The Call Of The Running Tide

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I spent the afternoon in the port city of Liverpool, walking the docks. Here’s the view from one point, a panorama running from sunshine on the right and grading into rain on the left, looking across the Mersey (click to enlarge). As a seaman, there’s not much I’d rather do than wander the waterfront in some strange town.

IMG_1218Nor am I alone in this habit. Here’s Herman Melville on the subject:

 If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand—miles of them—leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenues—north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither?

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?—Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster—tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here?

And indeed, despite the imminent storm, there were people all over the docks. And deservedly so, they are very interesting. I learned lots of things there.

First, I learned another bit more about the siting of windmills. There are five Darrieus rotors mounted at the corner of the Echo Arena … except that the Echo Arena doesn’t have any corners, it’s round. And since it’s round I’d have thought that any windmills near each other by the building would be in about the same wind. But in fact, only the two nearest of the five in the photo were rotating fast. The other three, despite being within a few metres of the others, only gave an occasional desultory turn.

darrius rotors in liverpoolThe other joke was the size of the windmills. The swept area of the rotors were each maybe twenty feet by ten feet … call it 200 square feet, maybe 20 square metres each. By contrast, a modern bat-chopper’s blade is maybe 100 metres in diameter, almost 8,000 square metres. There’s not enough wind energy in twenty square metres to do more than light a couple of light bulbs … and that only when the wind is blowing. Useless. However, at least they look kinda cool, and they don’t go “thwop-thwop-thwop” like the bird-shredders.

As I wandered along the dock, the squall got closer and closer, and the wind started kicking up waves along the sides of the stone docks. The stonework on the dock is lovely, not because it is supposed to be, but because the form fits so perfectly with the function. The stones were all carefully and cleverly fitted with a minimum of chiseling and a maximum of results. Here’s an example:

liverpool dock stonework

Now, on the chains you can see at the top of that picture, all along the waterfront there are locks locked onto the top chain. Some of them have people’s names on them, some don’t. I thought I’d google the reason when I got back, but then I figured I’d just ask the assembled masses for their local knowledge … so, what’s up with these padlocks?

liverpool dock locks

The weather was threatening, but I got to the Maritime Museum and ducked inside. There, I went first to the Slavery display on the third floor. It was interesting in part because there was a whose section, not on slavery itself, but on the African cultures that existed at the time. They showed a lot of different African arts and implements, often very beautiful pieces. Overall it was a good exhibit, but somehow they failed to mention the participation of the Africans in the slave trade as slavers. Hey, it wasn’t mostly white guys going out into the African bush to collect slaves. They bought them from black slavers at the coast. They also didn’t say a word about the fact that slavery existed in Africa for thousands of years before the melanin-deficient folk made it into a big business. But other than that it was hugely informative and fascinating, and only in part because on account of my family’s participation in the trade, the subject is always of great interest to me.

I used to feel bad that my ancestors were involved in the slave trade. But I let go of that after a comment from a man I met at a party thirty years ago in Dakar, in Senegal, where much of the slave trade took place. I spoke to him about what my family had done. He looked at me and said “So what if your great-great-grandfather did something to my great-great-grandfather … what the hell does that have to do with you and me?”

What the hell indeed, I thought, and since then it hasn’t been an issue for me. We humanoids desperately need to learn to forget the past, or we end up fighting about things that happened before we were born.

The next floor down in the Museum is all about the Titanic. Not much there that was new to me, although there were a few lovely artifacts that had been salvaged from the wreck of that majestic liner.

The next floor down had a whole section about the Second World War. In that section, I saw something I’d never heard of, a “fog signal” to keep the ships in convoy from coming up on the ship in front of them and smashing into the stern. Here’s what it looks like:

fog signal liverpool

The way the contraption works is like this. You attach a rope to the chain you can see at the left, which goes up and is attached to the underside of the boards. You let it out over the stern of the ship, and trail it along behind. Now if you look at the right end, there’s a metal scoop. As the contraption is dragged along, the water is picked up by the scoop and jetted high in the air. Unlike a light, which the Germans could have seen, this jet of water would only be visible when you get near to it. Pretty ingenious, if you ask me …

Down in the bottom of the Maritime Museum, there’s an exhibition put on by the Customs and Excise department regarding smuggling. They show all the goofy ways that people have tried to smuggle stuff into England over the centuries. It’s an old, historical trade, it goes back a long, long way. Or at least that’s they said, because me, all I know about smuggling is what I read in the popular press and see in the museums …

When I came out, the squall was over, and the sun was shining through a hole in the clouds right on the town buildings. Here’s another question for those in the know about Liverpool—what are those birds that are portrayed on the top of the Municipal buildings?

liverpool muni buildings

If I had any question about the importance of the ocean to Liverpool, I found out that the middle of those the three big buildings is the “Cunard Building”, home office of the Cunard ocean liners …

The docks of Liverpool are very unusual in that many of them are actually protected by locks. This is because of the huge swing of the tides. Here are the tides for this month:

liverpool tidesAbout nine metres (30′) of tidal swing in six hours? … yikes! So they built up an entire system of docks that were protected by locks. The ships would come in and out only at high tide, and then the lock gates would be closed behind them so the water couldn’t flow back out. That way they could unload the ships without the bottom dropping out of the ocean and the ship sitting down on the harbor floor.

In Alaska the tides are about that big, but we didn’t have locks. I’ve seen guys struggling hard with that problem, for instance getting a drunk crewman to a ship that’s thirty feet down over the side of the dock by tying a rope around his chest, taking a couple of turns with the rope around a bollard, and pushing him over the edge and lowering him down with the rope … in hindsight, the Liverpool method is greatly preferable.

From there, I went to the Liverpool Museum. I’ve been considering the question of energy lately, what with windmills and steam locomotives. In the Museum, they have one of the oldest steam locomotives in existence. It’s called the “Lion”, an absolutely gorgeous piece of 1800’s engineering. I couldn’t get a good photo of it, here’s one from the web, it’s a jewel.

lion locomotive


I was amused to find out that after the Lion was retired, they pulled out the boiler and used it to drive a pump at the waterfront. But of course, the Lion was run by coal. So if they wanted to do that these days I fear they’d have to revert to an even earlier form of energy, immortalized below on the Liverpool docks:

liverpool horse

This is the statue in honor of the working horses of Liverpool, to which we all may be reduced if the anti-CO2 maniacs win the fight … just sayin’ …

On the way back, I passed an enclosed bit of water with a couple dozen of the “narrow boats” from the canals. The nearest one, the “Irene Grace” had the laundry hung out … and the second one, the “Hodmedod” had its garden out in the sun.

liverpool narrow boats

On the way back, my weather luck ran out. It started to pour down rain, and the only shelter in a long ways was an ornamental arch that is about twenty feet tall and three feet wide … so it provided little in the way of shelter for the six of us trying to get out of the rain. Now, there is one of those half-bowls mounted on the side of the arch, maybe a yard (metre) across. I hunched myself down as small as I could get, and tried to hide underneath it. So I’m all smooshed up under the bowl, feeling like a perfect idiot, and I notice that it’s not really raining … because what’s coming down is actually pepper-corn sized hail.

Hail! How could I not like hail, it’s one of my favorite phenomena. Here’s why.

Any fool can convince heat to flow from a warm place to a cold place. But a thunderstorm manages to make cold flow from a cold place to a warm place, in the form of snow, hail, and sleet. To me, that’s one of nature’s most ingenious tricks. It extends human refrigeration, which involves only the phase change from liquid to gas and back, to include a second phase change—from liquid to gas and back to liquid, then the second phase change, from liquid to solid.

However, that didn’t make me any dryer, and it sure didn’t make me any warmer. So I gave up my vain attempt to stay out of the weather. I emerged from my pathetic, ineffective excuse of a hiding place under the half-bowl, and I abandoned myself to the crazy vagaries of the English atmosphere.

Oddly, the weather I’ve happened to see so far here has shown all of the same phenomena I used to see in the tropics—when it starts getting warm, up pop the cumulus to slow the warming. When it gets even warmer, thunderstorms appear. In other words, it’s one more example of the emergent phenomena doing what they always do—<em>keeping the world from overheating.</em>

And I can testify that they kept me from overheating as well, I was shivering hard before I got back to the house, with a small version of the Mersey River running from the nape of my neck, straight down my back, and pooling somewhere around my unmentionables. So I guess that means that the universe is unfolding just as it should.

Tomorrow the circus decamps again. We’re off to the Lake District, to see what that part of the planet looks like and to meditate on these questions in a new location … or as Herman Melville had it:

Once more. Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries—stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.

I’m ready to go down in a dale to a pool by a stream, indeed I am.

My best to everyone, more to come as time and the hail permits …


PS—The title of this post is from John Masefield’s “Sea Fever”, a poem which is one of my life-long companions:

I MUST down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life.

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

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September 8, 2013 3:51 pm

awesome, as usual. thanks for the education/

The Ol' Seadog.
September 8, 2013 3:52 pm

Not doing North Wales, then?
If you are going to the Lake District and like Steam Locomotives , I suggest you go to see the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.. See-

September 8, 2013 3:56 pm

I first noticed these padlocks on the railings of bridges in Paris. They are “Love-Locks”.
Some years ago, a new craze started when lovers began fixing padlocks onto the chain link fence of the Pont des Arts, which crosses from the left bank to the Musee du Louvre. The love padlocks are called Cadenas d’Amour. They steadily multiplied until there were thousands of lthem on the bridge. Each was engraved with a message of love. After locking the padlock onto the fence, the lovers would toss the keys into the Seine river as a sign of their eternal devotion.

The Sage
September 8, 2013 4:00 pm

>what are those birds that are portrayed on the top of the Municipal buildings?
Those would be Liver Birds.

September 8, 2013 4:06 pm

Hey, Willis,
I think you said you’re coming back down the East side of England. Make sure you leave enough time for the North Norfolk coast, all the way around to the Broads, on your way.
The whole place is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – for once a well-named bit of bureaucracy – as well as having several unique or very rare ecosystems like the salt marshes. Truly stunning beaches, too – the one at Holkham has a real claim to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the country.
The Norfolk Broads are of course world-famous, and it’s interesting to see how the different design imperatives led to very different looking watercraft – the Norfolk wherry.
Aside from the natural attractions, there’s also plenty of history and so-on – in the Middle Ages Norfolk was one of the richest places in the world, thanks to the wool trade – and amongst other things another working steam railway.

William Sears
September 8, 2013 4:12 pm

And here I thought that only the Bay of Fundy had thirty foot tides.

Old woman of the north
September 8, 2013 4:14 pm

Willis, lovely writing.
If you like working steam railways try the Festiniog from Caernarvon to Portmadog (or the other way around as it is stationed in Portmadog), in N Wales. A lovely way to see the countryside.

John W. Garrett
September 8, 2013 4:31 pm

“But how shall we reach our long-promised homes without encountering Cape Horn? By what possibility avoid it? And though some ships have weathered it without these perils, yet by far the greater part must encounter them. Lucky it is that it comes about midway in the homeward-bound passage, so that sailors have time to prepare for it, and time to recover from it after it is astern.
But, sailor or landsman, there is some sort of Cape Horn for all. Boys! beware of it; prepare for it in time. Grey-beards! thank God it is passed. And ye lucky livers, to whom, by some rare fatality, your Cape Horns are placid as Lake Lemans, flatter not yourselves that good luck is judgement and discretion; for all the yolk in your eggs, you might have foundered and gone down, had the Spirit of the Cape said the word.”
-Herman Melville
White Jacket
Library of America edition, New York, 1983.

September 8, 2013 4:32 pm

Someone beat me to the definition of the locks, but I do not think they started in France, might be wrong, but I think the only thing to start there was ‘global warming.’ 🙂
Loved it, and will reblog.

September 8, 2013 4:33 pm

Reblogged this on luvsiesous and commented:
Here a sailor walks the docks and the shores.
And interesting read, from the love lorn locks on chains, to the interesting devices from WW2 in the museum. It is a nice read.
And do not forget, he also writes up what is wrong with ‘global warming.’

September 8, 2013 4:35 pm

Those are the famous/infamous Liver Birds (pronounced live as in live electric circuit).
I was born across the water in Port Sunlight and have seen huge changes along the Merseyshore over the last fifty years. Glad you enjoyed your visit.

September 8, 2013 4:50 pm

I think you are going to need a return trip to cover Wales – especially N. Wales, its like nothing else you are going to see. I’m not suggesting that its in any way better, but it is so different that its a great shame that you are going to miss it.

James Schrumpf
September 8, 2013 5:19 pm

I love sailing and “messing about in boats,” but I have none of the romance of the sea in me. A blue-water sailor has to have no imagination, but at the same time, an excess of imagination. Being on the Big Blue in a “tall ship with a star to guide me,” is also a way to put oneself in the path of a 20m rogue wave out of nowhere, or a storm that overwhelms your boat. He also has to be able to imagine himself in a lovely port in the South Pacific, which dreams carry him forward through the interminable midnight watches.
Remember “Sailing Alone Around the World,” the legendary story of Joshua Slocum’s circumnavigation in his boat, the Spray? He set off on that voyage again and was never heard from again.
We would be nowhere as a race without those people who can sail into the unknown, imagining the great things they will achieve, and not imagining the horrors they might suffer. I tip my hat to them all.

Latimer Alder
September 8, 2013 5:20 pm

Congratulations. A whole article about Liverpool without mentioning the B..t..s or H…sb….h.
What a refreshing change,

September 8, 2013 5:29 pm

Willis, about the first picture on the dockside.
Is that a 90 deg or 180 deg panorama?
Nice shot of the Municipal Buildings. Good Lighting.

Robert Austin
September 8, 2013 5:54 pm

With your love of the sea and things marine and your poetic soul, I trust that you have read of Patrick O’Brien’s superb sea novels. They are wonderfully written and crammed with nautical minutiae pertaining to the running of tall ships and the lives of those of the seafaring persuasion. The movie “Master and Commander – the Far Side of the World” was based on a composite of two of O’Brien’s novels.

Chris Edwards
September 8, 2013 5:56 pm

Did you see the U boat? a relative was trying to get us to visit Liverpool to see them and the uboat before we left for good!

September 8, 2013 5:57 pm

Willis, should you be back in London, go check out the Canal Museum. Lots of good stuff there.

September 8, 2013 6:17 pm

Thank you for a very enjoyable travel journal.

September 8, 2013 6:19 pm

Willis, if you like the Masefield poem you should listen to the song to which the poem is set: one of the best!

September 8, 2013 6:23 pm

Call me Ishael.

michael hart
September 8, 2013 6:42 pm

Willis, in the unlikely event of good weather, I can recommend a quick view from lower vantage points in the southern Lake District over Morecambe Bay. It is the largest area of coastal marshes, treacherous quicksands, and tidal mud-flats, and occasionally sand, in the country. The ebbing tide can fall back over 12km.
You also may notice a large rectangular block on the far side of the bay. It reliably supplies about 2.5 gigawatts of nuclear electricity, and never harmed me when I lived nearby. Alas, there are people who would rather cover England’s clouded hills with white satanic-mills than build a few more, sprinkled around the country. Please wave at Lancaster if/when you pass it on the M6.

September 8, 2013 6:57 pm

Thank you for the tour. My daughter is attending college in England this year and I’ll be traveling there in May 2014 (knock on wood) to spend a few weeks traveling about with her and then we be coming home together. (I must score a ride on that steam train!) …((and, find away to overcome multiple phobias, brave the Chunnel and see Monet’s garden.)) (((definitely flying home from France, not doing the enclosed space, under water…..argh!! …thing twice.)))
Anyway…the locks have different meanings in different places. Symbolically locking up a secret and throwing away the key or the previously mentioned romantic gesture. When I was young we carved our initials into trees but times have changed. Taking a knife to an innocent tree is viewed somewhat differently these days…fortunately romantics go on finding a way.
Also made popular by a recent movie: Now you see me

September 8, 2013 8:16 pm

The stones of the dock wall are carved. They’re probably recyled from bombed-out buildings.

Dale McIntyre
September 8, 2013 8:16 pm

Dear Willis,
Great post; thank you for it.
With regard to the encounter with the man from Senegal, and your uncomfortable feeling about that ancestor involved in the slave trade:
If that man now lives in Senegal, it it much more likely that his ancestors wholesaled their neighbors to your ancestor than that your ancestor did any wrong to his ancestors.
The West African slave trade came about because West African victors in local tribal wars sold the losers to European traders in return for knives, axes, baubles, beads and other items of European manufacture which were otherwise impossible for them to get.
The losers of those tribal wars either got eaten or sold to the slavers. Either way, they were gone from the scene.
Anybody born in present-day Senegal is thus descended from the local victors, the native wholesalers, not the victims, of the slave trade.
So that man’s great-great-grandfather might have been the local business partner for your great-great-grandfather. But no need for you to worry about that one way or another.
I was in England in June, visiting many of the same sights as you are. I had the time of my life.
By all means, make time to get up to Whitby, on the Yorkshire coast. Captain James Cook served his apprenticeship there and a sailorman like you should have a look at it.
Keep those post coming; they are excellent.

September 8, 2013 8:59 pm

Be a little careful Willis.
Liverpool Docks are quite famous for having gentlemen wearing drab native outfits accost visitors with savage displays of local culture, thick slurred accents, and an impromptu followup opportunity to visit the local public health A&E, so you can experience first hand what Obamacare will be like in 30 years if it isn’t repealed.

James Bull
September 8, 2013 9:23 pm

As ever a great read Willis. For your return journey down the East side of England you would do well to visit one of the CRT farms which manage to farm and look after the environment without being ecomentalist. I also enjoyed the poems and thought you might like Spike Milligans take on one
I must go down to the sea again,
to the lonely sea and the sky;
I left my shoes and socks there –
I wonder if they’re dry?
Spike Milligan
James Bull

Steve (Paris)
September 8, 2013 10:55 pm

At the bottom of the hill by the bombed out church there used to be a shop selling umbrellas. At the top of the hill stood a bin, handy to dumb the very same umbrellas turned to tatters by the Liverpool wind. Wonder if they are still there? And if first day undergraduates are still falling for that trick?

Michael Larkin
September 8, 2013 11:18 pm

The building with the birds on top (there are others in the city, too) isn’t “municipal”: it’s the Royal Liver (“i” as in “high”) building, headquarters of the Royal Liver Assurance group, and the birds aren’t literal representations of any particular species. More at Wikipedia:

September 8, 2013 11:25 pm

Liverpool got its name from the River Liver, which ran inland from around where the King’s Dock is (Just south of the Albert Dock, in an L shape up to where the Liverpool One district, alongside Paradise Street, which is still there and immortalised in a sea shanty that begins, “As I was a walking down Paradise ( sung solo) followed by To me way hey blow the man down (big push on capstain). The birds you see are mythical creatures that were supposed to inhabit the River Liver.
Steve (Paris), the street you refer to is probably Hardman Street and the bombed out Church is St. Luke’s left there as a reminder of the horrors of war.
Whoever made it the North Norfolk coast is a good call Willis, if you can get there, and Whitby too.
Thanks for the traveller’s tales.

September 8, 2013 11:31 pm

Thank you very much for that. Made me feel very homesick though. Some wonderful old architecture in Liverpool city centre. In my view, the most beautiful place in the world.

Michael Larkin
September 8, 2013 11:36 pm

Also, trusty Wikipedia has an article for “love locks”, which are apparently a world-wide phenomenon (it has reached Canada and the USA too):
I didn’t know about it before…seems like a charming new tradition that seems to have started in 1992 in Rome, Italy, and really taken off in the present century.

Steve Jones
September 8, 2013 11:45 pm

I am enjoying your posts immensely, thank you. The best accounts of the country you hail from, and think you know, are written by those from overseas. Only a fresh pair of eyes can see what has been right in front of you for years. Should any of my fellow Brits not have read Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes From a Small Island’ I highly recommend it.

September 9, 2013 12:04 am

According to sailors’ legend, the Liver Birds which perch on top of the Royal Liver Building serve a very useful function – whenever a woman of untarnished virtue walks past the building, they flap their wings.

Gareth Phillips
September 9, 2013 12:26 am

There is a great comment in Welsh which roughly translated says ” Mon ( Anglesey) is the mother of Wales, but the father lives in Liverpool” Those who know North Wales and Liverpool will see the joke on many levels. I’d love to have read your writings on our small trains and steam engines in Wales which wind around our highest mountains like some impossibly cute Disney animation. I’m sure though, wherever you go you will continue to entertain us with your pen pictures of place we thought we knew but see with fresh eyes.

September 9, 2013 12:44 am

The Hodmedod is from Bingley, West Yorkshire (where we are), which is on the Leeds-Liverpool canal. Here we have 5 Rise and 3 Rise locks which are a series of tiered locks to lift the canal boats up the hill.
When you come down the East side of the country, Willis, the National Railway Museum is in York and this year hosted 6 A4 steam trains, all Mallards I think, with the Sir Nigel Gresley and The Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada were also brought over. First time in the world to see all of them in one place. They are back in October/November for a second showing probably after you’ve left to go home.
The world famous Flying Scotsman is there at the moment in the workshop undergoing some restoration work. There’s also the annual steam gala at NMR Shildon in County Durham later this month.
There’s a steam railway at Pickering on the North Yorkshire Moors. The line now runs through to Whitby on the coast, mentioned by other commenters, made famous in the book Dracula by Bram Stoke. It’s where the ship bringing Dracula to England ran aground on the rocks. Great fish and chips in Whitby too!
Enjoy the rest of your trip.

September 9, 2013 12:45 am

Typo, it’s Bram Stoker!

Stephen Richards
September 9, 2013 12:51 am

Did you leave Liverpool with your shoes and your wallet? You did well if you did.
Oh, and there’s a fundamental error in your letter. The greenies don’t want us using animals because they fart and can be eaten. 🙂

Roy Jones
September 9, 2013 12:52 am

If anyone wants to see the Lion in action they should watch the 1953 film “The Titfield Thunderbolt”. British eccentricity at its best and a treat for fans of steam railways.

September 9, 2013 1:02 am

Willis, if you liked the Lion, you may like to watch an Ealing Comedy film called The Titfield Thunderbolt in which it starred.
As for the Lake District, the steamers on Ullswater – – might be of interest and the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Steam Railway –

September 9, 2013 2:26 am

You rightly say of Darrieus rotors

The other joke was the size of the windmills.
There’s not enough wind energy in twenty square metres to do more than light a couple of light bulbs … and that only when the wind is blowing. Useless. However, at least they look kinda cool, and they don’t go “thwop-thwop-thwop” like the bird-shredders.

True, but their purpose is to make a political statement about the claimed desirability of wind power: it is not electricity generation. And that public statement is why the main school here in Falmouth has a Darrieus rotor in its playground: children are impressionable.
The main purpose of the bird-swatters is propaganda.
Similarly, propaganda was the main purpose of the Great Walls in China.
The Chin, Han, and Ming Dynasties each built Great Walls.
Those Walls all had three purposes.
Their tertiary purpose was military defence, and the Walls were much more than required for defence.
Their secondary purpose was was military deterence; people considering invasion would ponder what they would face from a country which could build and maintain such Walls.
The primary purpose of the Great Walls was a political statement.
The Walls are on hilltops and can be seen for miles, so everybody looking up saw the Walls and was reminded that the Emperor was so powerful he could build the Walls, he could maintain the Walls, and he could tax them to pay for all that: truly, the Emperor was powerful.
The primary purpose of bird-swatters in the UK is also a political statement.
Bird-swatters are on hilltops and can be seen for miles, so everybody looking up sees the bird-swatters and is reminded that the government is so ‘green’ it can build the bird-swatters, it can maintain the bird-swatters, and it can tax them to pay for all that: truly, the government is ‘green’.
The Chin, Han, and Ming Dynasties were so weakened by the cost of maintaining the Great Walls that they each collapsed within a generation.

September 9, 2013 2:27 am

Willis said’
“That way they could unload the ships without the bottom dropping out of the ocean and the ship sitting down on the harbor floor.”
My home town has a harbour and a tidal range of up to some 5 metres . The ships come in only at high tide and moor in the estuary and the hulls are frequently on the river bed. It is known as a ‘NABSA port. Not afloat but safely aground.
My town has its own fascinating links with slavery, the much less known white slavery as practised by the Barbary pirates of North Africa.) As the Brits did with Black slavery so we did the same with White slavery and destroyed the trade. Here is one of my articles which briefly dealt with white slavery in the context of climate change.

John Trigge
September 9, 2013 2:51 am

A modified version of the fog signal you show was still in use in the Oz Navy until at least 1986 when I was discharged. We used to trail a larger version, called a splash target, about 1,000 yards behind a ship so that another ship could lock onto it with their gunnery radar and use it for surface gunnery shoots.
They used to put up quite a large volume of water and made excellent targets.
Thanks for bringing it up and giving me a walk back down memory lane.

Bloke down the pub
September 9, 2013 3:07 am

A cousin of mine, now sadly departed, used to be a Liverpool pilot and later the skipper of the pilot cutter George Holt. His hobby was making model boats of which a number are in the Liverpool maritime museum, so you’ve probably seen some of his work. A model he made of a Devon fishing boat is one of my prized possessions.

Nick Luke
September 9, 2013 3:08 am

Hello, Willis.
‘What the hell indeed, I thought, and since then it hasn’t been an issue for me. We humanoids desperately need to learn to forget the past, or we end up fighting about things that happened before we were born.’
I think that we need NOT to forget the past, but to FORGIVE the past.
Edmund Burke: ‘Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.’
Lovely report from L’pool…Where next?

Nick Luke
September 9, 2013 3:13 am

Oh, and the tidal range at Avonmouth, Bristol, is 46.3 ft…

September 9, 2013 3:26 am

You like steam engines then the Science museum in London is for you. The Rocket, and others many in working condition.

September 9, 2013 3:42 am

How did you find the accents in Liverpool? Pretty cool huh?

September 9, 2013 3:45 am

There is still a thriving slave trade in E Africa.

dave ward
September 9, 2013 3:46 am

@ Willis – if you do manage to visit Norfolk I would be pleased to have a meet up. I can’t claim to be much of a historian, but Norwich Cathedral is over 900 years old and nearby Elm Hill has buildings dating back to the Tudor period.,_Norwich
Norfolk is home to most of the Saxon & Norman era Round Tower Churches, which are almost unique to this part of the country.
There are also several steam hauled privately operated railways, both full-size, and narrow gauge.
Are you able to access my email address from WUWT to get in touch?

September 9, 2013 3:49 am

On your way down the east side of England, I hope you will find time to call in on the UEA (University of East Anglia), where you will receive a rapturous welcome. May even invite you to become a visiting Professor. I am sure Professor Phil (Climategate) Jones will enjoy your company.
Excellent travelogue. Free bed for you here on the South Coast.
Michael Oxenham

Hari Seldon
September 9, 2013 3:58 am

.If you think Liverpool is full of scally’s and wags try any other city in the universe, try London

September 9, 2013 4:12 am

“Did you leave Liverpool with your shoes and your wallet? You did well if you did.”
Keep up Steve, Liverpool is now one of the safest cities in Europe to visit, the days of bashing visitors over the head and taking their wallets faded with the move of the docks to Bootle and Felixstowe. Willis hasn’t really touched it, there’s great architecture all over the city centre, and it has more listed buildings than any other city outside of London boasting what John Betjeman described as the best building built in the 20th Century, the Gothic Anglican Cathedral. At the other end of the Hope Street is the ultra- modern Paddy’s Wigwam, the Catholic Cathedral. How cool is that? Two cathedrals connected by Hope Street.

Cold Englishman
September 9, 2013 4:24 am

It has become quite obvious that you are enjoying your visit to my homeland, and it is becoming a pleasure to see my land through your eyes. Thank you for reminding us of what we take for granted.
Now you know why ‘Dellers’ gets so enraged about the desecration of our countryside with the construction of these dreadful windmills. So far they have left the Lake District alone, and I know you will be enchanted with the area, but just wait until you reach Scotland. I cannot imagine what you will say then.
Enjoy the rest of your visit, and come back again soon.

Hari Seldon
September 9, 2013 4:30 am

Looking at your first image. This is a view across the Mersey to Birkenhead. A place of great interest on its own. Also known as ‘across the water’ and sometimes the inhabitants are called ‘woolybacks’ or lob scousers’. Scouse, is a heavily potato based stew with meat. Lob scouse has no meat. My father, a Birkenhead man born and bred said he much preferred working on the docks with sousers rather than woolies as woolies are a miserable rabble.
Starting from the left of the image is a large shed with great yellow structures to the side. This is the ‘big shed’ in Cammell Lairds. A renowned ship building company that built many ships including the famous Ark Royal. The yellow structures are the bases for wind turbines I am told. These monstrosities have invaded the Mersey bay and destroyed a once famous vista. They are currently applying to build even more money mills and as they are out in the bay the death of migrating birds cannot be recorded. As you move to the right the next large structure is the tower used to extract air from the old Mersey Tunnel, and at the extreme of the land area is New Brighton.
Oh..with reference to bath not having a cathedral…Liverpool has 2 and is twice the city as any other in the UK. It might not be as ‘pretty’ in parts but the people, once you know them, are the best in the country.

September 9, 2013 5:05 am

Hodmedod = snail in Suffolk. An apt name for a vessel that travels at c.3mph.
In Norfolk, a hodmedod is a dodman. Which brings me back to The Norfolk Broads – relics of Roman times (Burgh Castle, Caister) unique water transport (wherries) several local yacht classes (White Boats, Brown Boats, Norfolk Dinghy, Norfolk Punt, River Cruisers – first four are one design dinghies with the Punt having a very low PY rating and the last class being cabin yachts racing on handicap) and a plethora of RAMSAR/Sites of Special Scientific Interest recognised worldwide.
En route to the Broads, Kings Lynn is steeped in history (George Vancouver is remembered) and Holkham beach is a must if the weather permits.

UK Marcus
September 9, 2013 5:06 am

Thanks for your fascinating account and observations of Liverpool. A great city.
How did your ladies enjoy their visit to Harrods?

September 9, 2013 5:55 am

The lake district is poet’s country as well.Wordsworth lived at Dove cottage ,Grasmere.
Wordsworth,Samuel Coleridge Taylor (Rime of the ancient mariner ) and Southey, were known as the Lake Poets.
Hope the rain holds off.

Ed Zuiderwijk
September 9, 2013 6:09 am

You’ll never walk alone in Liverpool.
The Maritime Museum is well worth a visit. The building used to be a warehouse and the floors are supported by massive cast-iron columns, the only material at the time (no concrete!) that could support the load of the goodies. The brick outside is just cladding. Curious detail is that the the buildings were built by French prisoners from the Napoleontic wars, which, as they will tell you, is just about the only thing they were good for (sorry, couldn’t resist it).

John Corrigall
September 9, 2013 6:40 am

The birds, Willis, are the Liver Birds and they flap their wings whenever a virgin goes past. Cogs

Richard Bell
September 9, 2013 7:29 am

A Lake District …..MUST SEE ….. is the “Windermere Steam Boat Museum”….. check it out at ….…….. As an English man living south Orange County California it is wonderful reading your reports and seeing photos of my home country …MANY MANY THANKS …….. Cheers

September 9, 2013 7:29 am

Loved the post as usual. I have but one suggestion. We must forgive the past, never forget it lest we repeat it.
Safe travels,

September 9, 2013 9:01 am

And the Liverpulian “tongue-twister” is “I chased a pup up Upper Parly” (Upper Parliament Street).

Gary Pearse
September 9, 2013 10:22 am

A vicarious journey, recalling my ‘seafaring days’ sailing out of Liverpool (in the rain). Okay, let’s be honest about it. I really am a landlubber who, having gotten hired as a geologist to the Geological Survey of Nigeria, sailed from Liverpool in February 1966 on board the Accra a mail ship of the Elder Dempster Lines to Lagos with a 6-8 stops in between, Azores, and ports all along W. Africa. I had sailed from Halifax ~ 2 years before that to Southampton because air travel was expensive and still took a couple of days (Winnipeg-Montreal-New York, Reykavik and Le Havre was a route recommended).
On the transatlantic crossing I began to be seasick while the ship was still tied up and actually recovered a day later in a wild winter storm at sea. In Europe I wandered, hitchhiked, busked (5-string banjo) zigzagging from England to every country in western Europe except Finland, Portugal and a few principalities, getting married along the way. The start of my trip from Liverpool with wife and three month old son, was of the worst kind. I had an impacted wisdom tooth and was given an oral penicillin course since there was no time for dentistry. I nearly died from an allergic reaction, got myself topped up with anti-histamine and then set off into a horrid storm in the Bay of Biscay. It took ’til arrival in the Azores before I had recovered and the rest of the journey was most enjoyable. Still, I have fond memories of Liverpool in the rain.

Julian in Wales
September 9, 2013 11:59 am

I hope I am not too late to tell you about the Victorian Steam Gondola that makes trips across lake Coniston This boat would be magic for you and your family
Today I went to Bristol to see Brunel’s iran clad steam ship that used to carry emigrates from Britain to Australia in the 1840s. As I left I saw a notice about Bristol celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Bristol Floating Harbour (Never knew about it). After reading your posting I looked it up on the net:
“The tidal range of the rivers in the Bristol Channel is the second greatest of any in the world (the biggest is the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Canada). At Avonmouth the tide can rise and fall as much as 14 metres twice a day and even in Bristol the water level can change as much as 12 metres.
This was both an advantage and a disadvantage for sailing ships. On the plus side, ships could be carried all the way to Bristol on the current before the tide changed. Less helpfully, they would be stranded in the mud when the tide went out. Until the late 1700s, this was not considered too much of a problem, and ships were built that little bit stronger to cope with this.
By the 1760s, however, Bristol was so popular as a destination for cargo ships that it became impossible to accommodate them all. Some ships were beginning to go to other ports like Liverpool where there was more capacity.”
“The river Avon was dammed at Rownham and at the bottom of Totterdown Hill, near Temple Meads, impounding all the water of the Avon and Frome between these points.
A weir at Netham controlled the level of the Harbour water, channelling water along a Feeder Canal and allowing excess to spill back into the tidal river Avon.
A second weir, the Overfall Dam, at Rownham controlled the level at the outward end of the Harbour.
A new half-tidal basin (Cumberland Basin) was constructed with entrance locks from the river and a junction lock into the Harbour. These locks catered for larger vessels.
The New Cut was dug from Rownham to Totterdown, creating a tidal bypass on which smaller vessels could proceed further inland to secondary entrances at Bathurst Basin and Totterdown, bringing them closer to the quays that they wished to visit. This was the idea of the Reverend William Milton, vicar of Temple church.”
I am enjoying following your progress; So far you have not visited any of our Country Houses – Perhaps you should go to Chatsworth which is one of the biggest and most magnificent. I have never been there myself, although they are customers of ours.
Lancaster has an interesting courthouse/castle/Jail which would make a great stop on your way north. After that I cannot suggest much because you are so far out of my territory – so I will be interested to read about your travels. I am sure Monkton will have a lot to recomend

Carl Brannen
September 9, 2013 12:32 pm

That urge to sail to far places strikes me strongest in the spring. This time of year I have no desire whatsoever to leave home.

Mark Harvey aka imarcus
September 9, 2013 12:47 pm

Really enjoying your commentary on our ‘Sceptred Isles’ Fresh eyes indeed, and a ready camera backed up by well honed communication skills — wonderful.
Casting back to the Greenwich Observatory and the 0° meridian — I too have been to Taveuni and the 180° meridian, but if I remember rightly, the International Dateline actually kinks eastward to avoid involving parts of Fiji in the yesterday/today/tomorrow conundrum.
As a qualified archaeologist I totally agree that definitive conclusions about Stonehenge and its ‘religion(s)’ cannot be made from excavated evidence — ONLY inferences! A bit like having the floor plan of Salisbury Cathedral is not going to help with discovering its ritual purpose! Stonehenge on the other hand has too many astronomical associations to be there by chance, and so some astronomic purpose must be highly probable. Still on the astronomics, some exciting new work by Prof Vince Gaffney is suggesting that at sites such as warren Field in Aberdeenshire it is very likely that mesolithic man in those parts (~7,500 BC) had developed an astronomical ‘computer’ to map their way through the hunting and gathering seasons.
Good luck with the rest of the trip — Mark Harvey.

Stephen Skinner
September 9, 2013 12:56 pm

Hi Willis
Perhaps premature but on your way back down the east side is Boston, Lincolnshire. The story is it got its name as a contraction of St Botolph’s town or St. Botolph’s stone.
And from Wikipedia:
“17th and 18th centuries – The staple trade made Boston a centre of intellectual influence from the Continent, including the teachings of John Calvin that became known as Calvinism. This, in turn, revolutionised the Christian beliefs and practices of many Bostonians and residents of the neighbouring shires of England. In 1607 a group of pilgrims from Nottinghamshire led by William Brewster and William Bradford attempted to escape pressure to conform with the teaching of the English church by going to the Netherlands from Boston. At that time unsanctioned emigration was illegal, and they were brought before the court in the Guildhall. Most of the pilgrims were released fairly soon and the following year, set sail for the Netherlands, settling in Leiden. In 1610, several of these were among the group who moved to New England in the Mayflower.”

James at 48
September 9, 2013 1:23 pm

Ay, a Skouser ye be!
Up in the Lake District you could hit Barrow and check out the bird choppers out in the Irish Sea.

September 9, 2013 3:58 pm

Cold Englishman @ 4:24 :
I’m afraid they have polluted the Lake District with some bird chompers. You can see them as you drive up the M6. There are some at Great Orton (near Carlisle too).

September 9, 2013 4:01 pm

I’m thoroughly enjoying your posts Willis. Thank you for the tour of my country! I’m learning things I didn’t know or had forgotten. Annie.

September 9, 2013 11:15 pm

Ahh, the Desiderata.

September 10, 2013 12:16 am

Discussion of hot springs reminded me of the history of Derbyshire, where Anglo-Saxon farmers could get six hay crops a season thanks to the warm water.
Don’t expect English English to be logical. The river is the Derwent (“Durwent”), but the county & its town are Derby (“Darby”), just as “clerk” is pronounced “clark”.
Maybe too late for you to hit Derbyshire, but here’s Sir Tony’s (Baldrick from Blackadder) walk through the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution & much else, such as skyscrapers (delivered with vestiges of his native London accent, ie “f” for “th”):

September 10, 2013 3:37 am

If I had any question about the importance of the ocean to Liverpool, I found out that the middle of those the three big buildings is the “Cunard Building”, home office of the Cunard ocean liners …

Hi Willis,
Those buildings are known collectively as the Three Graces. The one on the right of it is the Port Of Liverpool Authority and the one on the left is of course the Liver Building (ship insurance, among other things), so the importance of the ocean to Liverpool’s history really can’t be overstated. Had both the docks authorities and the unions been a bit less pig-headed and embraced container shipping, the ocean could’ve maintained its level of importance in the present and future…
There’s many tales about the Liver Birds, but the ones I subscribe to are that:
a) They are cormorants (also known as shags…), common to the estuary and mud flats of the river, or at least they were
b) One is facing out to sea to keep an eye on the seamen on behalf of their wives, the other looking inland to perform the reverse function
c) They are chained to the building so that they do not fly away, which would indicate (or be a harbinger of) the downfall of the city
Oh, and if you noticed another building among the Three Graces of a similar style, it is a ventilation shaft for the Queensway Tunnel, so desgined in order to blend in.

M Courtney
September 10, 2013 4:07 am

Mark Harvey aka imarcus says at September 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm

As a qualified archaeologist I totally agree that definitive conclusions about Stonehenge and its ‘religion(s)’ cannot be made from excavated evidence — ONLY inferences! A bit like having the floor plan of Salisbury Cathedral is not going to help with discovering its ritual purpose! Stonehenge on the other hand has too many astronomical associations to be there by chance, and so some astronomic purpose must be highly probable.

But so does Salisbury Cathedral. It’s on a perfect East West alignment.

Julian in Wales
September 10, 2013 5:02 am

Cormorants and shags are different birds, but from the same family and look almost identical. Certainly from a sculpture it would be very hard to tell the difference, shags do not have white throats and do not come inland.

September 10, 2013 5:14 am

My Dad, a keen yachtsman, died just under three years ago and Sea Fever, one of his favourite poems, was read at his funeral by my then 8 year old daughter – which she accomplished beautifully. Reading it always brings a tear to my eye.
Have fun in the Lakes! You have chosen the best time to visit, just after the summer holiday crowds have gone but before the autumn weather closes in. We often spend a family week there in late October (mid-autumn semester holiday for the kids) when the weather can be variable but the autumn colours are fantastic. Lots to see and do, but the real star is the scenery. Big hills rather than mountains – small enough to be climbed up and down safely in a day but big enough to offer great views when you get to the top.

September 10, 2013 5:20 am

Oh, and if you want “old” stuff, check out Hardknott Roman Fort guarding a high road into the Lakes. A magical place and a challenging drive if you go by car!

Radical Rodent
September 10, 2013 10:11 am

Willis, those “Municipal Buildings” are the Three Graces on Pier Head, the Liver (pron. “Lie-ver”) Building, the Cunard Building and, erm, another… Sadly, it is an area that has suffered a massive amount of architectural vandalism – you managed to get a corner of one of the new abominations inflicted upon the site, and the statue of (oh, dear – I’ve forgotten his name, too) on his horse now has a similar blot obscuring his view across the Mersey.
Now, you have to learn the words to “The Leaving of Liverpool” as your travel North – and don’t miss Blackpool Tower Ballroom on the way!

September 11, 2013 8:30 pm

The Masefield poem! It was that very poem that inspired me to choose “the sea” for a high school assignment, to find ten poems on a single topic. I’d assembled nine quickly enough, but dawdled until the deadline, and in desperation, used the lyrics of an old song for the tenth, hoping the teacher wouldn’t notice. Just above the words “By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea, me and you, you and me – Oh, how happy we’ll be!” the teacher wrote “nice Try!”

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