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Date: 28 Dec 2010 02:08:00
Title: Geology lessons in Bermuda

Monday night, St George

It was a really wild night, last night. By the time we went to bed, Saxon Blue was getting tossed around even though we're in a tiny harbour. The waves were making a real racket on the stern so I decided to spend the night in the Pullman cabin - Kali's cabin although she was spending the night in Hamilton. That was less noisy although I was concerned that I might get thrown out of the berth. I woke up once in the middle of the night and checked all our lines but they were holding us perfectly about one meter off the dock so I went back to sleep. With all the rocking and rolling, though, I didn't want to stay in bed long this morning so I got up and had an early breakfast.

I had a lovely quiet morning finishing my book, drinking tea and then chatting to Bill when he finally woke up. After lunch it was time to Skype to Penny Lane where my brother Lester, Sharon and the boys had gone for dinner. Josh showed me his Christmas slippers and told me about his other presents - table football and air-hockey. Nathan had some fancy new boots and an extraordinary pair of trousers that look like jodpurs with the crotch just above the knee. He also got some new music to share with the family and the complete set of Predator DVDs - now that's what I call entertainment. It was great to be able to talk to them and see them as well - funny how I've not got into Skype until now and I haven't been off it this Christmas.

We did a bit of fiddling around on the boat after that and then Bill suggested that we go to visit the caves on one of the nearby islands. We quickly scrabbled around to collect the six dollars in change that we'd need for the bus and then set off. The caves are set in the lush gardens of a Bermudian mansion and have been a tourist attraction for about 100 years after they were discovered by accident by a couple of kids. We set off with our guide into the first one, Fantasy Cave, down 80 steps. By the time we reached the bottom, it was lovely and warm - in contrast to the chilly, damp gale outside. The sea comes into the caves through a series of tunnels so there is a pool of completely clear water down there. Above it, the roof of the cave is completely festooned with stalactites, and their precursor hollow "soda-straws". In places, they've connected with the stalacmites growing up from the floor to form pillars and convoluted shapes like scenery from an Alien movie.

There were only six of us on the tour with one guide so the whole experience was intense, especially when he turned all the lights out and I literally couldn't see my hand in front of my face. After climbing out of that cave, we went down into the Crystal Cave which is larger with a seawater pool occupying the whole floor area. We explored by walking along a floating pontoon like in a marina. The water there was up to 60 feet deep but you could see right to the bottom. The guide produced a startling effect when he lit some of the formations from underneath with his torch and they were instantly reflected in perfect detail in the water. Turn the torch off and the image disappeared. It reminded me of the Victorian Melodrama illusion of the floating ghost above the stage. Absolutely beautiful.

We got a geology lesson, too. The caves are all within the limestone cap that forms all the bits of Bermuda that you can see. The volcano underneath has been innundated four times since it was formed. Each time, the shells of the sea creatures formed a layer of shell-sand. When the sea level dropped in each ice age, that sand compacted for form limestone. After a brief period above sea level, during which a thin layer of soil was added, the process would repeat itself. The slightly acidic rain water percolating though the limestone dissolves it into labyrinths of caverns, linking into each other and then out into the sea. Once the sea water enters the caves, the process of cave formation ceases, as does the deposition of any more limestone in the areas below the tide level. The Stalacmites in the water are proof that the water has risen since they were formed, a couple of million years ago.

After all that wondering and learning, we had to stop by the Swizzle Inn to get Bill a Jim and Ginger and another pocket full of change for the bus back to St George. We got back to Saxon Blue to find a bedraggled Kali who'd just returned from a run. We headed straight out to the Tavern by the Sea for dinner and then back onboard our still storm-tossed home again. Bill went to put the snorkelling gear into the lazarette and the next thing I heard was a shout of pain. The lid had slipped from his fingers and landed on his big toe - he was only wearing flip-flops. We were both worried that he'd broken it but it seems that it's only a cut, although a really nasty one. He was very brave while I fussed around finding potions and plasters. I hope it's OK but he's going to be a bit sore for a few days, I think.

Then it was a quick Skype to my lovely Andrea in her hotel in Leeds. She's changed her flight to the 4th of January, still going to St Martin. As things look, she'll be there before us but hopefully not by much. The storm that we're in is currently turning the US East Coast into a disaster area with 20 inches of snow falling in New York but it's heading up the coast fast so we're still looking for a departure into big seas on Wednesday or, more likely, a more relaxed one into diminished waves on Thursday.

Harvey

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