25 March 2020 at 10:31 GMT – 7°C Mostly Clear – Co. Dublin, Ireland
I stumbled over one of my photographs of the Mourne Mountains and that made me think of Slieve Gullion. Like Krakatoa and Vesuvius and Etna and Fuji, Slieve Gullion stands proud of its landscape though its a few million years older. And it’s often visible from South County Dublin some 90 km away and it less than 600 m high. Under high pressure conditions, not through today’s spring mists. It stands alone from our perspective, our eyes drawn to it in the same manner that drew megalithic people to build passage graves on the summit
I had the same view as my photograph when my age was in single digits. I remember seeing it once from where I grew up, through binoculars we were using to identify birds among the frames of hundreds of new houses being built at the end of our garden. My father joked “It’s a miracle” because the brown smog of Dublin city was between us and the mountains. The view disappeared shortly after that because my parents let the end of the garden grow wild to block our incoming neighbours from watching us in our kitchen and bedrooms.
My walking exploits earned me a gift last year. A book called“The Rule of the Land”by Garett Carr. I read about the Slieve Gullion area this morning. I liked the observation that perhaps the mountain’s greatest distinction is the gravity anomaly that indicates a massive clot beneath. Weird coincidence, as a geophysicist and member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicsts, I read the February edition of the The Leading Edge which had an article on the merging of free-air gravity data between Ireland and Northern Ireland. And I had looked at the Mourne Mountains and Slieve Gulilon in particular because their anomalies straddle the international border, gravity station sampling having been different in Louth and Armagh. Not quite the poetic anomaly described in the book, impressive nonetheless.
Sangars. Watchtowers. Once filled with soldiers with 500 mm lenses looking out from from every hilltop except Slieve Gullion itself. And my view in reverse was taken with 300 mm focal length. A couple of years ago, I acquired a 1000 mm lens made in the Soviet Union in the 1950s for the same purposes. Keeping check. Tally. I’ve since used the lens for extreme photography in unusual places. The protected views of London for example, St Pauls seen from 16 km in Richmond. Or pelicans in St James’ Park from 160 m away at Downing Street.
Talking of unusual, while reading the Rule of the Land I noticed the international border has a salient into Fermanagh from Monaghan. Or was that a salient into Monaghan, to the west of Clones. I don’t know why it happened during the partition. I know I have driven across it. And seeing it in the book reminded me that it also featured in the book “I am the Border, so I am” from Twitter account @BorderIrish. Jean’s Ice Cream shop? Very droll.
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