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The seas roll over but the rocks remain

July 11, 2018

kilkee beach.jpg

After thirty-five years of marriage, I realise that Tom doesn't really share my passion for rocks.

Sure, he had enthusiastically pointed out incredible red formations in Western Australia, and even enjoyed a joy flight over the Purnululu National Park. But perhaps the flight was more interesting than the beehive-shaped domes below that had my nose firmly glued to the plane window. 


I am fascinated by rocks but I don't have to pick them up and take them home with me, like Lucille Ball did in the hilarious 1954 movie, The Long, Long Trailer. For me, rocks are elements to be respected as things of beauty and I take a great interest in the geology of anywhere I happen to be at any given time.


We walk up along the coastal path of the west end of Kilkee, past the protected sandy bay and the mural of Che Guevara. The steep path is worth the heavy breathing as it climbs above the bay, overlooking the flat water. In the distance, across the other side of the bay is Georges Head. They say that the constant beating of the Atlantic ocean is eroding the base of Georges Head. One day, I'm told, the pointy end will fall into the raging ocean below.


Kilkee Beach is a pretty bay; the water is flat and inviting, albeit freezing cold. In the distance, a group of kayakers skirt the far side of the bay. The hot sun glistens off the water, and from my vantage point on the top of the west end cliff, the view is like an idyllic seaside scene from an old painting.

We reach the headland and the scene below is amazing. Like hundreds of mermaids' hair, perfect blonde curls float just below the surface. I peer through the strands, hoping to catch sight of a mermaid playing in the deep water below.


The path continues to point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the horseshoe-shaped Moore Bay at Duggerna Reef. Tom plants himself firmly on a park bench and says he's not going down there, as he points to the reef below. I shrug and descend the stairs, stepping onto the reef, or the Pollock Holes, as it is commonly called. 


The Pollock Holes are four natural rock-enclosed pools, with water that is changed by every tide. This not only brings in fresh water, but replenishes marine life in the hundreds of rock-pools surrounding the larger ones. The reef had been so named as the pollock had been trapped in the pools with each high tide. I later find out that pollock is a type of fish.


I pick my way along the rocky surface, peering into rock-pools for sea urchins. I don't see any today. The day is warm and sunny and the large Pollock Holes are filled with holidaymakers; children and adults alike swimming and fishing in the protected water. I watch people enjoying the sunshine of this hottest summer since 1976. 


The reef itself is approximately 320 million years old, according to geology professor, Andy Pulham, who conducts regular field trips with geology experts from around the world. There are probably plenty of fossils imprinted into the rocks, but I don't have time to look for them today. I make a mental note to return to explore at my own leisure. Ahead of me, I can see the rock's surface is a cream colour, unlike the black rocks near the deep pools. Walking over, I am surprised to see millions of tiny barnacles covering the black rocks, giving them the lighter hue. They sit on the surface of the rock, waiting for the tide to cover them again so they can push out their tentacles to capture food. The tiny crustaceans are actually stuck to the rock by their foreheads, which means their bums are facing the sun. 


Slime-coloured seaweed, dries nearby, whilst rockpools are filled with a variety of seaweed varieties. I cannot resist standing on a bunch of bladder-shaped pods, which pop loudly under my feet like bubble wrap.

The reef is filled with a rich variety of marine flora and fauna and as I return to the bench, where Tom is still patiently sitting, I recognise that this just a small part of a larger rocky coastal environment, which is both unique and accessible. I look forward to exploring the cliffs further during my visit.

Tom and I walk up to the cafe sitting on the head, just above the Pollock Holes. Overlooking the reef is a statue of Richard Harris, the actor, champion racquetball player, and singer of Jimmy Webb's MacArthur Park. 


Over coffee, I reflect on the time I spent walking on the rocks below and although I may be too old to embark on full-time study in geology, it is certainly nice to be able to appreciate these ancient rock pools and the life they sustain. 

Title Quote: AP Herbert

Accommodation: Castle View B&B, Lahinch, Co Clare.

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