The Irish Explorer's Journal #1

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Irish Explorer's Journal © March 2020 by World Explorers Bureau. Editor: Tim Lavery Publisher: World Explorers Bureau Website: Address: Alderwood House, Farnes, Castlemaine, Co. Kerry, Ireland Email: All articles and images © 2020 of the respective Authors. Front Cover: Giant's Causeway, Antrim © Alex Azabache @alexazabache

Inside Back Cover: Sub-Tropical Tree Fern Forest at Kells Bay Gardens, Kerry © World Explorers Bureau Back Cover: Caherconree, Sliabh Mish Mountains, Kerry © World Explorers Bureau

The Irish Explorer's Journal is grateful to all our writers and photographers for permission to publish their work. The Irish Explorer's Journal has been typeset in 12 point Garamond and uses OED English spelling.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law. Although the publisher has made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct at press time, the authors and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. For further information contact the publisher:

Waves at Dooneen Pier, Dingle Peninsula Š World Explorers Bureau

A Letter from the Editor Welcome to the ďŹ rst issue of the Irish Explorer's Journal. In these challenging times it is worth remembering that our forebears have faced great adversity, lived through the harshest of times and overcome challenges of immense measure, they survived and came through with a smile and song. I hope that this Journal will help shine a light on their legacy and brighten our outlook. This gem of an island, perched on the western fringes of Europe, with the wild Atlantic Ocean defining our western coastline has had a disproportionate influence on world exploration throughout history. From the voyages of Brendan the Navigator to the polar exploits of Bransfield, Crozier and Shackleton, O'Hara-Burke's crossing of Australia, Howard-Bury's expedition to Everest, Armstrong's lunar exploits, and the modern adventures of the likes of Falvey, Moore, O'Shea, Hanna, Patten and O'Nuallain, Irish men and women have led where others follow. Six years ago I published the first issue of a magazine, entitled "Ripcord Adventure Journal" (RAJ), it marked a milestone in my publishing adventure, little did any of the publishing team think at the time that RAJ would reach a global audience with over 12.5 million views. Today, we launch a brand new publication, the Irish Explorer's Journal, dedicated to adventure and exploration on the island of Ireland, past, present and future. The Irish Explorer's Journal will include regular features on wild landscapes, waterways and island exploration, trails and hiking routes across lowlands, hills and mountains, from the Wild Atlantic Way and the Ancient East to the Causeway Coast and Glens, adventures abound. In addition, each issue will reveal the explorers and expeditions worldwide that have an Irish interest, shaping the world we live in. I am most grateful to all the writers and photographers who have made this publication possible and encourage readers to follow the links to their various websites and blogs. If there are people and places that you wish to hear more about, please let us know and we will endeavour to feature them at some point in the future. I hope that you will enjoy reading this free digital Journal and encourage you to share it widely with those interested in our Ireland of Adventures. Tim Lavery FRGS FRCGS FLS, Editor March 1, 2020

irish explorer's journal

Editor in Chief Tim Lavery Featuring Leon McCarron Michael Smith Nuala Moore Sonja Bergin Fearghal O' Nuallain Irene Hamilton Ruth Illingworth Morgan Hite

VOLUME 1 ISSUE 1 MARCH 2020 WWW.WORLDEXPLORERSBUREAU.COM/EXPLORER Image opposite: Ireland's Longest Rope Bridge, Kells Bay, Kerry © World Explorers Bureau

Contents The Lone Piper in the Hills of Jordan Leon McCarron


Discovering Edward BransďŹ eld Michael Smith


The Great Island Swim Nuala Moore


Escape to...The Black Castle Sonja Bergin


The World is Round Fearghal O' Nuallain


Scattery Island Irene Hamilton


Explorer, Statesman, Spy Ruth Illingworth


48 Hours in the Causeway Coast and Glens Visit Causeway Coast and Glens


Mapping Howard-Bury Morgan Hite


Image opposite: Exploring Ireland's Rivers and Glens Š World Explorers Bureau

Editor - Tim Lavery Editor in Chief : Tim Lavery Publisher, educator, artist and scientist, Tim has worked throughout Europe in various fields for corporates, NGOs and Educational Institutions over the past 30 years. Since 1985, Tim has earned numerous National Awards for his contribution to environmental awareness in Ireland including receiving three Resource Ireland Awards, several Environment Awareness Awards, Local Hero Award and an Inspired IT Award. He has authored more than 20 scientific papers ranging from ecology to new species descriptions and has edited numerous other publications on a variety of scientific and education technology subjects. In 2011, he founded the award-winning World Explorers Bureau (WEB), a consultancy representing over 160 of the world's most accomplished explorers, adventurers and field scientists. Passionate about exploration and the dissemination of the results of authentic adventures and expeditions, he launched and edited the very successful Ripcord Adventure Journal in 2014, in the same year, Tim was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society. In 2015 he was honoured to become the first Irish person to be elected to the College of Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, followed in 2016 by the Royal Geographical Society and the Linnean Society of London in 2019. He manages the Worldwide Expedition Professionals group on LinkedIn and is a Director of the Irish Explorers Trust.

Feature Writer - Nuala Moore Growing up in Dingle, Nuala Moore was always captivated by the lure of the open ocean and from a very young age about 7 or 8 years old, her father would take her out in his fishing boat and she would swim back to shore. The notorious Drake passage is one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world and last year she became the first swimmer in the world to complete the mile distance crossing the Meridian between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean south of the island of Cape Horn. The swim was completed in 7 deg water and seas of 3/4 metres. She is also the first woman in the world to swim south of Cape Horn and received a coveted Guinness World Record for this endeavour. Among her many firsts in Ice and marathon swimming, Nuala has represented Ireland around the world. The World Open Water Swimming Association has twice nominated her in the top 14 women in the world of open water swimming for her contribution to extreme swimming in 2014 and 2016 and Red Bull recognised her as one of Ireland’s top 7 Irish Adventurers for her grit and determination. Nuala ventures to Mount Everest for her next adventure in 2020. A true pioneer in extreme swimming she plans to swim at Lake Imja, one of the Glacier lakes greatly impacted by climate change.

Feature Writers

Leon McCarron Leon McCarron is a writer, broadcaster and adventurer from Northern Ireland. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a Fellow of the Abraham Path Initiative and an Explorer for The North Face. He has travelled tens of thousands of miles by human power, including walking the length of China and following the longest river in Iran from source to sea. Leon has made four independent films and TV shows for National Geographic and the BBC. His latest book, The Land Beyond: A Thousand Miles on Foot Through the Heart of the Middle East is available online and in all good bookshops. To follow Leon's adventures check out his website:

Fearghal O' Nuallain, citizen of the world, originally from Wicklow, has a passion for geography and adventure. An experienced educator, writer, and active geographer he has captivated audiences with stories about cycling around the world, walking across Rwanda, tramping through Transylvanian winter and hiking, hitching and biking across the Balkan peninsula to explore an ancient Roman road. Fearghal founded Revolution Cycle with inventor Simon Evans, to complete the first Irish circumnavigation of the globe by bike. The expedition covered 31,000km over 18 months, passing through some of the highest, driest and most intriguing places on the planet. To follow Fearghal's adventures check out his website:

Michael Smith is an author and journalist who specialises in the history of Polar exploration. He has written books on Polar history for adult audiences and children, lectured extensively and contributed to a wide range of television and radio programmes, newspapers, magazines and websites. Michael’s first book, An Unsung Hero – Tom Crean Antarctic Survivor (2000) was short-listed for the Banff Mountain Book Festival 2002. His other books are: I Am Just Going Outside – Captain Oates (2002); Sir James Wordie – Polar Crusader (2004); Captain Francis Crozier – Last Man Standing? (2006); Tom Crean – An Illustrated Life (2006) . Great Endeavour – Ireland’s Antarctic Explorers (2010) and Shackleton – By Endurance We Conquer (2014). Michael has also written two books for children: Tom Crean – Iceman (2003); Shackleton – The Boss (2004). Michael began writing books in the late 1990s after more than 30 years as an award-winning journalist covering business and political issues. His posts included: Industrial Editor and Political Correspondent, The Guardian; City Editor, Evening Standard; Business Editor, The Observer.

Ruth Illingworth is a Historian and Tour Guide. Ruth has lectured at NUI Maynooth, served as an elected representative of Westmeath County Council and is the author of 5 books and numerous articles on local and Irish history. Ruth's most recent book, Sheelagh Murnaghan: Stormont's only Liberal MP is available on Amazon and in good bookstores:

Morgan Hite spent the early part of his career as an instructor at the American expeditionary school NOLS,teaching backcountry travel skills in Alaska, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona. In this millennium he works as a Canadian cartographer interested in topographic, historical and expedition mapping. For more information on Morgan visit his website:

The Lone Piper in the Jordan Hills

Text by Leon McCarron


I’m lost in my own head. It’s been nearly two days since I saw another human. I’ve taken to watching beetles when I stop walking. London feels a long way away. Hours pass and I don’t notice. Things that impact upon me: hunger, heat, noise. Those three things are the only way into my world. Suddenly the valley walls around me begin to sing. I wonder if I have finally gone crazy. Birds scatter from the crevices in the sandstone; one rock looks like a human skull, and the flying beasts emerging out of it are disconcerting. The sound though is beautiful - a human voice projecting out from the natural theatre the stone. Then an instrumental break; a flute solo. A chirpy tune starts up, high notes trilling their way back down the valley. I’ve lost interest in beetles now. On the hilltop I see a figure; at first a silhouette, then features. It is a young man, sitting sidesaddle on a donkey. To the left side of his face he holds a metal tube and his eyes are closes as he concentrates. This is the source of my wilderness concert. The pace of the shepherd is slow. He plays his own soundtrack as he rides towards me, a Biblical flock of goats leading the vanguard. With the timing of a true professional he finishes his tune and jumps off to shake my hand. I tell him in bad Arabic that his playing was beautiful. He sidesteps the compliment. It all comes from the shababa, he says - his instrument. We drink tea and he plays some more. I try: I used to play the tin whistle pretty well. I try an Irish jig on the shababa and embarrass myself. More tea is poured to cover the moment. The pot empties and the piper leaves. I forgot to ask his name. He jumps back aside his donkey and begins to sing once more. A few minutes pass and he’s gone, over the far hillside. The echoes of his song slowly leave the valley in his wake. I’m back where I was. Back to the beetles, and onwards down the valley. This short story is taken from my 1000 mile walk through the Middle East, from Jerusalem to Mount Sinai. A book – The Land Beyond: 1000 miles on foot through the heart of the Middle East – is available on Amazon:

Image Opposite: View over the Jordan Hills © Leon McCarron 1

Edward Bransfield 2

Text by Michael Smith

DISCOVERING EDWARD BRANSFIELD Michael Smith The pioneering Irish navigator Edward Bransfield made history 200 years ago on January 30, 1820, when the mist and clouds parted in the icy southern waters below 62° S and he and the men under his command became the first humans to set eyes upon the mainland of Antarctica. It was a historic discovery that proved the existence of the southern continent and opened the era of Antarctic exploration, creating many legendary figures such as Ross and Crozier, Borchgrevink and Amundsen and Scott and Shackleton – plus notable Irish explorers such as Tom Crean, Patrick Keohane, and the McCarthy brothers. Yet the person frequently overlooked from the cast of those who lifted the veil from the continent is the enigmatic Irishman, Edward Bransfield. His discovery was never fully appreciated at the time and he drifted to the margins of history. To add to the mystery, no photograph or painting of Bransfield has ever been found and he will always remain an enigma. Fortunately, Bransfield has recently been brought in from the cold with local enthusiasts successfully raising funds to place a monument his birthplace of Ballinacurra, near Midleton, Cork and for a Blue Plaque on his home in the UK coastal town of Brighton. Few details of Bransfield’s own story have emerged and this may explain why he remains such a mysterious figure. He was born in the small Irish community of Ballinacurra around 1785. He seems to have enjoyed a reasonable education and worked on his father’s fishing vessel in the waters off the coast of Cork. The peaceful life came to an abrupt halt in 1803 with the outbreak of the Napoleonic War between Britain and France. In the search for able-bodied men, the Royal Navy’s brutal press gangs raided the Cork area and 18 years-old Bransfield was snatched. Bransfield, with his knowledge of the sea, was a suitable catch. Although some 90,000 sailors were killed in the war, Bransfield survived and rose through the naval ranks. By 1812 he was appointed Ship’s Master, with responsibility for navigation. When the war ended with Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Bransfield remained in the navy and had a distinguished record, including a courageous role in the Bombardment of Algiers in 1816. By 1819, Bransfield was stationed in Valparaiso, Chile protecting British interests as the Chileans struggled for independence from Spain. The merchant vessel Williams under Captain William Smith reached port that year and reported sighting unmapped islands while sailing around Cape Horn from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso. Initially, the navy was not interested in Smith’s discoveries and he went in search of the islands on his return around the Horn. Although Smith found nothing the second time, he made a


Image Opposite: The monument to Edward Bransfield in his birthplace of Ballinacurra, near Midleton, Cork © Jim Wilson


Edward Bransfield Michael Smith

successful third attempt in October 1819 and even made a brief landing to claim the territory for King George III. Smith, a part-owner of the Williams, from the Northumberland colliery port of Blyth, had located the South Shetland Islands, a long chain of islands about 600 miles (nearly 1,000 km) south of the Falkland Islands and 80 miles (approximately 120 km) north of the Antarctic Peninsula. Rumours about Smith’s sighting spread quickly in South America and the Navy now acted quickly before rival American ships sailed to exploit potential new whale and seal hunting grounds. Captain William Shirreff, the senior naval officer in the area, promptly summoned Master and navigator, the 34-years old Edward Bransfield. Bransfield was given command of the 216-ton brig Williams and ordered to investigate, taking Smith and his crew to assist. Shirreff told the Admiralty in London, that Bransfield was “well qualified” for the task. But he also ordered Bransfield to “conceal every discovery,” to prevent others finding out. Sailing into mostly uncharted waters, Bransfield left Valparaiso in December 1819 with a complement of about 30 men and a year’s provisions. To underline the difficulties ahead, it needed nine days to sail the first 6 miles (10 km) south. Bransfield sailed the Williams along the chain of South Shetland Islands and took a small party ashore on King George Island, the largest, for the ritual of formally claiming the new territory. In January 1820, the Williams turned south into the unknown seas between the islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. The 60-mile stretch of water is today known as the Bransfield Strait and is a main thoroughfare for ships carrying adventurers and tourists to the Peninsula. Midshipman Charles Poynter wrote the only surviving record of the historic moment when the clouds opened on January 30 to reveal the panorama of the Peninsula’s mountains, glaciers, and icefields. He wrote: “At 3 our notice was arrested by three very large icebergs and 20 minutes after we were unexpectedly astonished by the discovery of land SbW.” Poynter also speculated on whether the party had found the “long-contested existence of a Southern Continent.” The territory was named Trinity Land after the maritime body, a scattering of nearby islands was skirted and a striking 2,500 ft mountain, later called Mount Bransfield, was mapped. But any ambition Bransfield may have nurtured to make the first landing on the continent was dashed by persistent fog. It would be another 75 years before the first confirmed landing was made. Bransfield steered the Williams along the coast in dreadful weather and eventually reached Elephant Island, where Shackleton’s party from Endurance would be marooned over a century


Image Opposite: Artist's image of the Williams, the brig under Bransfield’s command, alongside the Antarctic coast in 1820 © Jim Wilson 4

Edward Bransfield Michael Smith

later. A brief landing was made on nearby Clarence Island before the Williams met an impassable barrier of ice in the Weddell Sea. He recorded a “furthest south” of 64° 56’ S and turned for Valparaiso, which was reached in mid-April 1820. Not a man was lost. Regrettably, Bransfield later suffered a series of misfortunes. First, some of his records, including the important logbook, were mislaid at the Admiralty, although some charts survived. Nor was the Admiralty particularly interested in his findings, and his request to make a second exploratory voyage south was rejected. Bransfield subsequently left the Navy and returned to the sea as a merchant mariner. Further controversy later arose over when the experienced Russian captain, Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen emerged as the rival discoverer of Antarctica. For many years, Bellingshausen was given the honour. Three days before Bransfield’s initial sighting, Bellingshausen was sailing about 20 miles north of Dronning Maud Land and reported seeing “continuous ice” and “ice mountains.” Crucially, Bellingshausen made no record of sighting land and he never claimed to have found the continent. In a contemporary newspaper interview, he said: “…there is no southern continent or should there be one, it must be inaccessible from being covered with perpetual snows, ice, etc.” Bransfield’s case was supported by the French explorer, Jules Sébastien César Dumont d'Urville who first named Mount Bransfield and explained: “This is why I named this mountain Bransfield, more to honour the memory of the only seaman who had been to these seas for science.” Scotsman William Speirs Bruce conducted his research into Bransfield a century later and concluded: “So, good old Ireland discovered the Antarctic Continent!” More recently, the author Rip Bulkeley made an exhaustive study of the surviving papers from the Russian expedition and declared: “...Bellingshausen was not the first commander to see the



Edward Bransfield Michael Smith

Antarctic mainland...” By unhappy coincidence, both Bransfield and Bellingshausen failed to arouse much interest at home and some of the Russian’s records also went missing. Bellingshausen’s book did not appear for 10 years and it was not until 1945 that an English language version emerged. To echo Bransfield’s misfortune, the original manuscript of Bellingshausen’s book, his expedition journals and the naval records of the expedition have all vanished. Bransfield drifted into obscurity in later life and little is known about him. He married three times but did not have children. He settled in England and sadly never wrote a book or published a diary about his adventures. Edward Bransfield died a forgotten man in Brighton on October 31, 1852. He was 67 and outlived his rival Bellingshausen by nine months. Further information on Edward Bransfield: Image Below: The last resting place of Edward Bransfield in Brighton © Michael Smith


“I heard one man say, "Cook, I like my tea strong." Another joined in, "Cook, I like mine weak." It was pleasant to know that their minds were untroubled, but I thought the time opportune to mention that the tea would be the same for all hands and that we would be fortunate if two months later we had any tea at all. It occurred to me at the time that the incident had psychological interest. Here were men, their home crushed, the camp pitched on the unstable floes, and their chance of reaching safety apparently remote, calmly attending to the details of existence and giving their attention to such trifles as the strength of a brew of tea.� South Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton



The Great Island Swim

Text by Nuala Moore

THE GREAT ISLAND SWIM Nuala Moore As I was peeling off my immersion suit, tears in my eyes, exhausted and emotionally drained just about to swim north of the Blasket Islands heading to Loop Head, Brendan Proctor, command boat skipper, leaned over to my ear and whispered, “Remember, if you feel weak, if you feel you can’t - there is a huge team pushing each arm forward, each stroke is us - we’re doing this as a team, we will finish this as a team, you are never alone out there.” Planning and purpose – the Expedition begins One deep breath and I lowered my broken body over the side of the zodiac, we were 36 days on this expedition to swim around the Island of Ireland, the uncertainty of the next few weeks and challenges unknown. I stared into heavy, deep and uninviting Atlantic water, bigger than I had ever swam in. As the waves crashed over my head, I kept repeating, “you are not alone - breathe and fight,” and I did. The Round Ireland Swim, as it became known, in 2006, was much more than a relay, it was expedition and adventure to the core. It involved so much passion, expertise, trust, humility, ability to change plans, ability to accept defeat and reassess our plans but it mostly reflected a team who knew that if it was possible we would do it. We were ordinary people doing something extraordinary. Ireland is the 20th biggest island in the world, the main vision was to be the first team to circumnavigate the 800 or so miles by swimming, without wetsuits. A team of six main swimmers, a dedicated marine unit, a command cruiser vessel, three zodiacs, a marine rescue group of four rotating teams, a marine coordinator, a communications team and a land operations team were pulled together. The Round Ireland Swim was an unprecedented expedition of epic strength and resilience that is unlikely to ever be repeated at this level. The Expedition took 56 days, with 35 swim days, the difference being accounted for, by weather and team changeover. The logistics of each day began with the allocation of the Zodiacs, two swimmers per Zodiac, the Rachel Marie and the Dive Áine, each with a dedicated marine unit, one Zodiac the Abhainn Rí carried the Marine Coordinator Derek Flanagan, his team and with swimmer Anne Marie Ward. The Command Vessel the Sea Breeze rotated within the group captained by Brendan Proctor. The plan was to swim 20-24 miles a day within the group and this allowed the boats to carry their own plans and then coordinate all GPS locations pre and post swims and each swim were joined to create the day’s plan. The Command Boat skipper, the Marine Coordinator, the Comms team and the swim team were fully involved for the two months continuously. Image Opposite of Nuala Moore © Valerie O' Sullivan


The Great Island Swim Nuala Moore

The challenges presented by each coast gave us both expectations and often absolute confusion. I remember the statement that the North Coast, the East Coast and the South Coast are predictable but the West Coast, it’s impossible to say what is going to happen out there. My motto at the beginning was that “We are only swimming, I have no other plans for the day, dig deep and take every swim in the moment,” and this we did. The swim started in Carrigfinn beach on July 2nd 2006 off the coast of Donegal. Swimming with the coldest water, the prevailing wind, currents and through the treacherous Northern Coastline first. The wind for the first few days was North East which made swimming into the wind a big challenge. Day 1,2 and 3 we were 4 hours behind our schedule each evening, we got a very clear indication that plans were only guidelines and our expectations would be determined by each day’s conditions. The Rescue Units served one week on at a time Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta. These teams are members of the Sheephaven Sub Aqua Club in Donegal. The logistics of this would allow a fresh team and a fresh set of eyes and hands to join the expedition each Sunday. One of the unspoken rules of open water swimming is the swimmer can only swim if the rescue unit can take them from the water in the unlikely event of an emergency so the value of these units was priceless. Trust is vital when you feel vulnerable to weather and conditions. Complacency can cost lives and we learned very early on that the bond between boat and swimmer is unbreakable. The first week went like a textbook where each swim was predictable, the challenges and the energy required were just what we trained for. Swimming 4-6 hours a day was acceptable. The North coast was a cold average 12 degrees Celsius. The North channel is renowned for Lion’s Mane jellyfish and big seas; it did not disappoint. As we turned south. swimming down the Antrim Coast and past Belfast Lough, the Beaufort Dyke in the North Channel is one of the biggest arms dumps from WWII and the water temperatures drop with water depths of almost 1,000 feet. The emotion of the swim changes, as the depth of the water drops, the water becomes thicker. Constant Jellyfish stings and hypothermia accompanied by rain and wind gave us our first taste of what it was like to sit on the boats in open weather with nowhere to shelter. It was so difficult to keep our bodies from losing too much heat as we waited for our next swim. The Immersion suits were wet inside and sitting for 8 hours each day in the elements took its toll as it was not possible to eat properly under these conditions. The wind was exhausting, we learned that miles had to be continually fought for. Training for distance swimming was not equating well with expedition conditions. Being wet and cold every day took its toll and after a week although the expedition was meeting its goals, the physical depletion, the emotional exhaustion, the realisation of not having a physiotherapist or a nutritionist or even proper cover from weather conditions was going to be a major issue. There were no alternatives, we had to soldier on. Week Two brought us towards Dublin as Team Bravo joined us. A fresh team brought renewed enthusiasm. The challenges nightly for the Marine Coordinator, Derek Flanagan was not only to



The Great Island Swim Nuala Moore

measure the distance but to plot the course and risk assess the route each day. Brendan Proctor and Derek Flanagan, together with their team, were routing and risk assessing tides 18 hours each day. Each coast gave a different emotion - a different challenge. The feel of the water for a swimmer, down past the counties of Louth and Dublin was so light. We could breathe, the wind turned Southerly and passing inside Ireland’s Eye it was possible to see the sandy bottom. We recognised the headlands. The proximity of the 2 countries, Ireland and Britain, squeezes the water, the tides run North South, the water races up and down the coast like a river. We could see our progress from the shore, the sunshine, the southerly wind, water temperatures of 14 degrees, the lightness of the water along with being so close to the coast reinvigorated our determination. The first week had teething troubles but now we breathed again, this was possible, the East Coast was a gift. The Arklow Banks were beautiful, the wind turbines spinning fast, so majestic, volumes of sand in our teeth as we breathed in from the surface of the water, the familiar landmarks along the coast occupied our minds so that the days passed easily. Turning past Tusker Rock, our last day in the Irish Sea-we picked up tides at 8 knots, Derek gave us 25 miles and water speed barely allowed my arms to match the speed of my body. We were flying. The Irish sea allowed us to swim a mile of only fourteen minutes and energy was as high as days were short. By day 11 we left the Irish Sea, two weeks of swimming and our arms had covered two coasts of Ireland. We celebrated, the biggest challenge yet was climbing the ladders at Rosslare Port. The ladders were designed for Ferries and our arms were weak, lifting myself up 140 rungs of a ladder was the greatest risk for that day! The emotions from swimming west, a new direction. Eighteen hour days filled with sunshine and water temperatures of 14 degrees seemed possible. Our bodies were starting to feel the pain of repeat immersions without rest, it was becoming difficult to differentiate between pain and injury but the heat of each day was such a bonus. When Henry asked each morning if we were OK to swim, there were no other answers except “Yes”. It was an automated reply. Team Charlie joined us and brought fresh energy to the group. Our emotions were surreal as the new people confirmed our excellent progress, we were on schedule. Belief in this expedition was at a premium as we broke the 300-mile mark. Cold was no longer an issue, sitting on zodiacs with heat of the sun on our backs lifted our spirits up as water temps reached 16 degrees. Day 15 brought new challenges, we were crossing the halfway mark 360 nautical miles at Kinsale. To avoid the bays, we travelled twenty miles off shore in water that was really big. With tides running North to South, our engine on the East coast, was now our enemy. A mile was now taking fifty minutes, so with twenty miles to complete daily this was now a sixteen-hour day. My mind broke as the progress and feeling of superiority was smashed by each mile taking



The Great Island Swim Nuala Moore

twenty minutes longer than expected. It was hard to accept whether the miles were taking longer or if our bodies were getting weaker. The knowledge that we were tiny vulnerable bodies swimming past rocks such as the Fastnet which, in a moment back in 1979, claimed fifteen lives, from freak weather during a sailing race. In water like this you actually feel so small and at times the boat seems so far away. Our swim took us past bays like Roaring Water Bay which has claimed more than its share of wrecks such as the Kowloon Bridge, vessels the size of football pitches taken by the force of the sea and here we were, small insignificant bodies, one could only feel humbled by our achievements so far. I diverted to thinking why were the islands called Pig, Cow, Elephant, Bull, Calf, Dog, Rabbit, Adam and Eve, was it that they didn’t have any other names? Moments of sheer impossibility get lost in the absolute privilege of the experience. An Expedition that started as purely a physical challenge, of swimming around Ireland, was now a demonstration of human interdependence and the willingness of certain of us to go to that place that many do not dare. The following days brought Team Delta the fourth of the rescue units. I prayed for the Cork coast to end, even though the weather was beautiful, accumulated pain, the inability to properly manage our food and hydration intake and the lack of physiotherapy were secondary to the acknowledgement of what it would take to finish this truly epic project. The costs of these projects go much deeper than in simple monetary terms. The emotional costs were mounting, the questions and the value of being away from life started to rise, as the accents on the VHF radio were those of my home county. My phone started to ring more often with work questions, I wished for the chance to be somewhere that there was no communication with the outside world. When you can see the cost of your dreams, it can strip you bare of all energy and will. The bodies of the main team of swimmers and navigators, were truly breaking down, with no more than seven days’ rest in the past four weeks, the miles continued to take 50 minutes and days continued to be nearly eighteen hours. A phone call from my father ashore explained that once we turned past Mizen Head we would finally be released from North-South tides. Coming home mid-expedition Day 21 turned us into the Kerry Coast, towards Valentia and the roller coaster of emotions lifted again. Swimming across Dingle Bay was filled with panic and elation. Panic that I would not want to leave and the excitement that we were now swimming North. One more coast, one more direction, once the team turns north we are on the home stretch. Derek Flanagan offered us the choice to swim through the Blasket Sound or to swim outside the Island group. Inside would shorten our day so we chose this route, despite the great risks we would take with it. Our bodies were now so sore, that pain and injury morphed into the same feeling. The energy of the water in the Sound was frightening and the moment when we got in the water, I turned to the team and




The Great Island Swim By Nuala Moore

Above: Arriving in to Dingle Harbour. Courtesy of the Round Ireland Swim Team

said, “please do not take your eyes of me.” I was on home waters, knowing the challenges of the Sound, I was terrified. The water hurled me along like an Orca playing with a seal, but all went well and with the final swims here completed, we were back under Sybill Head and home. The arrival into Dingle Town was special. I would never recommend coming home mid expedition, mainly as it allows you to see the cost of your sacrifice, which on reflection, was nearly disastrous for me. We now had Team Alpha back in place and we left home for the second time. The water on the West Coast was an animal of a different breed. The colour was green, the water was strong with a heartbeat that was thumping as opposed to beating. Every swim felt as though 13

The Great Island Swim Nuala Moore

we were in thick green soup. Moving water under your body that comes from the Atlantic was huge. Our bodies were like plastic toys tossed and turned and progress seemed once again to elude us. The questions about the West Coast did not have any answers. Derek and Brendan always said that it was impossible to gauge how this coast would be and as the days passed this was proving true. Day 25 gave us spectacular experiences off Loop Head, with dolphins joining us, what we were gaining in tide assistance, the following few days showed us the true face of battle. The water 14 miles offshore was 300m deep, as swimmers we would constantly lose sight of our boat with the height of waves and troughs. Hours of swimming and we were in the same position. Swimming is the only sport where we can commit 100% to going forward and lose distance! Our hearts and minds were volatile and even though our bodies were willing to continue, the cost of the dream was surely enormous. We were becoming institutionalised, incapable of speaking or even being in other company. The storms of the West Coast were proving so difficult that one night, our boats broke rope and for three long hours we were standing on a pier in West Galway, the ropes of our vessels wrapped around us, as the crews risked their lives to try to secure them. After a week of enormous battles, we finally swam past Slyne Head and had broken the back of the West Coast from the Bays of Galway and Achill, the headlands of North Mayo and Donegal. The most harrowing moment had been off Slyne Head, where a rogue wave crashed into the Zodiac, separating the boat from its swimmer and forcing the event to stand down for the day. What stood out throughout all of this was the courage, thinking, strength, emotional responses and the ability of a team to recognise the tiny nuggets of gold found in each of us and this support allowed us to find the strength to continue in particularly difficult locations such as the crossing of Donegal Bay when we were forty miles offshore. The emotions of crossing our final body of water Leaving Blacksod Bay, wondering if it would ever end, our arms and legs were broken, our ability to communicate was now muted in exchange for actions of holding and touching. The group of us small, as we were walked as one unit, always holding onto another. We were fragile. We were sleeping in between swims on Zodiacs which had engines at full roar. We were unable to stand and sustain a conversation, we were grateful to the families in Mayo and Donegal who took us in and treated us as their own for the final week, who dried our clothes and fed us at their tables as we were no longer able to eat normal food. We were like swimming automatons, swimming on demand. There was no love left but we needed to finish. We were truly unable to function as individuals. The team of Marine Rescue and Coordinator worked night and day to try and understand the final hurdle. It took one month to swim up the West Coast. It was as Derek had said, it was



The Great Island Swim Nuala Moore

unpredictable, it was filled with emotion, but mostly it was filled with the strength that left us and filled us at the same time. We had crossed every bay, we had passed every headland, we swam in every body of water that exists. After 35 swimming days, we walked onto the beach at Carrigfinn, the same team who had left 56 days earlier, going clockwise 830 miles of the coast of Ireland, we had returned full circle, every ounce of blood, sweat and tears were now left behind in the ocean. If ever there was a moment where a team was responsible for an achievement, it was this one. All we could do was swim – it required the entire team to get us there. The Round Ireland Swim was one of the greatest adventures to ever take place off the coastline of the island of Ireland. It was a sum of its parts; it was our arms which rotated around the island but as we say, we can only swim in these conditions, because the eyes allow us to. We became the only team in history to have circumnavigated this island by swimming. Ár Scath a Chéile a Maireann na nDaoine.

The Round Ireland Swim Team members:

Swimmers Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Tom Watters, Ian Claxton, Ryan Ward and Henry O Donnell. Marine Coordinator Derek Flanagan Command Boat Skipper Brendan Proctor Rescue Units John Joe Rowland, Lead operator and team members Sheephaven Dive Club Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta team members Land Ops Neil Ahern and team Communications and Dive Rescue Kathleen King


ESCAPE TO...The Black Castle


Text by Sonja Bergin

ESCAPE TO... The Black Castle Sonja Bergin When Kevin and I ďŹ rst moved back to Ireland in the early 90s from prosperous Australia we came with a dream, to settle in a thatched cottage nestled in the Irish countryside. There was a minor stumbling block to fulďŹ lling this dream however as we had neither money nor jobs. On the very day that we arrived back to wet and windy Ireland we saw an Advert in a local newspaper for a thatched farmhouse, the adventure began! We had absolutely no clue about what to look for when buying one of these kinds of properties, but we felt that it would be a good experience, if nothing else, to arrange a viewing and check it out. I fell in love with it on the spot although it was not located in the pastoral setting which we had been hoping for. Kevin wanted to keep looking for something more rural but after five more months of searching the lengths and breadth of the Irish countryside we realised that nothing else came close to our first viewing. We returned to the thatched farmhouse and in 1994 we became the very proud owners of our first historical property. Kevin is an electrician and although at that time he had no experience of working on old buildings he became passionate to learn about their construction and restoration, the skills he honed during this period would unknowingly become very handy down the line... By 2000 we had settled into life in our beautiful cottage, we had developed restoration skills and a burning desire to save more heritage properties. With the advances in the internet Kevin began searching for old stone-built properties for sale and in 2003 he discovered a lovely tower house on the market. At that point we had absolutely no idea that one could find these buildings for sale let alone buy one, even if one had money to spare, however, we had always commented that the only thing that would convince us to sell our precious thatched home would be a castle! Image Opposite: View of the Black Castle Š Sonja Bergin


The Black Castle Sonja Bergin

We submitted a bid for this tower house but were unsuccessful, undeterred we became obsessed with finding the one. At this time Kevin’s younger brother, Joe, returned from his travels abroad, a skilled stone mason meant we now had the perfect team to tackle the castle whenever it would turn up. We travelled throughout the country, seeking out all possible contenders using Ordnance Survey maps and a wonderful set of books on the castles of Ireland (written by Mike Salter). Tragically, in 2005, Joe was killed in a traffic accident, we decided that our quest could not continue without him. Just before Joe’s untimely death, Mike Salter had published another book this time focussing on the castles of Munster. After about eight months we felt the need to continue our search once again, dusting off the Munster guide, we resumed our travels with a heavy heart but hopeful of what the future would bring. On the very last page of Salter’s guide was a castle officially known as Tullaun Castle, an O’Kennedy stronghold built in the 16th Century in Tipperary, it piqued our interest. Coincidentally, a friend of ours had also recommended that we look at this property, so off we set to the Premier county. Arriving at Tullaun Castle just before dusk on a Summer’s evening, gazing in the twilight at this majestic tower house the spell was cast. The castle was not even for sale, but after much convincing of the then owners, five years after our search began, in May 2007 we became the proud and nervous owners of Tullaun Castle. And then the global recession kicked in… Image Below: A quiet corner © Christian Craughwell Opposite: The Bedroom © Bethany Shaw (Again We Say Rejoice - Blog)



All our plans were put on hold for the immediate future, but in 2013, after obtaining all the necessary planning permissions, we decided to begin work on our Castle. This was a very exciting time but after a difference of opinion with our initial contractor the project ground to a halt and we had to find a new contractor who would be able to help us deliver our vision. This was, as one can imagine, an extremely stressful period, we had additional worries which included finding a suitable experienced stone mason, a half-finished roof and leased scaffolding costing us money whether work progressed or not! Eventually with the help of our second contractor and his team, the tower was re-roofed and made structurally sound once again. Kevin having to spend over six months re-pointing the entire exterior walls meant that he couldn’t earn a wage during this time, our funds were pretty much at rock bottom. However, with ferocious dedication of Kevin and a fantastic stone mason friend of ours who had taken pity on our plight, we slowly had the vaulted Great Hall, once a dark, slimy green mould-encrusted cave, transformed into a beautiful, bright white, uplifting space. We loved staying at the castle and although funds were still haemorrhaging from our bank 19

The Black Castle Sonja Bergin

account into the seemingly bottomless pit of a castle, we thought other like-minded people with a sense of adventure might enjoy it too, perhaps Tullaun Castle might finally earn its keep and secure its future! In 2017, we decided to open up a limited number of “overknighters,” where paying guests would get to stay in the restored room, with any profits going back into the castle. We wanted people to have an authentic medieval experience and The Black Castle which had been Tullaun’s local name for over 100 years, was re-born. The Black Castle is situated in a beautifully scenic area, surrounded by nature on all sides, ancient bogs, woodland and bordered by a crystal clear stream with Lough Derg just over the adjacent hills, a few kilometres away as the crow flies. Through hardships and tragedy, we never gave up on our dream and we can now take pride in being the latest custodians of five centuries of Irish heritage, sharing that with our guests, we finally got our home in the countryside.


Image : The Black Castle at Sunset © Michael Katz Opposite: Fireside © Michael Katz


The World is Round 22

Text by Fearghal O' Nuallain

THE WORLD IS ROUND: Lessons from 18 months cycling west.

Fearghal O’ Nuallain We covered 20km in two hours, grinding into the relentless headwind. Then it happened, we encountered a pack of wild dogs and they attacked. Kicking vainly in the dark at their snarling jaws we tried to out-run them. They appeared unfazed and although we pedalled hard they refused to give up their eyes shining like reflective dots. Time stretched and it seemed like our fate was bound to these feral canines that they’d wear us down and tear us apart in the dark desert. It was lucky that they couldn’t see our faces, if they had, they would have recognised that we were spent, totally devoid of energy, and if they hung on, chased us a little longer, they could have had us. Luckily, they couldn’t, and just when it felt like our legs would burst and our lungs would cease, we left the barking behind and the green eyes melted back into the black night. Once safely down the road, we allowed ourselves to stop, listened to racing heart beats and trembled in the darkness. Then we sat staring at the horizon just sitting on the sand berms on the Red Sea coast looking east and seaward watching the oil rigs in the flare of the distance.


In the footsteps of Eratosthenes

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams...” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry I was with my childhood friend Simon Evans and we were cycling from Aswan to Alexandria because we’d planned to cycle around the world the following year. We were ostensibly looking for an adventure but I’d kept my reasons for circumnavigating the globe by bike to myself, I wanted to prove to myself that the world was round and cycling west until I arrived back where I started was the best way that I could think of doing that. We’d come to Egypt, because of a Greek scholar called Eratosthenes who was the first person to figure out that the world was round in the third century BC. He was the first person to see roundness where others saw flatland. Eratosthenes was the first person to suggest that the world was round and proved his theory with some basic trigonometry; using the distance from the Pharos lighthouse in Alexandria to Aswan which currently sits on the Sudanese border and the angles of the sun in each place on the longest day of the year. From these facts he worked out that the Earth’s circumference must be 39,690 km, the actual distance is 40,075 km - Eratosthenes was off by less than 2%. I’m not completely happy unless I’ve seen something for myself, so, when I read about Eratosthenes I had to go and experience each one of those 1,000km of desert and Nile that moved him to think that the world was round. And that is how we found ourselves sitting on the side of the road in the dark, recovering from Image Opposite: Fearghal O'Nuallain on the World Cycle © Fearghal O' Nuallain


The World is Round Fearghal O' Nuallain

shock, in Egypt’s Western Desert. We had started our day at 3am to escape the desert heat but a merciless headwind meant that by 12am we had fallen well short of the truck stop we had hoped to spend the afternoon. We found ourselves on a sandy plain with no shade to offer protection from the midday sun. We had pitched our tent and spent 4 hours sweating in 40°C shade. It was our 5th day in the desert and we were dog tired. At 3pm the sun softened enough for us to venture out of our tent. We had run out of water early in the day and we were both grumpy and fatigued from dehydration. We packed up and cycled for an hour and a half before reaching the truck stop where we’d originally planned to hide from the sun at midday. Deserts have amazing sunsets, and Egypt’s eastern desert was no exception. A big smoky disc of orange was burning the horizon as we left the café, a group of truckers encouraging us to stay. Speaking machine-gun Arabic, they gestured to the space for two sleeping bags in their prayer room. There was also cool water from their well, and bowls of stewed fava beans to eat with flat bread. It was tempting, but in our minds we were on an adventure, and we had 80km left to cover that day, so off we cycled, chasing the beams of our head torches back into the darkening desert and towards the pack of wild dogs once again. Eventually a truck appeared cutting an ephemeral swathe through the night with its powerful headlamps, we flagged it down in resigned silence. As its air-breaks hissed it to a halt I felt broken and beaten by our ineptitude. It was a bitter relief to climb out of the darkness and into a bright womb-like cab. While the driver scolded us for being out in the desert at night, I thought of Eratosthenes. I imagined the land that he had walked, and I imagined what would be left for him to explore if he was alive in the small world that we live in today. As the truck trundled through the darkness I wondered if he’d approve of our quest and what he’d make of two Irishmen sitting in the cab of an old Mercedes truck pulling a Chinese shipping container along the road to Cairo.


The hardest part was letting go, not taking part

“The art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.” Rebecca Solnit The following year we left our hometown, our fully loaded KTM bikes wobbled down the main street to cheers and best wishes from friends & family. I thought that I wanted to cycle around the world to be a hero but really, I wanted an excuse to learn life lessons about the connections between the people and places that dot the map of the world. The bicycle is an excellent tool with which to do this; travelling fast enough to register change but slow enough not to pass it by. It is an intimate way to travel. Long bike rides leave little space for the superfluous things that fill our modern lives as every additional thing adds extra weight to haul. We fretted about what gear to bring and what to leave 24

The World is Round Fearghal O' Nuallain

behind during the weeks before we left. But it was when I kissed goodbye to my Mum and girlfriend Marina that I realised what I was going to miss. Stripping down worldly possessions to only those that will fit into a 100 litre vulcanised bag in a steel trailer is surprisingly easy; if you can’t wear it, cook with it or sleep in it, you probably don’t need it. Human bonds are much harder to break. There’s no down jacket that can replace the warmth of the familial and familiar. The threads that connect the heart strings to home tugged like elastic at our backs until we were halfway round the world in Almaty in Kazakhstan, then pulled us homeward once again.

Learning to live on the road

Our route took us south to Madrid, through a European winter and the first challenge we faced was to learn to adapt to living on the road. Cycle touring is an odd blend of wild and urban. We often spent weeks wearing the same clothes and wild camping and then found ourselves rubbing shoulders with “normal” people in a restaurant or supermarket. This took a little bit of getting used to. Normally, we spend our lives trying to stay clean, taking care that our nails are clipped and that we change our socks daily. When you sleep in a different place each night and you must pull all of your worldly possessions behind you, normal practices such as cleanliness become luxuries that are difficult to maintain. It was a Tuesday morning in December, and I was queuing for bread in a supermarket just outside Bordeaux when I learned a lesson about how you are treated if you don’t smell right. I had been on the road for three weeks when I noticed that everyone was looking at me. The queue for bread dissipated as soon as I joined it and the baker grimaced when I gave my order in halting French. It doesn’t seem like a big deal perhaps; we might be covered from head to toe in mud after a rugby match or wear the same boxers for a week on a mountain trek, but what’s a little odd about cycle touring is that you become conscious that your aroma, somewhere between an aged camembert and a well-used sports bag, is at odds with the odours of normal society - the citrus, musk or spice of aftershave, perfume and deodorant. At first, I promised myself that when I get back to normality, I would shower every day and always, ALWAYS, wear clean clothes. As we travelled farther from home, geographically and culturally, those feelings diminished. I ceased to care. We grew more used to being scruffy, to eating with unwashed hands and putting on dirty clothes. Growing into the skin of the outsider, we became immune to the admonishing stares and grimaces of “polite society”. I grew slowly immune, growing comfortable even, to being dirty and having an aged and somewhat complex body aroma.

The overview effect

“The earth teaches us more about ourselves than all the books in the world, because it is resistant to us.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 25

The World is Round Fearghal O' Nuallain

Adventure should be a revolutionary experience. Big journeys have profound impacts on those that go on them. Circumnavigating the globe by bicycle under my own steam is a big journey. One that had drastic and far reaching implications for how I thought and behaved thereafter. It taught me that the world is not something that is separate from me. That everything is connected and interlinked and that my actions had consequences. Everyday this great big planet of ours orbits the sun. The sun rises in the east makes its way across the sky and sets in the west. It is a cycle. Wherever you are this is a truth. It’s been happening for forever, yesterday and every day before that, tomorrow and every day after that, the solar disc will keep arcing relentlessly across the heavens regardless of human whim or folly. Its trajectory sets in motion a routine chain of events. Every hour a part of the world wakes up, another goes to sleep. Every hour a whole north to south tranche of people have lunch, brush their teeth, start work or go to bed. If you followed it you’d hear a constant dawn chorus, a Mexican wave of bird song, as the birds around the world sing another celebration to a new day dawning.


The World is Round Fearghal O' Nuallain

Cycling westwards meant, quite literally, chasing the sun each day. In the morning I cycled away from the sunrise, feel its first warm rays on my back and bum. During the day the left side of my face got sunburnt, in the evening I chased an always approaching yet never attainable horizon - a flat rainbow of gold, burnt orange and pink. In deserts, on mountainsides and in the outskirts of towns each evening, I'd pitch my tent and watch the sun go down, no closer to it than when I started that morning, knowing that we’d meet again in a few hours and begin the chase for another day. Life on the road is simple, wake early, pack your life into a waterproof bag and cycle until sunset; stopping when the view, your stomach or your eyes compel you. Life on the road is not without physical hardship, the world can be bitterly cold, dry, noisy, dangerous, stiflingly hot, lonely and alien. Nature has shaped the world awkwardly, time and pressure has knotted and folded its skin, burnished and brazed its empty quarters with desiccant and freezing winds and placed stones and sand instead of soil; rocky mountains where a flat fertile plain would be nicer. Man has done his bit too, filling the world with the concrete urban mazes of cities where the laws of competition subdue man's better nature, carving spiritless badlands; boxes of concrete and glass in its centres and littered its fringes with innumerable plastic bags, rubbish dumps, skinny dogs and snotty nosed children.


In the desert state of Xinjiang in Western China we were half the world away from home. The biggest desert is called the Taklamakan. From space it looks like a tear drop. It took ten days to cycle across; ten days of sleeping beneath a twinkling starry sky, filling up on water and food at settlements that had provided respite for caravans of Silk Road travellers for thousands of years. The desert was empty but not devoid, I had my thoughts for company. Sometimes, I’d record my thoughts on a dictaphone as I cycled along. 50km east of Hami - an ancient Silk Road oasis that Marco Polo allegedly passed through on his travels through China I recorded, “the landscape is a dusty monochrome of khaki brown. It is flat. The sky is high, wrapped around me like an azure dome. I must be below a flight path as the space above is streaked with a cotton wool like trail in wide arcs. I’m cycling west and these streaks come from the east behind me, swoop over me and it looks like they are diving off into the distance. Obviously, the airplanes are flying, in what appears to the pilots, as a straight line. But they are actually following a curved path that mirrors the curvature of the Earth.” I had been alone for the previous weeks, grinding west through a featureless landscape. But when I listen back to the recording today, I can tell that I was excited about that insight. It was all starting to make sense; “I’m cycling along on the flat earth in the desert in western China, and the earth’s curvature is staring me in the face. I’m reminded that what seems like a straight line is actually an arc. Each morning the sun rises behind me, travels around my left flank then sets before me in an orange blaze.” Image Opposite: In the Taklamakan © Fearghal O' Nuallain


The World is Round Fearghal O' Nuallain

This was a practical reminder of the nature of circumnavigation. It is possible for one to travel consistently in one direction, never look or turn back, to eventually arrive back at the precise point where you began. I was in another desert and I was channelling Eratosthenes again. I was beginning to see roundness where before I would have just seen flat lines. We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. T.S. Elliot We completed our travels in May 2010 arriving home after 18 months on the road covering 31,000km through 30 countries. It was then that I re-discovered the extract from T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding”. I had first encountered the poem when a professor had recited it on the first day of University, saying that it held the key to the Why? of Exploration. Subsequently I had encountered it often, as many travellers had shared the same quote. It used to bug me that I didn’t get it, what was so profound about those four little lines? It never really made sense to me until I arrived back in my hometown in Ireland and found a place that was familiar but was not the same.


You can’t bottle a sunset

“Man follows only phantoms.” Pierre-Simon Laplace Chasing sunsets on a bicycle is the same as chasing sunsets in our everyday lives. Each morning the sun rises, and we spend 16 hours chasing a sunset, a far-off mirage, beautiful but distant and immaterial, ending the day exactly where we started, no closer than when we began. Perhaps our sunset is rarely a physical horizon. Perhaps it is more likely a dream, an aspiration, an ideal. We are creatures of purpose, so we couch those dreams, aspirations and ideals in pragmatic terms like goals and projects. Chasing is what we do. The chase is thrilling. The chase is what’s important. The clock is ticking, and unforgiving and you get only one run. One shot, one chance. So, chase, chase for all you’re worth. Choose your sunset, pick a horizon and go for it. Enjoy the feeling of the sun warming your bum on a cold desert morning. Don’t be too perturbed as the harsh midday rays burn your face. And be grateful as you cycle towards a golden horizon tinged with peach and pink. Do not despair when it turns navy blue and melts into pitch and leaves you blind. Revel in the fact that you chased your sunset with vigour and spirit. Because, at the end of your day, that’s your reward. You can’t bottle a sunset. The fluffy pink mother of pearl tinged clouds 28

Image Opposite: Chasing a Sunset © Fearghal O' Nuallain

The World is Round Fearghal O' Nuallain

would not make good pillows, soft as they appear. You can’t take a sunset to bed with you to keep you warm through the cold night. But its beauty is beguiling and the memory of it will fill your dreams and keep you from losing yourself in the dark night. And that’s the most important lesson I learned from spending 18 months cycling west. That the journey is more important than the destination is an oft-repeated cliché, but not a meaningless one. Chasing the sunset is important, riding for all your worth towards something inspiring and beautiful is all that there is in life. It matters not that each night, when the sun goes down, you're no closer to the sunset. It’s not important that you will never reach that far off great wall of burnt orange. What matters is that you chase it with passion, courage and conviction. What matters is that you give chase for all you are worth.



Scattery Island


Text by Irene Hamilton



A Remarkable Journey... An Unforgettable Story Irene Hamilton Framed within the calm waters of the Shannon Estuary, Scattery Island is truly a unique visitor experience on the Wild Atlantic Way. Visitors will be amazed at the wealth of historic sites, including five Churches, a Cathedral, a magnificent Round Tower, Napoleonic War Artillery Battery and a working lighthouse. Today the island is completely uninhabited, and visitors can explore its ancient sites and experience its unspoilt natural beauty in absolute peace and tranquility. Scattery is an ideal location for anyone interested in Ireland’s rich history, walking, nature and the great outdoors, or simply those seeking a unique family day out. Visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the island with a guided walking tour around the monastic sites offered by the OPW (Office of Public Works) Tour Guides on the island. This guided tour will transport you back through the centuries as you learn about St. Senan, who established a monastery there in the 5th Century, the Viking invasions and Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland who defeated the Limerick Vikings in a great battle on Scattery. The story of Scattery Island is what makes this little island so appealing for those who visit. It is as if the land and buildings talk to you... a silent story of the men and women who made this island their home throughout the centuries. Scattery Island is best known for its very early Christian site founded by St. Senan, born four miles east of Kilrush in the parish of Kilimer in 488. St. Senan travelled around Europe and in 532 AD he arrived on Scattery Island to establish a monastic settlement. When Senan arrived, he had to do battle with a dragon like creature which was called the Cathaigh. This creature is commemorated in the islands Irish name, Inis Cathaigh, the island of the monster! St. Senan banished this serpent from the island, establishing a monastery here, over the centuries that followed many Christian buildings were added of which there are the ruins of five churches, a Cathedral church and an awe-inspiring Round Tower (one Image Left: Ard na nAingeal Church © Scattery Island Tours


Scattery Island - A Remarkable Journey Through Time Irene Hamilton

of only two in Ireland with the door at the ground floor level) remaining. The island also features a holy well and St. Senan’s reputed burial place. St. Senan’s Day is celebrated on the 8th of March each year. The island people had great reverence for St. Senan and an annual pilgrimage or Pattern was held here. Just in front of the visitor centre, you will find a prayer stone associated with St. Senan’s Day. The remains of the last social chapter in the islands history can be seen in the old street that was home to the Shannon River Pilots who moved to the island in the mid 1840s. These Shannon River pilots, who originated from Kilbaha in Co. Clare, purchased the lands on Scattery from money awarded to them from the salvage rights to a ship called the Winsor Castle that arrived into the Shannon Estuary in the 1840s. Its masts were broken, abandoned of all crew and carrying a valuable cargo. At the time, Marcus Keane owned the island and on hearing the news of the salvage reward issued, he approached the Kilbaha Pilots and offered to lease them land on the island. The pilots agreed and moved there, eventually buying the land from Keane and settling on the island until 1978, when the last of them left to relocate back to the mainland. Located just a short walk along the shoreline, at the southern end of the island you will find the Scattery Island Lighthouse and Napoleonic Artillery Battery. The first lighthouse built on Scattery Island was a simple iron structure constructed the 1860s. On the 29th of October 1868 this new iron framework, which was almost complete at the time, was severely damaged in an Atlantic storm that surged up the Shannon. It was replaced by a stone lighthouse in 1872, originally powered by acetylene gas, and later by a carbide generating plant in 1933. This lighthouse was finally converted to solar power in September 2002 and still operates to this day. The Battery on Scattery was one of six built for the defence of the Shannon Estuary. For over 300 years Ireland was seen as the back door into England for potential invaders. This Battery was completed in 1814 (towards the end of the Napoleonic Wars) and occupied by the soldiers of the Royal Artillery up to 1860 and later by the Coast Brigade Royal Artillery up to its demanning in 1891. There are wonderful panoramic views from this side of the island reaching from Loop Head to the west, eastwards up the Shannon towards Tarbert. The six batteries on the Shannon were all within view of each other to allow them to signal to each other. Visitors can commence the guided tour of the monastic sites on arrival to Scattery. Following this tour, there is ample time to enjoy a picnic and enjoy the Island Exhibition housed in the Visitor Centre, or perhaps take a peaceful stroll along the shoreline to explore the Napoleonic Artillery Battery and working Lighthouse located there. For the full island experience, a gourmet Island picnic can be pre-booked as part of your visit with Scattery Island Tours!

Image Right: View from inside Scattery Island's Round Tower © Scattery Island Tours 32


Scattery Island - A Remarkable Journey Through Time Irene Hamilton

Tours to Scattery Island depart from Kilrush Marina in Co. Clare, between May and September and can be pre-booked online. Sailing time is approximately 25 minutes, which includes 10 minutes to exit through the lock gates at the marina and just a short 15 minutes sailing time. Guests have the option of 2.5 hours or 5 hours on the island. This beautiful area of special conservation is subject to limited visitor numbers to ensure its beauty and heritage is protected. To learn more about this unique experience, visit and book your ticket to visit to one of the Seven Wonders of Ireland (as voted by Irish Independent Readers 2019). Image: Teampall na Marbh (Church of the Dead) and Scattery Island Visitor Centre Š West Clare is Calling You.




Explorer, Statesman, Spy


Text by Ruth Illingworth


EXPLORER, STATESMAN, SPY Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1963) Part 1 Ruth Illingworth In 1921, the first reconnaissance of Mount Everest was made by a team of mountaineers and surveyors. The leader of the reconnaissance mission was an Anglo-Irish Army officer from the Midlands of Ireland called Charles Howard-Bury. He was one of the most remarkable figures in the history of early 20th-century exploration. During his long and varied careers as a soldier, intelligence officer, politician, landowner and charity worker, he worked and lived on three continents, spoke 27 languages and travelled through areas which had yet to be mapped or surveyed. Charles Kenneth Howard-Bury was born in London on August 15th, 1883. His father, Captain Kenneth Howard, was a British Army officer serving with the Royal Horse Artillery. Captain Howard had travelled extensively in India, Canada, Australia and Ireland. In 1881, he had married Lady Emily Bury, daughter of the third Earl of Charleville. Captain Howardwho added his wife's surname to his own on marriage, was himself of aristocratic lineage. He was a grandson of the 16th Duke of Suffolk and was also descended from Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, and a major figure at the Tudor Court of King Henry VIII. Through his mother, Charles Howard-Bury was connected to the Scottish aristocratic family, the Campbell Dukes of Argyll. Charles Howard-Bury was only an infant when his father died. Captain Howard left his baby son a moving letter: “My darling boy, I am afraid there is no chance of my being permitted to live long enough for you even to remember me, and this I need not tell you is a very great grief to me, as I had been so looking forward to having you as my companion in my walks Image Left: Charleville Castle, Tullamore © World Explorers Bureau


Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1863) Explorer, Botanist, Statesman, Spy Ruth Illingworth

and telling you all about the birds and plants, flowers and fishes like my father did when I was a little boy, and I want you to grow up a manly boy, fond of all these things as well as of your books.” After the death of his father, Charles Howard-Bury’s cousin, James Fitzmaurice, Lord Lansdowne became his guardian. Lansdowne was one of the most important political figures of the age, serving as Viceroy of India, Governor-General of Canada, Secretary of State for War and Foreign Secretary Opposition Leader in the House of Lords during a long and distinguished career. He and Howard-Bury were very close, with Lansdowne referring to him affectionately as “Charlie.” Howard-Bury grew up in the fine gothic castle at Charleville in Tullamore, County Offaly in the Irish Midlands which was his mother's family home and which he would later inherit. He was at first home schooled by a German governess before being sent in 1897 to that training ground for so many of the British ruling class, Eton College. At Eton, he was good at sports such as rowing and football and showed a talent for languages - winning the French Prize. Holidays were spent visiting relations including Lansdowne at Dereen, Co Kerry, his grandmother, Lady Louise Howard, at Hazelby, Berkshire, or his colourful and flamboyant cousin, Charles Brinsley Marlay at Belvedere House near Mullingar in Co Westmeath, not far from Charleville. Marlay, whose major collection of Italian art can now be seen in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University, was a brother in law of the Duke of Rutland and a cousin of the great 18th century Irish statesman, Henry Grattan In his teens, Howard-Bury also spent holidays at a chalet in the Dolomites owned by his mother. He learned to love climbing and hill walking and spectacular mountain scenery as well as travelling extensively across the Continent.

Rajahs, Rawals and Tigers: India 1906-1912 While he was at Eton, Howard-Bury was a member of the Officer Training Corps and, on finishing school, he went to Sandhurst Military Academy. When he graduated in 1904, he joined the King’s Royal Rifles and was soon posted to India-then the glittering jewel in the Crown of the British Empire. His military career in India gave him plenty of opportunities to indulge his passion for travelling, exploration and hunting. Within a short time of his arrival, he got himself into trouble with the authorities when he entered Tibet without permission. Britain was engaged in delicate negotiations with the Tibetan Government at the time and the country was off limits to British visitors. Howard-Bury was rebuked by the Viceroy, Lord Curzon, although his career did not suffer. The following year with the support of Lord Lansdowne he got permits from the Russian authorities allowing him to enter the region of the Pamirs and Turkestan, (now Tajikistan and Uzbekistan). This journey would prepare him for his letter exploration of the Tian Shan Mountains and of the Himalaya. 38

Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1863) Explorer, Botanist, Statesman, Spy Ruth Illingworth

His superiors noted his gift for languages and his stamina and he was marked down as “a splendid candidate for diplomatic or intelligence work, or for any missive of secret service requiring a clever brain and active body.” One may assume that Howard-Bury became an intelligence officer at around the time, this report was written in 1908 when he was also promoted. Howard-Bury kept diaries of his time in India between 1906 and 1912, which have been edited by Marian Keaney, former County Librarian of Westmeath. The diaries offer an entertaining and fascinating picture of India and other parts of Asia in the early years of the 20th century. Howard-Bury travelled widely throughout the sub-continent and further afield. He learned many of the numerous local languages and visited the holy places of India, Burma, China, Sri Lanka and Indochina. Although a devout Anglican all his life, he showed an unusual (for his time) open-minded interest in and respect for the religious beliefs he encountered. As his biographer Marian Keaney noted; “he loved to meet the lamas, high priests and guardians of these shrines and sacred waters.” Howard-Bury was an excellent photographer and he took many beautiful pictures of Buddhist and Hindu temples in places such as Mandalay, Kandy, Beijing and Angkor Wat. On one occasion he joined Hindu pilgrims on a pilgrimage along the river Ganges, anointing himself with scented oils and listening to the teachings of scholars of the Hindi Sanskrit scriptures at Badrinath. In one diary entry he described a group of pilgrims he came across along the road. “The pen of a Zola is wanted to describe the varieties of pilgrims that are ever passing by the halt and the maimed, old men and women, young men and maidens, some taking life very seriously, others as on a holiday picnic, all passed by, from every part of India, speaking different tongues, they all travel the same path together.” He became a local hero when, in the holy city of Amarkantak, he shot and killed a man-eating tiger that had carried off twenty-one holy men. Like most men of his class and occupation at that time, he enjoyed shooting and hunting and he recorded in his diaries many hunting trips. He was, as Geoffrey Moorhouse put it, “a member of that strange breed who can follow an animal for hours, while admiring its grace and being fascinated by its behaviour, as a preliminary to shooting it dead, very often to decorate a wall. Yet no-one will more surely be able to distinguish phlox from aquilegia when he finds them growing in a mountain pasture, more readily measure the dimensions of a fallen tree, more unerringly come up with a botanical or zoological name in Latin when writing up his journal.” Howard-Bury’s journals are filled with descriptions of flowers, plants and trees. He had a lifelong passion for flowers and was an enthusiastic and accomplished naturalist. Everywhere he went on his Asian travels, including Kashmir and the Karakorum deserts, he noted the flora and fauna in great and vivid detail along with descriptions of the cultures of the peoples amongst whom he was travelling. 39

Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1863) Explorer, Botanist, Statesman, Spy Ruth Illingworth

The Mountains of Heaven: May-November 1913 In 1912, Howard-Bury inherited Belvedere House in County Westmeath from his cousin, Charles Brinsley-Marley. He was now a rather wealthy young man and was able to retire from the Army, although he remained on the reserve list. He now decided to travel to an area rarely visited by Europeans-the Tian Shan mountain range on the borders of China and what was then known as Russian Turkestan-now Kyrgyzstan. The help of his influential cousin, Lord Lansdowne secured him all the necessary permits and he set out from London in May 1913.


The first stage of the journey took him from Warsaw (then part of Russia) across European Russia and Siberia, travelling by train, horse-drawn carriage and boat. As always he took careful note of the flora and fauna of the places through which he journeyed and took a keen interest in the customs and culture of the local peoples. In Moscow, he watched pilgrims visiting an Orthodox Christian shrine and was moved by their deep faith. He admired the Kremlin and the various churches with “their picturesque jumble of architecture, their gilded domes and their multitudinous colours.” He was not so impressed by Russian bureaucracy, noting that “Everyone in Russia is a Government official, from the meanest clerk to the office boy, and all of them take precedence over the ordinary traveller.” Accompanied by his Sri Lankan valet, John Pereira, who acted as his cook, interpreter and “general factotum” and an immense quantity of luggage, Howard-Bury travelled across the Urals by train as far as Omsk in Siberia and then by boat up the River Irtysh to Semipalatinsk, a journey of 600 miles which took five days. At stops along the way he photographed and visited the nomadic Kirghiz and Kazak people of the region and admired their comfortable and warm yurts. At Semipalatinsk (From where the Sputnik spacecraft would be launched in 1957), Howard-Bury transferred from boat to a horse-drawn cart called a tarantass. This vehicle brought him on the next stage of his journey as far as the Chinese border. Along the way he kept a record of the numerous species of plants and flowers he saw, as well as noting the Russian peasants who were, at that time, settling in large numbers across Siberia and Russian Central Asia. Now he had his first glimpse of his destination. “The road now led through grassy meadows up to a pass nearly 6,000 feet in height from the top of which we had a magnificent view over the Ili valley. This broad valley, hot and dusty looking, lay at our feet and far beyond on the horizon towered up the giant peaks of the Tian Shan. The air here is of a marvellous clearness, just as it is in Tibet and allowed us the first glimpse of the promised land, though there were yet many weary miles to be traversed first.” Howard-Bury crossed into China at the town of Kuldja, where he spent a week. While there he bought a three-week old bear which he called “Agu”- the Kazak word for a bear. Agu accompanied Howard-Bury during the whole trip through the Tian Shan and back across 40

Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1863) Explorer, Botanist, Statesman, Spy Ruth Illingworth

Eurasia. The bear would be installed by his owner at Belvedere House, where he resided in the arboretum for a time. In later years, Howard-Bury used to keep fit by holding friendly wrestling matches with this, by now, seven-foot pet! Agu would eventually go to a zoo to live out the rest of its days after Howard-Bury died. His stuffed head can now be seen in the Greville Arms Hotel in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, Ireland. In his first diary entry concerning Agu, Howard-Bury recorded that “The first thing he did was to give me a bad bite and he turns out to be a regular little savage. He ran off too with my lunch, which I had put down for one second and he was a perfect little demon when I tried to get it back. He every now and then gives the pony a bite on the back which makes things lively. We made quite an imposing spectacle riding down the streets of Kuldja and there was much amusement over the bear.”


Accompanied by ten ponies carrying the luggage and the bear, Howard-Bury and John Pereira and the locally hired labourers, headed along the Ili valley and up through a mountain range into the Tekes Valley. They were now 6,000 feet up and Howard-Bury enjoyed the fresh mountain air. As always, he noted the variety of the surrounding flowers, trees and plants. He also continued to note the local inhabitants and their customs and culture; Kirghiz and Kazak nomads, Uzbeks and even a settlement of Nestorian Christians - descended from missionary work carried out a thousand years earlier by the Assyrian Church of the East. From the Tekes Valley Howard-Bury forded the Big Kursai river and “climbed up steadily through glorious forests to the grassy meadows at the edge of the tree line which is here a little over 10,000 feet.” He admired the “superb views of distant snowy chains, stretching from far beyond Kuldja, past the headwaters of the Kash river and on in a great semicircle towards Manass.” The next stage brought him down into the Kurdai valley and then endured a tough climb through the snowfalls of the Kurdai pass into the Jirgalan valley, travelling as high as 13,000 feet at this stage. Another pass - the Sarytin, at 12,600 feet, brought him down into the great plateau known as the Yalduz Plain. It was now July and Howard-Bury and his party now moved down the Kok-Su valley to Sary Tur and on to Kinsu. He then climbed up the Agias valley with its 20,000 feet high peaks. In front of him “were the mighty peaks of the Chalyk Tau, the gleaming ice of whose glaciers showed up against the pure white of the snow and the dark rocky precipices.” Few Europeans had ever seen these views before Howard-Bury. Mid-August saw him in the Eastern Mustamas valley. To the south he had “a magnificant view of a range of snowy peaks of great height for fully 100 miles.” He moved on through the Kair Bulak and Alpes Ochak valleys. In September he reached the beautiful Akbulak valley and took photographs of what he described in his diary as “the most beautiful lake that I have ever seen; its colour was of the blue of the true old Persian turquoise and surrounding it was a circle of magnificent peaks. Immense cliffs thousands of feet high came steep down into its blue waters. Hanging glaciers in places almost overhung the lake.” The lake was 13,000 feet up and not actually marked on any map of the day. Climbing up a spur Howard-Bury was able to see the


Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1863) Explorer, Botanist, Statesman, Spy Ruth Illingworth

watershed of the central Tian Shan Mountains “consisting of a series of snow and rocky peaks of the most fantastic shapes; glaciers and cliffs of ice showing everywhere on their slopes.” Not for the last timer in his career, Howard-Bury had walked off the map of the known world. Howard-Bury spent the next few weeks traversing the Alpes Ochak and Koksu valleys. He had a difficult and dangerous journey across the snow bound Karasir pass in a blizzard at a height of 13,600 feet. As he noted, “camp at 13,000 feet in deep snow in October is no joke.” He made it safely down to the Kustai plateau and back eventually to Kuldja. He stayed for a time with a Belgian missionary, Father Raemdonck and then began his return journey across the Russian Empire leaving behind a Chinese region which was, as he noted, in a very turbulent and disturbed condition following the Revolution of 1911-12 which had ended the monarchy and made China a republic. While the purpose of Howard-Bury’s trip to the Tian Shan region was for leisure, it is quite likely that he may have reported back on the volatile political situation in that sensitive region to the British political and military authorities.


Howard-Bury’s return trip brought him across the steppes of Central Asia. He travelled through Samarkand and Tashkent, admiring the historic buildings such as the Registan in Samarkand and the tomb of Tamerlane. He also visited the historic cities of Merv and Bokhara, buying carpets and other presents in the bazaars. He particularly liked the Turcomans, describing them as being “honest and truthful and their principles are very high.” In these last years of the Romanov Empire, he also noted the Russian colonists in the area, including Cossacks on horseback. By early December he had crossed the Caspian Sea and was in Baku, where he observed the oil industry. He also visited the Georgian capital, Tbilisi and travelled through Georgia, meeting German settlers and travelling through “broad and fertile valleys,” observing what he described as “the great snowy chain of the Caucasus.” A rough crossing of the Black Sea brought him to Constantinople and from there he headed back to England. A tramp steamer brought the bear, Agu home. The bear was now growing and was the object of much interest during the journey. Writing about his journey, Howard-Bury stated; “The most abiding joy of travel will always lie in the retrospect. The memories of some days, of some scenes where the world appears altogether too beautiful for us, where we can only gaze in awe and rapture at some marvellous creation of the Almighty, such treasures as these are truly a possession which we can treasure as our own and which will remain always to us as a source of inexhaustible pleasure and delight when we look back upon the days of our travelling.”

World War One: 1914-18 On his return to the United Kingdom, Howard-Bury began to prepare the diaries of the Tian Shan expedition for publication. Fate would, however ensure that the diaries would not be published until 1990 when they finally appeared in a volume edited by Marian Keaney, entitled Mountains of Heaven. The reason why the account of his travels did not appear in his lifetime 42

Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1863) Explorer, Botanist, Statesman, Spy Ruth Illingworth

was due to the outbreak of the First World War. The war also curtailed Howard-Bury’s political ambitions. In the spring of 1914, with a General Election in the offing, Howard-Bury was seeking a nomination to run for parliament in the Conservative interest. Lord Lansdowne, at that time Conservative Leader in the House of Lords was seeking to give him an introduction to Edward Carson, the then Leader of the Irish Unionists. But the outbreak of war in August 1914 would put Howard Bury’s political career on hold for a decade. He returned to his old regiment, the King’s Royal Rifles, in which he would rise to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. From 1915 to 1918, Howard-Bury would witness the very worst horrors of the war on the Western Front. He saw the first use of flamethrowers and survived poison gas attacks. He led his men at Arras, Loos, the Somme, Passchendaele and Ypres. His diaries offer a stark account of the decimation of his battalion, of which there were only about fifty survivors. He saw hundreds of his men killed and wounded in an unnecessary and suicidal attack on a heavily fortified German position from which the Germans withdrew of their own accord a few days later. On his thirty-third birthday, he had the horrific experience of leading a party of his men through No Man’s Land, under enemy fire to dig a communication trench, during which the men uncovered the rotting and dismembered corpses of their own comrades and of German soldiers killed a few days earlier. His diary entries refer tersely, time and again, to “horrible sights and smells.” He was mentioned in Dispatches several times and awarded the D.S.O. (Distinguished Service Order) for bravery.


By the end of 1917, he was in a state of despair at the war and bitter about the staff officers and politicians safe behind the lines who were, as he saw it, sending his men to futile death and prolonging the conflict. His survival was a statistical miracle and was probably only due to the fact that on the first day of the great German Offensive of March 1918 along the Western Front he was taken prisoner. The Germans respected his military rank and aristocratic background and he was reasonably well treated. Sent to a P.O.W camp in Germany, where he pretended not to be able to speak German while paying close attention to all that his interrogators were saying, he tried to escape but was recaptured after eight days on the move across Germany. Returned to prison he enjoyed listening to a clergyman preaching “gloomy descriptions of life in Germany.” After the war, Howard-Bury was freed and returned to Britain. He spent time at Belvedere House in Ireland sorting out his estate affairs and serving as a Deputy Lieutenant for Westmeath. In January 1921 he was appointed High Sheriff of Kings County (now Offaly). He would be the last holder of that office. He cannot have had much time to attend to his duties in connection with this post as for most of 1921, he would be exploring the approaches to Mount Everest.

The Everest Reconnaissance: 1920-21 With the North and South Poles reached in the early years of the 20th century, Mount Everest remained the one great unexplored challenge for explorers. No European had been nearer than forty miles of the world's highest mountain. Plans were made to mount an expedition, but the 43

Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1863) Explorer, Botanist, Statesman, Spy Ruth Illingworth

World War put everything on hold. In 1919, however, the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) and the Alpine Club joined forces to plan a reconnaissance of the mountain to be followed by an attempt to reach the summit. The first challenge to be faced was a political one. Everest was located along the border of two countries off limits to Europeans: Nepal and Tibet. It was decided to try and secure permission from the Tibetan authorities for the proposed expedition to approach Everest from the north through Tibet. The person chosen by the RGS and the Alpine Club to visit Tibet and get the required permission was Charles Howard-Bury.


Howard-Bury was chosen because he had knowledge of the region, good linguistic and organisational and diplomatic skills and was prepared to pay his own expenses. He was able to convince Sir Francis Younghusband, President of the RGS of his suitability, pointing out to him that he had been in Tibet before and was planning to go to India anyway. There was a meeting between a delegation from the RGS and Alpine Club and the Secretary of State for India and Howard-Bury was asked to explain their wishes to the British authorities in India and obtain the permission of the Tibetan leaders to allow the expedition entry to Tibet. Howard-Bury spent six months in India and Tibet in 1920 negotiating with the Viceroy (Lord Chelmsford), the Governor of the province of Bengal (Lord Ronaldshay), the Commander in Chief (Lord Rawlinson) and, most importantly, the British Political Officer in the autonomous state of Sikkim, (Sir Charles Bell.) Sikkim was important because it bordered Tibet and Bell knew more about the culture and politics of Tibet than any other British person of the time. Howard-Bury kept a diary of his time in Sikkim and Tibet between August and October of 1920. This diary was first published in 1991 as part of a new edition of Everest Reconnaisance, edited by Howard-Bury’s biographer Marian Keaney. As Ms Keaney noted, the diary “offers an interesting prologue to the expedition the following year.” As with all his writings, the diary is filled with vivid descriptions of the landscape, the flora and fauna and the people he encountered. On September 26th, for example, his diary entry reads: “We kept high up, about 18,000 feet all day crossing the northern spurs of Chomiomo and we had the most wonderful and magnificent views to the north over Tibet. The view extended for hundreds of miles over broad valleys, across range upon range of mountains, all touched with the most fascinating changes of light and shade. In the evening far away the peak of Mount Everest stood up against the setting sun. There was a most lovely sunset of all colours and the wonderful clearness of the atmosphere seems to bring out all the colours more fully.” Howard-Bury was successful in his negotiations and secured the necessary political support for the expedition with the Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama giving his sanction. In January 1921, the RGS was informed that the expedition could proceed. Howard-Bury received a letter from Younghusband: “Dear Colonel Howard-Bury,


I have been desired by my Council to convey to you an expression of their high appreciation of the valuable services you rendered to the Society in securing through the Government of India

Charles Howard-Bury (1883-1863) Explorer, Botanist, Statesman, Spy Ruth Illingworth

the consent of the Tibetan Government for an expedition to proceed through Tibet for the exploration and ascent of Mount Everest. The Council and I are confident that it was due to your tact and address that the negotiations on our behalf achieved their object and desire to thank you for having represented us so successfully.” The plan now was for a two-stage expedition. The first stage would be the reconnaissance. This would take place in 1921 and would be followed in 1922 by an attempt at the summit using whichever route the reconnaissance had pinpointed as being the best way to the top. General Charles G. Bruce, a military man with extensive mountaineering experience and a great knowledge of the Himalayas was the first choice of Younghusband to lead the Reconnaissance. Bruce was not, however, available for the 1921 expedition. Younghusband, therefore, asked Howard-Bury to be the Leader and he accepted. His organisational and linguistic skills were a major factor in his being offered the job. The Reconnaissance would involve surveyors and climbing experts. The surveyors were Major H.T. Morshead and Major O.E. Wheeler and Dr A.M. Heron of the Survey of India. The Alpine Club appointed Harold Raeburn to take charge of the actual reconnaissance. Two experienced young climbers, Guy Bullock and George Leigh Mallory were also appointed. Mallory would later die on Everest in 1924, along with another young climber, Sandy Irvine. Because the 1921 expedition would be climbing higher than any human being had climbed before two medical men were appointed to measure the effect of altitude on climbers. These doctors were A.M. Kellas and A.F.R. Wollaston. The Expedition departed from the Indian city of Darjeeling on May 19th, 1921. The team members had little if any of the equipment and clothing now used by mountaineering teams. Howard-Bury and his colleagues wore tweeds and greatcoats, woolly scarves and cardigans to combat the cold. Photos show Howard-Bury in Donegal tweed with his “Kashmir puttees neatly wound.” George Bernard Shaw would memorably describe the team as looking, “like a picnic in Connemara surprised by a snowstorm.” On May 27th, Howard-Bury sent a telegram to Francis Younghusband to announce the arrival of the Expedition in Tibet, a telegram which actually reached London in time to be read out at the RGS Anniversary dinner. The party then moved through the Chumbi Valley onto the Tibetan Plateau. Along the way, they stayed at Tibetan monasteries and villages. As always, Howard-Bury was open to and interested in the spiritual beliefs of the peoples he encountered. At the Galinka monastery, he was pleased when he and his colleagues were allowed to turn a prayer wheel, “I hope the many million prayers sent up may benefit us,” he wrote. HowardBury took many photos of the Tibetan monks and monasteries which remain as a valuable record of a now almost lost culture. To be continued... The final part of Explorer, Statesman, Spy, Charles Howard-Bury by Ruth Illingworth will appear in our next issue. 45

48 Hours in the Causeway Coast and Glens 46

Text by Visit Causeway Coast and Glens

48 Hours in the Causeway Coast and Glens Visit Causeway Coast and Glens Northern Ireland’s stunning Causeway Coast and Glens is any adventurer's dream. Sandy beaches, quaint fishing villages, and some of Ireland’s most iconic attractions (including the famous Giant’s Causeway) are just some of the highlights of this world-famous destination. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy on the route, whether you’re seeking adventure or just want to unwind, relax and get back to nature, the beauty of choice lies within the Causeway Coastal Route. Here’s a perfect itinerary that allows you to see it all, ideal if you’ve flown to Belfast or Dublin airports. Satnav at the ready – this is the road trip of a lifetime!

Glens of Antrim The first stop on your itinerary (if travelling from Belfast or Dublin) is the stunning Glens of Antrim. Forests and fields of green stretch for miles, with quaint towns and villages dotted throughout. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind, while allowing you to take in breathtaking scenery at the same time. Take the A26 and A43 from Belfast International airport to arrive at the first stop on your itinerary.

Glenariff Forest Park Glenariff Forest Park, County Antrim, is a place of exceptional beauty and stunning scenery. The unique Waterfall Walkway, opened 80 years ago, has been significantly upgraded along its 3 mile length which passes through a National Nature Reserve. Drive time from Belfast International: 40 minutes

Image Opposite: Glenariff Forest Park © Tourism NI 47

48 Hours in the Causeway Coast and Glens Shannen Kearney

Cushendall Situated between Glenariff and Cushendun, Cushendall is a conservation town at the foot of Lurigethan Mountain. The prominent Curfew Tower in its centre once housed troublesome citizens and is now owned by Bill Drummond. There is a minor road from the shore near Cushendall Golf Club that winds uphill to the remains of the ancient church and graveyard of Layde, a quiet place from which to enjoy views of Red Bay and the lush countryside surrounding Cushendall. Stay on the A43 from Glenariff Forest Park for a short drive to take you to this beautiful town. Drive time from Glenariff Forest Park: 12 minutes

Image Right: Cushendall © Tourism NI

Cushendun The next stop on your journey is Cushendun – a small village off the Coast Road between Cushendall and Ballycastle. Managed by the National Trust, it is best known for its unusual Cornish style cottages. Other highlights include the ruins of Castle Carra, which you can find in the field above Rockport House at the north end of Cushendun Bay, and the Cushendun Caves which have been used for one of the more infamous scenes in the Game of Thrones® TV Series. There are delightful walks along the Glendun River to Glendun viaduct, a most impressive structure built in 1839 by the world renowned English Architect Sir Charles Lanyon of the 19th Century. Drive time from Cushendall: 10 minutes Image Right: The Village of Cushendun © Tourism NI 48


48 Hours in the Causeway Coast and Glens Shannen Kearney

Ballycastle and Rathlin Island

Ballycastle Town Ballycastle is a seaside town on the north-easternmost coastal tip of the island of Ireland in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The town retains much of its old charm with independent retailers on every corner. Highlights include the peaceful and serene Pan’s Rock Bridge, incredible places to eat and drink, and a beautiful spa which also offers waterbiking if you feel like being adventurous! Take the Torr Road and A2 from Torr Head to arrive in this beautiful seaside haven. Drive time from Cushendun: 30 minutes


Image: Children of Lir Sculpture, Ballycastle Š Tourism NI


48 Hours in the Causeway Coast and Glens Shannen Kearney

Rathlin Island The ferry from Ballycastle to Rathlin Island travels just six miles across the Sea of Moyle. Amidst the rugged landscape of this beautiful island, let your mind wander and discover a tranquillity and beauty that is so unexpected. A short walk from the harbour is the Boathouse Visitor Centre (operating seasonally from April-September), where visitors can discover some of the exciting history, learn about present day island life and see some artefacts from shipwrecks around the island. Enjoy many of the walks the Island has to offer including along the shore to Mill Bay where you may see some of the resident seals basking or at play. From April to July is puffin season so don’t miss the opportunity to see them along with lots of other sea birds! The island has a range of accommodation to suit different needs, a pub, restaurant, community shop and gift shop, offering Rathlin produced crafts. Sailing time from Ballycastle: 20-40 minutes Image Right: Rathlin Island Š Tourism NI

Kinbane Castle After crossing back from Rathlin Island to Ballycastle on the ferry, make your way to explore the ancient ruins of Kinbane Castle. The area surrounding Kinbane Castle is a Scheduled Historic Monument, it also offers spectacular views of Rathlin Island and Dunagregor Iron Age fort. This is becoming an extremely popular spot with tourists, photographers and travel bloggers, all keen to capture their own unique perspective of the area. Drive time from Ballycastle: 7 minutes



48 Hours in the Causeway Coast and Glens Shannen Kearney


Ballintoy Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge Connected to the cliffs by a rope bridge across the Atlantic Ocean, Carrick-a-Rede Island (home to a single building – a fisherman’s cottage) is the final destination. Suspended almost 100ft (30m) above sea level, the rope bridge was first erected by salmon fisherman 350 years ago. Are you brave enough to cross it? Drive time from Kinbane Castle: 7 minutes Image: Carrick-a-Rede © Tourism Ireland via Tourism NI Media Library


48 Hours in the Causeway Coast and Glens Shannen Kearney

Ballintoy Harbour The small fishing harbour can be found at the end of a small narrow steep road down Knocksaughey Hill, which passes by the entrance to Larrybane and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It has been used as a filming location in HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones. This stunning harbour location has been used for exterior Pyke shots and as the Iron Islands. Don’t forget to stop by The Red Door, a traditional Irish cottage with real turf fire serving freshly baked scones and hot tea. Drive time from Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: 5 minutes

Whitepark Bay This spectacular sandy beach forms a white arc between two headlands on the North Antrim coast. In this secluded location, even on a busy day there is plenty of room for quiet relaxation. The beach is backed by ancient dunes that provide a range of rich habitats for bird and animal life. Drive time from Ballintoy Harbour: 5 minutes

The Dark Hedges (Detour) The Dark Hedges is a beautiful avenue of beech trees in Stranocum (County Antrim) that was planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century. Intended as a compelling landscape feature to impress visitors as they approached the entrance to their Georgian mansion, Gracehill House, the trees remain a magnificent sight and have become one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland. Drive time from Ballintoy: 14 minutes Image Right: The Dark Hedges © Tourism NI 56


48 Hours in the Causeway Coast and Glens Shannen Kearney

Bushmills Giant’s Causeway Using the Causeway Road from Whitepark Bay, head to the Giant’s Causeway – a geological wonder and home to a wealth of history and legend. The attraction, which is Northern Ireland’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and now welcomes upwards of 1 million visitors a year, is one of the Island of Ireland’s most photographed locations and it’s easy to see why! Drive time from Whitepark Bay: 10 minutes Image Right: Giant's Causeway © Tourism NI

Old Bushmills Distillery Bushmills Irish Whiskey is made at the world’s oldest licenced working distillery. The original grant to distil was signed in 1608 by King James 1st and there has been distillation on this site since then, using the unique water from its own stream and Irish barley. The Bushmills Brand Experience encompasses guided tours around a working distillery with all the associated sights and smells, tutored whiskey tastings, a specialist whiskey shop and a well stocked gift shop with exclusive Bushmills merchandise.



48 Hours in the Causeway Coast and Glens Shannen Kearney

Dunluce Castle Using the A2, make your way towards one of Northern Ireland’s most spectacular sights – Dunluce Castle. These iconic ruins bear witness to a long and tumultuous history. First built on the dramatic coastal cliffs of north County Antrim by the MacQuillan family around 1500, the earliest written record of the castle was in 1513. Drive time from Bushmills: 4 minutes Image Right: Dunluce Castle © Tourism NI

Portrush White Rocks Beach Awarded the prestigious Blue Flag Award several times, Whiterocks Beach has become a favourite with locals and a must see destination for international visitors. The beach, situated just off the Causeway Coastal Route, enjoys a stunning natural coastal location, with the limestone cliffs of the White Rocks stretching from Curran Strand to Dunluce Castle. Drive time from Dunluce Castle: 10 minutes Image Right: White Rocks Beach © Tourism NI 60


48 Hours in the Causeway Coast and Glens Shannen Kearney

Castlerock and Limavady

Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne Take the A2 via Coleraine to visit the iconic Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne. The Temple was built in 1785 and forms part of the Downhill estate of Frederick Augustus Hervey, Bishop of Derry and Earl of Bristol. Mussenden Temple was built as a Summer library and its architecture was inspired by the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, near Rome. It is dedicated to the memory of Hervey’s cousin Frideswide Mussenden. Feel free to take a detour to Castlerock and Benone beaches before arriving at your next destination – the stunning Binevenagh Mountain and Nature Reserve. Drive time from Portrush: 29 minutes

Binevenagh Mountain Follow the Seacoast Road from Downhill and venture to Binevenagh Mountain. Featured in HBO’s Game of Thrones, Binevenagh, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is situated in the Limavady area of the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough. The dramatic basalt cliffs dominate the surrounding countryside, and panoramic views from the mountain top take in Roe Valley, the Sperrin Mountains, the North Coast and across Lough Foyle to Donegal. Drive time from Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demesne: 19 minutes Although we’ve packed this itinerary full of ideas for your road trip along the Causeway Coastal Route, there’s many more hidden gems and secret places to discover – so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to see them all. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track – even if you get lost, the friendly locals are always willing to help you get back on the road!


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Image: Binevenagh Mountain Š Tourism NI 63

Mapping Howard-Bury 64

Text & Images by Morgan Hite

Mapping Howard-Bury Morgan Hite One of the things I love about old hardcover books is that the publisher might have glued a folded map inside the back cover. Even books about imaginary landscapes had these, such as my father's 1954 hardcover edition of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. Sixteen by eighteen inches, it was always there as a reference, ready to be opened up and consulted. This was the kind of map, I got to thinking, that Charles Howard-Bury’s account of visiting the Tian Shan Mountains needed. A map that would tell the reader where the Yulduz Plains were, where Sergiopol was in relation to Jarkent, where the Agias river flowed.


Famous as the leader of Great Britain's Everest reconnaissance expedition of 1921, Charles Howard-Bury made this less-known and possibly more intriguing journey some eight years earlier, in 1913, into the heart of Central Asia. He went there to go hunting for both animals and plants in the Tian Shan mountains of what are today the Ili Kazakh, and Bayingolin Mongol, autonomous prefectures of China’s Xinjiang province. In six months of travel he created a diary of 171 pages that Marian Keaney edited into a book published in 1990: Mountains of Heaven: Travel in the Tian Shan Mountains, 1913. He mentions every valley, every pass, and what kinds of wildflowers carpet them. He names specific streams and towns, and tells us about the people living in them. He tells us about weather and politics and the types of ferries on the rivers. The only thing missing is a detailed map, and the reader of his book will soon find him- or herself surrounded by open atlases and country maps, bewildered and unable to figure out where Semiretchinsk is. Names have changed. Official languages have changed. Google Maps turns out to be of very little use. And Howard-Bury writes as if you do have a map in front of you. “The ram,” he concludes, “finally disappeared in the direction of Mustamas” – without having previously explained what Mustamas is. Is it a town? A peak? “This place is called the valley of the Sixty Fireplaces,” he describes at one point, “because years ago a party of soldiers went through it on their way to Kuchar and in one place built sixty little fireplaces to cook their evening meal.” Kuchar? Howard-Bury began his journey by rail, leaving Europe by way of Moscow, and finally reaching the end of the tracks at Omsk. From there he took a steamer up the Irtysh river to Semipalatinsk – today’s Semey, Kazakhstan, but at that time an outpost of Imperial Russia. From here (it was now June) he and his servant John Pereira journeyed overland and crossed into China, reaching the town of Kuldja, which was to be their base for the next few months. In November, with snow already falling, they re-entered what is today Kazakhstan but was then Russia, and made it to the railhead at a small stop called Kabul-Sai, north of Tashkent. From there they were able to take a series of trains and steamships back to Europe. I envisioned a 1:1 million map detailing the central portion of the journey, the area in China where they spent the most time and where Howard-Bury mentions the most local details. Secondarily, there would be a 1:3 million map showing how they got from Semipalatinsk to Kuldja, a ten-day journey along Russian post roads for whose specific route he gives intriguingly 65

Mapping Charles Howard-Bury in Central Asia Morgan Hite

few clues. Last, there would be a map at 1:7 million showing their exit route from Central Asia, from Kuldja to Jarkent to Tashkent, and then on by rail to the Caspian Sea. Then things happened which illustrate some general hazards about mapping for old books. As I pinpointed more and more places that Howard-Bury had described, it nagged at me that the paper I was designing for was so small. I needed more: it should be 23” wide by 20” high. Soon, the idea that all the mapping could fit into that space went out the window. The first map would need the whole sheet! The other two maps were discarded.


But more importantly, just where had Howard-Bury gone? I found myself buried in old maps, Wikipedia articles, and all sorts of other documents such as you get when you search on obscure terms like Chalyk Tau. I was reading maps in Russian and putting German websites through Google Translate. I was converting the old Russian unit of versts, which Howard-Bury used to describe all his daily travels, into kilometres (1.067 km to the verst!) so I could match his account to the map. Ordinarily, the trick to locating a place an author mentions is simply to find a sufficiently detailed map of the area, but Central Asia adds an additional spin to this problem: most places there have had multiple names in the last hundred years. This has happened as a result of political and cultural struggles involving the Turkic peoples (Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uyghurs), the Chinese, and the Russians. In China, a river that Howard-Bury in 1913 called by its Kazakh name of Kok-su (“Blue water”) is today labelled (e.g., on Google Maps) with its Chinese name, the Kekesu. Searching the web for Kok-su will yield many other rivers in Central Asia, but not this one. On their side of the border, the Russians renamed many towns after the Russian revolution, and these towns may have again been renamed after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Sometimes, as was the case for Mirzoyan (today’s Taraz, Kazakhstan), the town's new name lasted only the two years until its namesake fell from favour. Another level of complexity is introduced by the multiple alphabets, or, more properly, writing systems. Places in Xinjiang typically have both a Uyghur (a Turkic language) and a Mandarin name: the Uyghur can be rendered in the Latin alphabet or the older, Arabic-based Uyghur script; the Mandarin can be rendered in Chinese characters, or two variants of the Latin transcription: the older Wade-Giles transliteration, and the newer pinyin. So for Kuldja you might see 伊宁, Yining, ‫ﻏﯘﻟﺠﺎ‬, Ghulja, Gulja, Kulja, or Ili. Most places in modern Kazakhstan have an old Russian and a new Kazakh name, both of which can be rendered in either Latin or Cyrillic. Hence we have a city which the Kazkhs label Алматы and we write as Almaty; but the Russians called it Alma-ata and wrote it Алма-Ата.


Old maps were invaluable in figuring out the details of Howard-Bury’s route. I made extensive use of International Map of the World sheets produced by the Americans in the 1950s and 60s, and topographic maps at 1:500,000 and 1:100,000 produced by the Soviets in the 1980s. All of these are available for free on the web. The Soviet maps in particular provide superb detail. When Howard-Bury describes a small feature, say the “Little Kustai river,” and he says, “We pitched our camp near the rushing Kustai torrent, at a height of 6,000',” a topographic map that

Mapping Charles Howard-Bury in Central Asia Morgan Hite

labels the river in Russian as М. Куштай (the Малый, or Little, Kushtai) and offers a contour line every hundred metres of elevation, is worth its weight in gold. You can pinpoint that camp. Kurai is a nice example of how the Internet and different types of old maps can be woven together, with sometimes only intuition as your guide, to locate a place. Howard-Bury talks about Kurai at length: Kurai is where the Has-a-chu, the head of the Kazakhs, lives; Kurai is 20 miles away from Kuldja and is the seat of government of the province. At one point he reports that there has been a revolution in Kurai and a number of people have been killed! In Kuldja he can hear the sound of cannon coming from Kurai.


The town is clearly within earshot of Kuldja, but I could find no sign of it except a village on one of the Soviet maps, labelled Курэ (“Kure”). How could this have been a provincial capital? But I did notice that Курэ was more or less located where the present-day town of Huiyuan is. A quick check of Wikipedia’s page on Huiyuan revealed that (my italics added for emphasis) “between 1762 and 1866 the Huiyuan Fortress, or Huiyuan City, the center of the Chinese authority in Xinjiang, was located within the area of the modern Huiyuan town.” Aha! Making a historical map is never better than when you solve a puzzle like that. Another example was locating “Manass.” Howard-Bury wrote, “There were superb views of distant snowy chains, stretching from far beyond Kuldja, past the headwaters of the Kash river and on in a great semicircle towards Manass.” It shouldn't have been too hard to locate Manass: Howard-Bury was quite clear in the lead-up to this passage about where he was standing as he took in this view. He was about 130 km southeast of Kuldja, in mountains, at just over 10,000 feet, looking north. I had located the Kash River, about 100 km north of him. And north of both Kuldja and the Kash River were the Borohoro Mountains, running east-west “in a great semicircle.” Manass, logically, was going to be near their eastern end. But I didn’t see anything named Manass. A web search was useless: typing “Manass” into Google yields hilarious results that have nothing whatsoever to do with a town or peak or feature of any kind in Central Asia. The city of Urumqi was over in that direction: could Manass be an old name for it? A quick read of the history of Urumqi at Wikipedia suggested not. Grasping at straws, I actually resorted to panning around in Google maps and letting my eye wander. This had no chance of working, but I did spot it, flickering out of sight at the edge of my vision as I zoomed out, a small town northwest of Urumqi labelled Manas. It was next to a larger town of Shihezi, and Wikipedia's page on Shihezi referred to “the city’s eastern neighbour, the much older historically Hui town of Manas.” Ah! And Manas had its own page, which didn't tell me much, except that Owen Lattimore in his 1930 High Tartary said it was "the biggest city (after Urumchi) in the biggest oasis on the biggest river of the North Road, and the chief centre of the T’ung-kan (Dungan) population." (Dungan and Hui are alternate names for Chinese moslems.) Because readers of the book were my main audience, I labelled places primarily with the names Howard-Bury used, spelled the way he spelled them. But it was also a goal to pass along the


Mapping Charles Howard-Bury in Central Asia Morgan Hite

useful things I was learning, things that might aid other people researching the Central Asia of a hundred years ago. Hence I also included alternate names, in whatever script they came in, as well as their Latin alphabet transcriptions. A very nice source for these variants is OpenStreetMap data, as well as the website at With each Aha! answer to a question, I discovered that I was accumulating obscure knowledge and specialist vocabulary that themselves would be useful to other would-be geographers of the area. Tash in Turkic meant rocks, and bulak meant spring. I learned what a Zimstvo was and who the Kalmucks were. I learned how to navigate the system of Soviet maps, to determine which 1:100,000 maps were contained within a specific 1:500,000 sheet. So at this point I had the idea that the map should perhaps be a poster, the bottom half of which could contain notes about all this handy background knowledge. I added an additional 20 inches at the bottom to accommodate all this. It was no longer a book-map. Howard-Bury named perhaps 75 places, of which I found the great majority, but there are still those I never found. I never found Tsarnakai or the Karasir pass. I never figured out if the Yulding Plains were merely a variant on the Yulduz Plains, or whether they were a different place. I was never sure of the Big Kustai river, or where the Kustai Pass was. I’m sure I know which pass was the Chacha Pass, but I never found it labelled that way on any map.


Of course Howard-Bury was himself carrying a map. He mentions how it misled him: “The Russian map marked the Kurdai pass as only 6,700 feet in height, but as we were already over 8,000 feet, I knew this to be a mistake, but imagined that the six was probably a misprint for nine, and that the height of the pass would be about 9,700 feet and so did not trouble to put on warmer clothes. Little did I guess that the height of the pass was nearly 13,000 feet.” What scale was Howard-Bury’s Russian map? A Soviet 1:1,000,000 scale map from 1974 was sufficiently detailed to have the Kurdai pass on it; in Howard-Bury’s day however he was likely carrying one of the Russian 1:1,680,000 scale or “40-verst” maps (40 versts to an inch), which were produced for Russia and adjacent lands.


Mapping Charles Howard-Bury in Central Asia Morgan Hite

One reason I would love to see Howard-Bury’s maps is to determine which Lepzinsk he went through. Although it falls for the most part off the map shown here, Howard-Bury’s initial route on the Russian post roads from Sergiopol (Ayagoz) to Kapal is bit of a mystery, since he mentions only a few landmarks over the course of three long days of steady travel. In this large space east of Lake Balkhash many routes are possible. The key to the puzzle is a town he calls Lepzinsk, a town he passed through on the second day out of Sergiopol. He gives us some wonderful clues: daily distances covered (in versts of course), the necessity of crossing the arms of a sandy desert coming in from the west, the proximity of Lake Balkhash, verdant Lepzinsk in the midst of sandy dunes and first seen on the far side of a “fair sized river,” a pass at 4,000 feet in a range of rocky hills “that formed a kind of buttress to the snowy Ala-tau mountains,” and a plateau over 4,000 feet that leads on to Kapal. Many of these landmarks are readily identifiable, and “Lepzinsk” is sure to be on the Lepsi river, a major river that cuts right across his route. But not only are there two towns named Lepsinsk on this river, there’s also a third town named Lepsy! Through a combination of measuring out the daily distances over a number of possible alternative routes, and looking at features visible on satellite photographs, I reasoned that his route took him virtually straight south from Sergiopol, crossing the Lepsi at a town that was shown as Lepzinsk on several old maps but is today called Kokterek. Seeing the maps Howard-Bury carried would be a nice test of this deduction. There have been some really interesting puzzles to solve here, but it seems fitting to end with one of Charles Howard-Bury’s descriptions of the landscape. It is these which make you want to know where he went, to go there yourself, and which made me want to map his journey. You may find that he acts as a kind of hypnotic travel advertisement writer. “We climbed up steadily through glorious forests to the grassy meadows at the edge of the tree line which is here a little over 10,000 feet. The grass now became shorter, but was full of iris and primulas and some quite new varieties of flowers appeared. The most astonishing flowers of all were the pansies, white, yellow, blue and every shade of colour up to deep purple and quite as large as any that are found in gardens at home. For miles the hillsides were a variegated carpet of these pansies, and so close did they grow that every step we took crushed some of them: it was impossible to avoid doing so. Never anywhere else have I seen such a luxuriant flora. The flowers in Kashmir were very wonderful, but these here were still more so.”


“Deep seemed the valleys when we lay between the reeling seas. High were the hills when we perched momentarily on the tops of giant combers. Nearly always there were gales. So small was our boat and so great were the seas that often our sail flapped idly in the calm between the crest of two waves. Then we would climb the next slope and catch the full fury of the gale where the wool-like whiteness of the breaking water surged around us. We had our moments of laughter - rare, it is true, but hearty enough.� South

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton


72 Image: Mussenden Temple, Downhill Demesne Š Tourism NI


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