what we could thoroughly smashed up. Poor old chap very sad about its loss. Pulled other boat up higher. Richard re- recorded quadrats at Porthmeor. No sign of Fulmar. Saw 2 dead doves and an oiled turnstone in Boathouse Cove, many birds storm driven including a tern in the bay.

Green weed slowly declining from Porthmeor but still a very barren appearance.

Thursday September 7th

Wind fresh W.N.W. Occasional showers and sunny intervals. Sea moderate. Wonderful west wind soft day. Walked from Bedruthan back home by the cliffs. Saw an immature kittiwake at Park Head and several pellets of beetle wings near newly scraped out burrow on top of the cliff, a fox? All birds now gone. Shags and Fulmar. Several Sea Pies down on the rocks outside Mackerel Cove, one at least this year’s chick. Turned over a few stones on Porthmeor and saw several small crabs of different sizes and a few anemones returning. Less green weed and a feeling about the place that life was returning to normal

. Several Turnstones on the sea line turning up weed of a bright orange colour and one unidentified wader at Porthcothan. Grey nondescript plumage, striking white wing bands in flight. Size similar to turnstone. Saw six shags and cormorants flying high over bay at Porthcothan

Tuesday October 3rd

Strong to gale S. wind which brought rain afternoon till dusk. Cooler with wind vear W. Sea rough and very high tide. Worked on films and sound sequences. Went out to Golden Burn evening and baled out boat and turned her over. Some big rocks in the bay from anew cliff fall, could be Arch Rock.

Thursday October 5th

Mild and S.S.W. mild warm air stream again. Warm sunny patches but mostly cloudy. Young man who was one of David Bellamy’s team came in the afternoon to see me and report on their August findings. Had been out to Porthmeor and said limpets slowly returning. Had found an unusual kelp weed and was reporting to Plymouth.

Monday October 30th

Fine and sunny during most of the day wind moderate W. Sea rough. Wind backed S.W. and rain by night fall. Much oily weed washed in but no obvious sign of oil though strong oily smell from the sea. Saw large dead spiny star fish.

Wednesday November 1st

Very much rain in the night wind rising to gale S.W. by evening. Bright periods and showers, very rough sea. More Portugese man o’War on beach.

Saturday Decenber 2nd

Dull and gloomy wind N.E. light to calm. Heavy cloud cover. Sea calm heavy swell. Mild. Down to sea at low water. Very low tide. Rocks by Totty Cove lifeless except for entrance with a thick coat of lava. Further down a few limpets appear and in the blenny pool a few anemones. These become thicker on the rocks outside Long Cove. Large orange coloured ones with spots red and one or two olive green. Golden Burn rocks normal, many mussels, whelks, orange, yellow, green, striped and eggs also much pink coralline weed. Much entramorpha outside Round Hole and pink or purple coralline below tide line. Saw many Turn stones, 8 in Golden Burn. Saw a small duck like bird floating in the river which flew off and a bird bathing in the pool like a guillemot but too far away. Dead immature guillemot on Golden Burn. Boat OK.

Monday December 25th

Strong to gale N.W. wind. Shower early dry later, heavy sea, coldish. Caroline and I walked down the beach in the evening at dusk and went through Round Hole to Boathouse collected some wreck on the way. Wind very loud and huge sea outside the rocks.

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Bob Darke Diary 1967

Tuesday March 28th

Fine and bright all day. Cold fresh N.W. wind. Heavy hail shower at night. Sea mod.

Many oiled guillemots on the beach early and the sea shining with oil slick and smelling strongly with the pungent sickly smell of oil. Some patches of solid yellow oil amongst the waves and long rows of brown sticky muck left as the tide receded. Oil everywhere, on the cliffs, in the coves, rocks shining with it and rock pools full of it. Nick and I walked out to Porthmeor, a sorry and sad sight indeed. A seal appeared at Trescore by the Porthmeor rocks, his head shining with oil. Outside, a mile out and stretching to Trevose head, the sea covered with a filament of oil. This may be the end of marine and mammal life as we know it.

Tonight the Torrey Canyon is burning with tremendous intensity and a great column of black smoke rises above the Seven Stones. If the wind changes and carries this black cloud over the land a dead hand will be laid on the valleys and hedgerows as well which God forbid. I don’t know when in all my life the vandalism of man intentional or accidental has depressed me so much.

Saturday April 1st

Dull and dry wind S.E. freshening to S and strong. Sea calm, swell increasing. Warmer. 4 soldiers and a number about 14 firemen on the bay and all came in for tea. Nice people. One told me of their experiences at Portreath and Hayle and Porthleven where the oil has been very bad. Soldiers casting Slick-Gone detergent in all directions to no purpose. Tried unsuccessfully to stop them. Later rang Dr (Mrs) Matthews, Fowey, who promised to get in touch with Nature Conservancy and Marine Biology people at Plymouth.

Bay and cliffs also swarming with enthusiastic bird savers, some even went out in a boat. Total rescued one guillemot. Someone reported a seal. Went to Rowan and Jan Leverton’s later but saw nothing. A Padstow boat was out spraying and there was a heavy concentration of detergent in and around the rocks outside Rowan Cove. Mrs Stanley brought in an eel, several limpets and 2 crabs from Constantine.

Sunday April 9th.

Fine and sunny. Cold fresh N wind, sea slight. Composed a letter warning of the dangers of indiscriminate use of detergent on marine life for Cornish Guardian. Much oil on the sand from Cost-e-Los down to Little Totty and all the rocks denuded of weed and molluscs and ridges in the sand filled with dead sand hoppers by the thousand. A sad sight indeed. Limpets dead. The exotic life of our land is dying on its feet.

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