- First reported unattended dogs of the season! A lady called into the watch to report two lone dogs running around, near the watch, in Folly Cove. No owner was visible so our watchkeeper reported the situation to Falmouth Coastguard. No doubt, someone will be in the doghouse……
- Seemingly, ‘tis the season for testing your Automatic Identification System (AIS) distress beacons! Recently, our watchkeepers have experienced several AIS distress alerts popping-up on their AIS screen. Naturally, whenever these occur, they immediately contact Falmouth Coastguard, who then radio the vessel in question. To-date all these alerts have resulted in the vessel replying that they were just testing their distress beacons and thank you for confirming that they were working! Testing emergency beacons is always a good idea but, maybe, a quick ‘heads-up’ to the local Coastguard, first....
- Just before lunchtime, a frantic knocking on the station’s front-door heralded the start of a major rescue operation involving most of our local SAR services. A climber reported that one of his companions had fallen approximately 5 metres onto a ledge whilst attempting a route on the nearby Carn Barra cliff. She was understood to be conscious and “complaining of back pain” and was believed to have sustained lower back and hip injuries. An additional cause for concern was that there was thought to be a 30-metre drop below the ledge onto which she had fallen on! Our watchkeeper immediately contacted Falmouth Coastguard and a full-scale rescue operation swung into action.
Coastguard cliff-rescue teams from Penzance and Land’s End, the South West Ambulance Service, both Sennen Cove RNLI lifeboats and the Newquay-based Coastguard search and rescue helicopter (“Rescue 924”) were all tasked to attend the scene for what proved to be a complex and highly technical rescue operation. Coastguard Rope Rescue Technicians climbed down to the casualty’s location to assess her condition and to provide immediate first aid, whilst Rescue 924 lowered a Paramedic Winchman to help prepare her for evacuation. After the casualty had been stabilised and put into a helicopter stretcher (not a quick or simple job given her location and the potential seriousness of her injuries), with both lifeboats providing safety cover, she and the Winchman were then winched up to Rescue 924 which immediately departed for hospital. Falmouth then stood all teams down and, after collecting up all their gear, everyone returned to their respective stations for, no doubt, a well-earned cup of tea.
I’m told that there is excellent climbing on our local cliffs. However, please take care and remember that these rocks are exposed to the full-blast of our local weather. Strong wind gusts are common and can (and do!) occur unexpectedly. Moreover, even granite can suffer under the attentions of wind and rain so that handhold might not be quite as secure as you expect it to be! Lastly, as you will notice, the cliffs are also home to large numbers of seabirds and even the mildest gull can get a bit tetchy if a climber tries to share it's nest....
- Following an incident where a local trawler had to cut away its gear after a tanker came within 30 metres (a significant expense which no skipper would care to incur), our watchkeeper monitored an ‘intense’ complaint between the trawler skipper and Falmouth Coastguard (FCG). The skipper stated that there had been prior no radio contact from the tanker and that a warn-off to the tanker on VHF Channel 16 (the standard VHF radio Distress, Safety and Calling channel) had met with no response. Because we maintain a local VHF radio listening watch, our watchkeeper was then able to contact FCG and state that, although they heard the tanker call the trawler several times before the incident (with no response), the calls all appeared to be made on VHF channel 0. This is a private channel, specifically designated for use by UK Search and Rescue organisations, and certainly not one that a trawler would be expected to monitor. Whilst our watchkeeper hadn’t heard the trawler transmit the channel 16 warn-off, FCG confirmed that they did hear this. Thus, it would appear that the incident was caused, at least in part, by the tanker using an incorrect radio channel for ship-to-ship communications…one assumes that the tanker owners will shortly be receiving a significant bill!
- In a rough sea, with driving rain and gusting force 7/8 winds (honestly, not typical for Cornwall in the Spring!), a yacht in close vicinity to Gwennap Head, unable to make any headway, made a distress call to Falmouth Coastguard. Our watchkeeper, who had a visual on the yacht, contacted Falmouth to provide them with updated information on the situation, including details of logged vessels in the area which might be able to render immediate assistance. Falmouth then tasked the Sennen Cove all-weather lifeboat “City of London III” and the Coastguard rescue helicopter to the scene, whilst our watchkeeper monitored the situation and provided updates, as necessary. The lifeboat then escorted the yacht to safety in Newlyn harbour, and our watchkeeper and the helicopter were stood down. By maintaining a log of all vessels in our sector (especially those without AIS transponders), our watchkeepers are always able to provide rescue services with the details of any nearby vessel which might be able to render aid to a casualty should the situation demand it.
- Being on a very exposed headland, our watchkeepers are no strangers to the extremes of weather. Nevertheless, on the first day of spring, with a clear-blue morning sky, it was still quite a surprise for our duty watchkeeper (along with most of the UK) to receive a visit from ‘The Beast’….no, not the one from Bodmin but a howling blizzard from the Russian steppes! Whilst snow is, obviously, very common in the rest of the country (albeit, maybe not quite as late), down here in the far West of Cornwall, it is almost unheard of. In fact, my colleagues tell me that the last time we had any significant snowfall was around 30 years ago! Be that as it may, within a very short space of time, temperatures were well below zero and the local roads were becoming treacherous. Since there was a real danger of becoming stranded in the watch, our watchkeeper instituted the emergency procedure, closed the watch and attempted to get back home to a nice warm fire. Unfortunately, even in that short space of time, the road up the hill from Porthgwarra Cove had become impassable and our poor watchkeeper was forced to abandon his car and walk through the snowstorm to a [fairly!] nearby farm, where they took pity and offered him shelter, warmth and a cup of tea. Since the snow was still falling heavily a couple of hours later, they then – very kindly – drove him home in one of their four-wheel drive farm vehicles….where he discovered that the rest of Cornwall (not to say most of the rest of UK) was also in chaos. Any prospective watchkeepers will be relieved to know that a repeat of this most unusual (to put it mildly) occurrence is not expected for another 30 years
The storms which hit Cornwall during the first week of the new year brought gusts of up to 97 mph (see below) and big waves causing flooding, damage to harbour walls, cliff falls and travel disruption. However, the stormy weather also caused problems for Cornish wildlife, with dozens of seal pups found injured along Cornwall's coastline after being battered by the atrocious weather.
A passer-by reported to our watchkeeper that a seal pup was lying on the slipway of Porthgwarra Cove and ‘looked poorly’. In this case, the passer-by had done the correct thing and not tried to approach or interfere with the pup. Instead, our watchkeeper was able to contact British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) hotline and report the stranding.
BDMLR is an organisation dedicated to the rescue and well-being of all marine animals in distress around the UK. They are a voluntary network of trained marine mammal medics who respond to call outs from the general public, HM Coastguard, Police, RSPCA and SSPCA and are the only marine animal rescue organisation operating across England, Wales and Scotland. If you find a live stranded marine mammal, BDMLR should be contacted on their hotline (01825 765546 - Office Hours; 07787 433412 - Out of Hours) with the relevant information and they will then advise you on what to do, and will get a trained medic out as soon as possible
The New Year started 'excitingly' with visits from several big storms. Not too unusual for winter in Cornwall but Storm Eleanor has to get a special mention after our weather station registered a gust of 97mph when the storm hit, at 3am. Things had calmed down a bit by the time our watchkeeper went on duty at 7.30am; the wind speed had reduced to a mere 90mph....