Showing posts from April, 2022

The Albatross

Yesterday I made an impulse trip to Bempton Cliffs on the Yorkshire coast, hoping to see the lone albatross who arrived here in March this year (2022). An albatross in the northern hemisphere is a great rarity. I photographed puffins, razorbills, guillemots, gannets, kittiwakes and fulmars while I waited for "Albie" to show. Hands were becoming frozen in the icy wind at the cliff edge. And then he appeared from below the cliff, flying circuits over the elephant rock at Staple Newk. Vast long narrow black-topped wings, effortless movement, sweeping above the gannets on the rock and the flying kittiwakes below. I'm looking down from the top of the cliff. There's a kittiwake down below. The wingspan reaches about 2.4 m. The size is particularly impressive on a close fly by. Flying over the massed gannets on Elephant Rock at Staple Newk. Effortless flight. Banking above the kittiwakes. This morning, at breakfast, I suddenly remembered Bruce Chatwin's short story about

A Distinctive 19th century Fang Knife from Gabon and the Journeys of Mary Kingsley and Oskar Lenz

Mary Henrietta Kingsley (1897) recorded her experiences during a journey to Gabon in 1895, travelling as a trader and collecting freshwater fish for the British Museum. She admired the Fang peoples she met and travelled with (she refers to them as Fans), describing them as " full of fire, temper, intelligence and go ." She also admired the quality of their iron work (page 323). " The iron-work of the Fans deserves especial notice for its excellence. The anvil is a big piece of iron which is embedded firmly in the ground. ... The hammers are solid cones of iron, the upper part of the cones prolonged so as to give a good grip, and the blows are given directly downwards, like the blows of a pestle.   The bellows are of the usual African type, cut out of one piece of solid but soft wood ; at the upper end of these bellows there are two chambers hollowed out in the wood and then covered with the skin of some animal, from which the hair has been removed. " She had a go w