National Geographic : 1964 Jun
As we looked down on the scene, it was easy to imagine the ships of the Phoenicians coming racing in from the sea, high-prowed and graceful, with the distinctive horse's head atop their high stemposts. Sun-tanned power ful Semitic seamen in long cloaks would be lowering the cedar mast and linen sail and manning the long oars which were their aux iliary power. In they come around the islands, oars flash ing, drums and oboes keeping time. Close in, they drop their stone anchors, and warp with fiber and leather lines as close as they can get. Or the incoming mariners may be Celtic Bretons, cousins of the Cornish, sharing the same language and the same beliefs, sailing in aboard their sturdy plank-built ships of oak, with iron chains and leather sails. I see in my Crabs imagination the sun touch that wind-filled leather to a golden brown, hear the strange sound of chains clanking and rattling as strong Breton mariners clear their anchors and get the sails ready to come down on the run. What a sight it must have been when such a fleet came in! We have scant knowledge of Phoe nician ships, but Julius Caesar has left a description of the Bretons'. He fought a pitched battle with a fleet of them back in 56 B.C., when they nearly defeated him. He noted their flat hulls for beaching-a use ful quality off Marazion and St. Michael's Mount-their up right bows and sterns "suited to the great size of the stormy seas." They were built solidly of oak and had "beams a foot deep fas tened by iron nails as thick as a thumb." From their beehive huts by Marazion the Britons pour, shouting to friends. Others come skimming in their coracles to offer fresh-caught fish. On the shore, Cornish ponies wait, lad en with the precious tin. The visitors look up in awe at the slate and granite pile of St. Michael's Mount, fabulous abode of giants and strange spirits, center of legend and mystery. They hurry with the loading. What a place for memories! 895 Lord St. Levan's voice broke into my pleas ant reverie. "Lookouts standing up here saw the Spanish Armada sail by in 1588," he said. "Queen Elizabeth's men, a few years later, watched other Spanish ships that did not sail harmlessly by. The Spaniards landed and burned several villages. But they did not at tack the Mount." I looked at some cannon lined up there. They were last fired in anger in 1812. Some accounts say this was at pirates. But some say they were fired at a privateer trying to take a merchantman. I thought of the Pirates of Penzance, those cheerful imaginary figures of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera-imaginary indeed! The area lowered into Mount's Bay stay alive for market.