Our last port of call on the UK cruise was Guernsey in the Channel Islands, and we chose the excursion to Sark Island. We had to take a tender from the ship to Peter Port, capital of Guernsey, then a ferry ride to Sark Island. Once there, we walked through the welcome arch and waited for a shuttle pulled by a tractor up a very steep hill, as there are no cars allowed on the island, only tractors and horse-drawn vehicles.
Sark Island has two claims to fame: it’s the only privately owned island in the Channel Islands and it was the first ever Dark Sky Island. In 1565 Helier de Carteret received a grant of the island from Queen Elizabeth I. Prior to that, the island had been a haven for pirates. Carteret recruited forty families to join him, one requirement being that the head of the family had to own a firearm to protect the island from pirates. For centuries, Sark was ruled as a fiefdom, but now has an elected ruling council. Like the other Channel Islands, Sark was occupied by the Germans during World War II and artillery from the period is on display.
After wandering a bit, we took a ride in a horse-drawn carriage to the Seigneurie to tour the lovely formal gardens. Everything seemed to grow in profusion, and the hydrangeas were especially lovely.
Our driver-guide told us a bit about the history of Sark, and also explained that it was the first Dark Sky Island, part of the Dark Sky Preserve. This is typically an island or park which is kept free of artificial light pollution to promote astronomy. I wish we could have spent the night there, as it has been a very long time since I’ve seen a truly starry sky. There is way too much light pollution here in Southern California, not to mention the fog and overcast skies that are typical in a beach area. Apparently, the only one in California is Death Valley National Park. I guess a trip there is called for.
In late afternoon, we made our way back to the ferry and the cruise ship. I’d like to return to the Channel Islands some day and properly see Guernsey and Jersey as well as spending a night on Sark, staring up at the sky.
Can you see the stars where you live?