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two places which beat Boreray in immediate spectacular quality—the
Grand Canyon and the Virunga volcanoes in the Western African
We sailed there in the afternoon. Landing is nowhere easy,
but least difficult on the rocks at the foot of a steep grass slope. I
measured the angle of slope on the six-inch map and found it exactly
45°— I in -\/2. To those who climb it on a hoi June day it looks and
feels like 60°. It is honeycombed with puffin burrows; we estimated
that over 50,000 puffins were nesting in it. Some members of Lord
Dumfries's party on Hirta had come with us to try to secure fresh meat
in the shape of the sheep which run wild on Boreray. At the sound of
a rifle-shot all the puffins flew out: they looked like a swarm of flies as
they circled back from sea.
To the left the grass slope is bounded by a sheer rock wall about
800 feet high, plastered with gannets on every ledge. One of our
party stayed to count them: his estimate was slightly over 4000
The steep grass continues on and on at the same angle for 1200 feet.
At its top is a range of pinnacles that might have been designed by
Dore*; and the other side of the island is a sheer rock face, crowded
with sea-birds. One of our party was a great enthusiast for Foula:
but he admitted that Foula was beaten by Boreray,
Getting aboard again was complicated by the problem of the sheep
that had been shot and gralloched. With considerable labour it was
brought down a thousand feet to the edge of the rocks: but then
what? The old boatman shouted up to throw it in: the land-party
averred it would sink. After much argument it was pushed off, and
rolled, flailing its limbs, precipitously into the sea. It floated, and
was safely hauled in over the dinghy's stern.
We cruised home under the western face. From below, the fantastic
quality of the cliff was still more apparent, and the two stacks came
into their own. You tend to discount the cliff scenery of St. Kilda
until a near view or a special angle obtrudes its super-normal scale
upon you and forces you to readjust your ideas. These two stacks,
from the top of Hirta or to the approaching yacht, seemed just a
pair of unusually fine rocks. As we rounded the southern point, we
realized that we were confronted with dimensions new to our ex-
perience. A glance at the chart showed us that this was indeed
true. The lower of the two, Stac Lee, is 544 feet high—30 feet
higher than the top of Beachy Head. The other, Stac an Armin,
rises to well over 600 feet, but has not quite the same grandeur
of form.