National Geographic : 1935 Jan
ENGLAND'S SUN TRAP ISLE OF WIGHT Photograph by W. Robert Moore THE FLOATING BRIDGE COMES IN The ferry shuttles between Cowes and East Cowes over the leisurely Medina. Smaller vessels still ply the river to Newport, which might better be called "Oldport" in memory of the time when its inland location, like that of Brading (see text, page 26), was a protection against sea raids. Horses and bicycles are still more frequent in Island traffic than automobiles High Street, and this time it was pitch dark. Like a mirage against the black of water and sky was a huge, luminous transatlantic liner; silent, its outline dim and eerie, but all its deck lights and bright portholes gleaming like myriad lanterns in a fairy palace. By night or day all the big ships that put in at Southampton must pass the deeper channel within half a mile of Cowes (see illustration, page 3). The parapet of the Esplanade seems built as an elbow support to keep sea-gazers from tumbling into the water. All the houses on the gallerylike hillside of the town have enormous plate glass windows turned toward the sea. As a place to watch the world go by in ships, Cowes is an unsurpassed marine grandstand. EAST COWES IS NAUTICAL Across the Floating Bridge, East Cowes takes on the industries which Cowes proper, and consciously prim, seems to spurn. There is a ship-building yard which supplies life boats for steamers and for beach guards from Scarborough south to The Island's own week-end "tripper" resort, Ventnor, and there is an aircraft factory which builds amphibian planes. Every other store on the precarious hill side streets is a reminder of The Island's intense preoccupation with the sea, offering paraphernalia ranging from oyster tongs to hawsers, and there are many shops that make shiny marine engineering parts. It is not only the yachtsman whose mecca is Cowes. The owners of more modest sail ing boats and small pleasure craft of all kinds find the numerous creeks and estu aries of The Island's northern shores fine havens for their sport. "I was brought up in the Isle of Wight," wrote the famous Dr. Thomas Arnold of Rugby, "brought up amidst the bustle of soldiers, and from childhood familiar with boats, ships, and the flags of half Europe, which gave me an instructive acquaintance with geography." In a side street of East Cowes is the "shell house" where an ingenious citizen has spent his years in devising shell designs for walks, fences, flower beds, and mosaics ii.