Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Moonraker cliffs

A walk under the cliffs showed a new fall of chalk, with a width of about 30 metres falling onto the beach and into the sea.

I scrambled over the soft boulders looking for fossils, and found a few, like this shell compressed by the surrounding rock.
These cliffs are made of the microscopic bodies of plankton, which died and sank to the bottom of the shallow warm seas between 100 - 60m years ago. So a piece of chalk from the cliff top may be 30m years older than a similar piece at the bottom.
These pebbles would have been surrounded by the plankton bodies, only to see the light again this month.
The layer of chalk was, of course, originally horizontal, but was folded by continental movements over the past 30m years, and exposed by weathering and the break-through of the English Channel between 450,000 and 180,000 years ago.

Flints in the chalk are formed from silica and something to do with sponges, but no matter how often I read how this worked I don't understand it.
Back to more simple things..........(you may see the connection in a minute)....

In Moonraker, nearby Kingsdown is home to Sir Hugo Drax's rocket research establishment, which is sandwiched on the edge of the towering cliffs between Dover and Deal.

Bond did a racing change and swung the big car left at the Charing Fork, preferring the clear road by Chilham and Canterbury.

There was a signpost that said Kingsdown, and the lights of a small inn.
He pulled up and switched off the engine. Above his head a sign which said 'World Without Want" in faded gold lettering groaned in the salt breeze that came over the cliffs half a mile away.......

It was a wonderful afternoon of blue and green and gold. When they left the concrete apron through the guard-gate near the empty firing-point, now connected by a thick cable with the launching site, they stopped for a moment on the edge of the great chalk cliff and stood gazing over the whole corner of England where Caesar had first landed two thousand years before.

To their left the carpet of green turf, bright with small wildflowers, sloped gradually down to the long pebble beaches of Walmer and Deal, which curved off towards Sandwich and the Bay. Beyond, the cliffs of Margate [sic], showing white through the distant haze that hid the North Foreland, guarded the grey scar of Manston aerodrome above which American Thunderjets wrote their white scribbles in the sky. Then came the Isle of Thanet and, out of sight, the mouth of the Thames.

It was low tide and the Goodwins were golden and tender in the sparkling blue of the Straits with only the smattering of masts and spars that stretched along their length to tell the true story. The white lettering on the South Goodwins Lightship was easy to read and even the name of her sister ship to the north showed white against the red of her hull.

They scrambled down a steep cliff-path to the beach and turned to the right beside the deserted small-arms range of the Royal Marine Garrison at Deal. They walked along in silence until they came to the two-mile stretch of shingle that runs at low tide beneath the towering white cliffs to St Margaret's Bay.......

Ever since they had lain down on the sand [!] up against the cliff, while his thoughts had been of Gala, his eyes had been carelessly watching two gulls playing around a wisp of straw that was the edge of their nest on a small ledge about ten feet below the distant top of the cliff. They would crane and bow in their love-play, with only their heads visible to Bond against the dazzling white of the chalk, and then the male would soar out and away and at once back to the ledge to take up his lovemaking again.

Bond was dreamily watching them as he listened to the girl, when suddenly both gulls dashed away from the ledge with a single shrill scream of fear. At the same moment there was a puff of black smoke and a soft boom from the top of the cliff and a great section of the white chalk directly above Bond and Gala seemed to sway outwards, zigzag cracks snaking down its face.

Down to the beginning of the rocks, now lapped by the incoming tide, sprawled the debris of the cliff face, an avalanche of chalk blocks and shapes. The white dust of its collapse covered nearly an acre.
Above it a jagged rent had appeared in the cliff and a wedge of blue sky had been bitten out of the distant top where before the line of the horizon had been almost straight. There were no longer any seabirds near them and Bond guessed that the smell of disaster would keep them away from the place for days.

The nearness of their bodies to the cliff was what had saved them, that and the slight protection of the overhang below which the sea had bitten into the base of the cliff. They had been buried by the deluge of smaller stuff.
He made some incredible escapes from tight situations, but that really is stretching belief - but hey, he does tell a tale well!


Sandpiper said...

What an interest post! This is a place I would enjoy seeing!

brucesc said...

I never knew how the wonderful cliffs were formed before--so interesting! I liked the Bond bit too. You made me have to get the atlas to see exactly where Kingsdown is. Kent is farther east than I remembered and we didn't go there unfortunately. Kingsdown doesn't show--it's good to live in a place that's too small to show! What's the nearest bigger place?

Kingsdowner said...

Thanks for the comments, Bruce (South Carolina)......Kingsdown is at the eastern end of the White Cliffs of Dover between Dover and Walmer. There'll be bluebirds here one day, or at least a bluethroat hopefully.

Lin, you'd be more than welcome!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kingsdowner. There is a Harris Hawk alive and well and living in Ringwould. I spotted it yesterday(29 March) in one of our ash trees. I called in help in case it needed to be rescued, it chose not to come down, and had in fact killed a rabbit.I was assured it would be well able to fend for himself(it is a young male) so he can enjoy the rest of his life in freedom. Good result. Flyntdowner

Mary said...

I like this post...great pics and story. I was going to get my husband to comment, since he is the James Bond reader of the family :-)

Kingsdowner said...

Hi Flyntdowner,
Thanks for the info. I look forward to seeing the HH again (suitably attended by noisy, gulls, crows etc).

The Bond books are often better than the films, and Moonraker is a case in point.