To the east of our course, Graham Island, known also as Isola Ferdinandea, was a volcanic island that magically arose from the Mediterranean depths, just off Sicily’s SW coast during 1831’s well-documented submarine volcanic eruption. Its sudden and unexpected appearance created something of a Klondike gold-rush as every country within the proverbial spitting-distance, sought to pitch their flag and claim title.
The monarch of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, immediately claimed sovereignty of the outcrop, which he wisely named after the King Ferdinand II, hence Isola Ferdinandea. Furthermore, the French Navy, along with the country’s most famous geologist, Constant Prevost, who was keen to get in on the act, named the island Île Julia since it appeared during the month of July.
Not wishing to miss out on such a territorial hot-spot, our very own Royal Navy Captain Humphrey Fleming Senhouse claimed the Island for the British Crown on the 1st August. He planted the Union Jack and named it after Sir James Graham, the First Lord of the Admiralty. Even without social media and Twitter taking sides it was about to get understandably very messy.
Arriving a little too late to the party didn’t prevent Spain, who recognised the island’s key strategic position, from also declaring its territorial ambitions and both battle-lines and political argument were now drawn.
Realising the furore it had caused, the island itself was having none of it and, as quickly as she had arrived, she subsequently vanished back beneath the waves. Here today, gone tomorrow could have been coined by its appearance and disappearance! Formed of unconsolidated and fragile material, the island was washed away by the unrelenting waves of the Mediterranean Sea.
The dispute remains?
The underwater volcano, Empedocles, which gave birth to the ephemeral Graham Island, or Isola Ferdinandea, or Ile Julia, dependent upon your flag, has recently shown signs of increased activity (2000 and 2002), prompting The Times to publish a short pointed article under the headline “British Isle rises off Sicily Coast”. Intentionally provocative it succeeded in reigniting the tri-partite state of affairs and the war of words resumed in earnest. Thankfully however, as of 2019 the shy and retiring volcano remains a relatively safe 6m (20ft) below sea level and is shown on my chart as ‘Graham Shoal’.
Tom, apart from being a conventional teacher, is also an ‘outward bound’ instructor so I guess it is no surprise that he took to the knot tying disciplines like a ‘duck to water’ which is more than can be said of his father who appears to suffer from ‘knot dyslexia’.
Carl was far too engrossed in the Jack Reacher book which has been consuming his time and attention all passage. Not surprisingly the heavyweight political tomes that he was clutching on his arrival in Malta remain untouched!
Ahoy there Shipmates! Our final night-time crossing has now been put to bed and, thankfully, it proved to be a wholly uneventful affair for all three of us. A placid sea, little or no wind and an almost full-moon all played their roles with aplomb.
Hand-on-heart, nothing really happened yesterday other than the dispatching of a great number of nautical miles and neither my actions nor thoughts amounted to much. They certainly don’t warrant any further explanation that’s for sure.
Sardinia’s Villasimius is our next berth and it’s, allegedly, an exclusive resort where both the hoi-poloi and ‘beautiful people’ of Europe now decamp to. Three unwashed, unshaven, uncouth salty-sea dogs turning-up on their catwalk promenade demanding ‘a sh*t, shower and shave’, will certainly put that assumption to the test.
Wee Tom writes:-
After another baffling wild-goose-chase with Tunisian officials, that saw me follow them unrelentingly all the way back the police-station so that I could keep my beady eye on our passports – we cruised off back into the Med’s cool blue waters.
What a difference 48 hours can make! After what could be put diplomatically as my ‘unravelling’ en-route to Tunisia, I was glumly resigned to feeling low-level nausea for the ensuing week whilst dragging on the morale of even the ever-effervescent Captain Underpants.
As the craggy Tunisian headland fell away on our port side, we nosed northwards. The slight breeze over the bow of the Hejira morphed into a delightful 11-15 knots off the starboard bow and we veritably skimmed along under sail for the best part of eight hours – fantastic!
As the day wore on and I stuffed my face with my second chocolate brioche, I also realised that the calmer seas had restored my appetite with gusto. Nick, I’m a convert! Au revoir, mes amis.
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