A glacier is more than ice; not alive, it crawls; not feeling, it groans, cackles, shouts; passive, it is dangerous to approach closely backed as it is by the southern ice field, over a mile high. The ship nudged as close as a half mile from the massed ice, navigating using the bow thrusters to face first port, then starboard and back to port. I was lucky enough to be on the 11th deck, pictured above, when we caught sigh of the fast ship’s launch, manned by ship’s crew.
The crew prepared for a run to the rock face, almost 100 feet high, beneath 500 feet of glacier. Enjoy the views! Click any photograph to visit my online gallery. Purchase a photograph from this newly published series or any of my other popular works.
Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
The Gulf of Penas is a sunken bowl of the western side of the southern Andes. Instead of canyons and valleys, fjords surrounded by craggy peaks are the rule. Sailing ships, driven by storms of the western Pacific, found ways through the fjords all the way to the straits of Magellan. This was our route as we entered the Messier Channel, a route discovered in the earliest years of colonial exploration.
Looking back the way we came…..
At the mouth of the channel, Zealous and Sombrero are neighboring, and isolated hills. Surrounded by water, they are also islands. Zealous is just under 2,000 feet. Sombrero, at 200 feet, is prominent only for its position and shape.
Here we are crowded by headlands, points, islands all rising steeply from the water.
Here I have views of these islands with craggy peninsulas in the distance. The view is to the northeast and east.
Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved
In English the Gulf of Penas means “Gulf of Distress.” Open to the storms of the western pacific ocean, ships seeking refuge sail this body of water to reach the shelter of the bays around the entrance of the Messier Channel.
Stargazing Chileans named the channel after Charles Messier (1730 – 1870), author of a catalog of 110 visually diffuse celestial objects such as the Great Cluster of Hercules, the Crab Nebula of Taurus, the Ring Nebula of Lyra. As Messier catalog objects these are listed on star charts as M13,M1,M57.
The Larenas and Fresia peninsulas of Aisen Province, Chile, on the southeastern shores of the gulf are seen here as we approach the Messier Channel. The shore is dotted with islets and islands. The Chilean pilot who came aboard at Puerto Chacobuco is earning his salary, keeping us safe. To reach the channel we pass through Tarn Bay, generally north to south. The southern margin of the bay is marked by Sombrero Island, the subject of my next blog.
To close our time on the Tain Way I offer a poem written and presented to the congregation of the First Unitarian church of Ithaca New York 25 years ago, 1992. Interspersed are final photographs from our walk on the Tain Way of 2014.
The poem content is not directly biographical / confessional although it draws upon my experience as a single parent in the 1980’s through 1990’s.
A Poem Read To The Congregation
a crisis threatened an Irish village men women children filled the meeting place everyone participated especially the infants
raising John alone was not part of the plan Its been just john and me helen gave birth to john to have a part of me in case of loss i felt the same way and she understood
a welcome feminine voice in our home “Little House on the Prairie” and “Little House in the Big Woods” twice.
Here is an excerpt from a newspaper article by Wilder called “HOME” that has an emotional resonance for me dated 1923 Wilder was in her 50’s.
Out in the meadow, I picked a wild sunflower, and as I looked into its golden heart, such a wave of homesickness came over me that I almost wept. I wanted Mother, with her gentle voice and quiet firmness; I longed to hear Father’s jolly songs and to see his twinkling blue eyes; I was lonesome for the sister with whom I used to play in the meadow picking daisies and wild sunflowers.
Across the years, the old home and its love called to me, and memories of sweet words of counsel came flooding back. I realize that’s all my life the teaching of these early days have influenced me, and the example set by Father and Mother has been something I have tried to follow, with failure here and there, with rebellion at times; but always coming back to it as the compass needle to the star.
So much depends upon the homemakers. I sometimes wonder if they are so busy now with other things that they are forgetting the importance of this special work. Especially did I wonder when reading recently that there was a great many child suicides in the United States during the last year. Not long ago we had never heard of such a thing in our own country, and I am sure there must be something wrong with the home of a child who commits suicide.
we give so much to our children what’s left over though is ours
Rocks such as this are a favorite perch for leprechauns to rest and contemplate the works of man who have invaded their world. Inhabitants of Carlingford who wander Slieve Foye have come upon them often enough, their stories and certitude in the existence of the Little People are resistant to manifold doubters with their reasons and arguments.
Kevin Woods, aka McCoillte, was a doubter until worked on a stone wall on property he owned on Ghan Road, Carlingford. His belief did not arise on the discovery of the leather purse, covered with ages of dust and lime, nor with the gold coins inside. McCoillte pocketed the coins for luck. As luck would have it, McCoillte loved to walk on Slieve Foye. It was on one such walk he and his dog encountered Little People who paralyzed them to escape. His unexplained absence led to troubles with the wife.
This experience brought McCoillte around to enough of a belief that he, with lots of help, succeeded in petitioning the E.U. European Habitats directive to recognize leprechauns a protected species. According to a page on the Celtic Times web site, “The E.U. sent Madame Isobel Jeanne from Fecamp in Brittany France to Carlingford with the official letter declaring Carlingford Mountain (Note: otherwise known as Slieve Foye) protected, on the grounds that they could not prove or disprove their existence.” The page is titled “The Carlingford Leprechaun.” Google “Last Leprechauns” learn more about McCoillte’s stories.
I came upon this rock on June 9, 2014 on a day my cousin Sean Mills invited us to walk the Tain Way over Slieve Foye. It was such a finely shaped piece of what I suppose to be granite, the view of Carlingford, the lough and farmland so compelling, I spent time composing this landscape.
You can make out “King John’s Castle” just over the ridge and its yellow flowering gorse, on the margin of the blue lough. It is the boxy, grey structure; crenellations are visible on high resolution versions of the image. Carlingford is known for the castle, the popular name is for the English monarch who spent time there, although it was built by another.
We did not climb so much as ascend, with effort, the flank of Slieve Foy, a peak of the Cooley Mountains, County Louth, Ireland. The group being cousin Sean, my wife, Pam, and myself.
The ridge of Golyin Pass loomed in the mist where the path dissolved in low cloud. Sean pointed above, to the right to Barnavave, also know as Maeve’s Gap for the queen who came from the west of Ireland to take Donn Cúailnge, the Brown Bull of Cooley, by force of arms with an army behind her.
When cousin Sean named Cú Chulainn, the champion of Maeve’s opponents, the Ulstermen, he recalled a story once lost, Táin Bó Cúailnge. A hospitable siege different from Maeve’s and mist are part of the story of the recovery of this tale.
A gathering of 150 poets, 100 pupils, and attendants strained the patience and wealth of Guaire Aidne mac Colmáin, King of Connacht, when it extended to a year and four months.
On that 16th month, the king challenged the leader of his guests to the telling of a tale. Guaire demanded Seanchan Torpest, the chief poet of Connacht, to recite the whole of Táin Bó Cúailnge, known in English as the Cattle Raid of Cooley or The Táin (Cattle Raid).
Click a gallery pic for a larger view.
In this way the king was relieved of his guests: the book of the Táin was lost before their lifetimes, rumored to be abroad. Abashed at his failure, Seanchan Torpest withdrew. Fellow poets and followers trailed out from the castle.
Seanchan Torpest regrouped the host (an opened question is who then supported them) in conference to construct Táin Bó Cúailnge. It was a false hope as the gathering discovered while each poet knew a part of the whole, most of the story was lost. His honor, reputation and self-esteem in tatters the Chief Poet of Connacht, set off with Murgen, his son, and second cousin Eimena to return the Táin to Ireland.
Into mists such as those Pam, Sean and I ascended, the travelers soon were lost and separated.
Magically, Murgen finds the grave of the Uncle of Cú Chulainn in the mists, there to meet the shade of that enormous man, Fergus mac Róich is his name. In the Táin, as related in whole by Fergus to Murgen, Fergus was led by circumstances to ally with Maeve, to guide her army against the Ulstermen. As a deposed king, traitor to Ulster and Uncle to the champion Cú Chulainn, Fergus knew the tale entire.
It was from the mists that Murgen emerged, found his father and cousin, and returned together without the book, but with possession of the substance of the Táin.
On Monday, June 9, 2014, cousin John Mills dropped his son, Sean Mills, myself and Pam Wills off at the foot of the western slopes of Slieve Foy on the Tain Way. Sean, Pam and I walked the way over the mountain and into Carlingford in the footsteps of epic Irish heroes.
Our guide, Sean Mills, proposed the walk and it fell on our last full day in Ireland. Sean’s father and our host for this visit, John Mills, transported the group including my wife Pam to the starting point at the foot of Slieve Foy.
Yes, if there is any part of the Tain Way the the mythic Irish heroes trod it is this one over Slieve Foy mountain. The saga, in Irish “Táin Bó Cúailnge” and “The Cattle Raid of Cooley” in English, features this bull, “Donn Cuailnge” “The Brown Bull of Cooley”, here as a statue erected 2011 by the Grange and District Residents Association.
Donn Cuailnge raged over the very slopes we walked this day. The myths themselves fill a volume and I am unable to do them justice here.
On the way, John stopped at the Old Aghameen School he attended in the late 1930’s early 1940’s 70 years before and we pass through the country soon to grace our views.
Many thanks to the Glenmore Athletic Club, the Cooley Walking Forum and land owners who provide access to the Tain Way.
We had our leave taking with John, who planned to stay near the phone for our call from Carlingford, if all went according to plan. That same year Pam had the first of two total knee replacements. This was our longest hike in Ireland and Pam was not likely to miss it, regardless of any pain. Pam is always ready to smile.
At start, the Tain Way is broad, green and welcoming.
The western slopes of Slieve Foy hold views of a valley among the Cooley Mountains with Dundalk Bay of the Irish Sea to the south / southeast. It was not long before the view started to open and, then, opened and opened the entire walk to the top. We were graced with a lovely, cloudy, June day. Mist only, no rain. Plenty of wind, not strong.
Farms are all about. Here a farmer attends to the flock. They know who he is.
The lower slopes hold many small stream among granite stones.
I will continue with our walk on the Tain Way soon enough.
I offer here a continuation of descriptions of a 2014 walk on the Tain Way, an appreciation of the lore and beauty of Ireland.
Descending the Tain Way from the ridge of Golyin Pass the sweep of Cooley Peninsula spread before us. Louth is the smallest of the Irish Republic counties, a peninsula which is mountainous where it is not farmland, one exception being Carlingford with the most people, population 1,405 in 2016.
Residential Carlingford continues along the Greenore Road, farmland adjoins then continues southeast along the Cooley Peninsula margin, the Irish Sea beyond. Greenore Town and deep water port on upper left. These photographs are views from the Tain Way on the slopes of Slieve Foye, the highest mountain of County Louth.
Wander through the place names: Chapel Hill, Liberties of Carlingford, Moneymore, Leminageh, Crossalaney, Mullatee, Millgrange, Ramparts, Muchgrange, Ballyamony, Mullabane, Petestown, Ballagane, Willville, Whites Town.
There is a deepwater port on Carlingford Lough adjacent to and part of Greenore Town. The port employed Cousin John Mills years ago, supplementing his farm income. Across the lough is Greenecastle, Newry in Northern Ireland.
The Irish Sea opens on the far side of Greenore with the Isle of Man about 52 miles east and a little north.