1126 Steps

Written by Domi Paxton, WM Class of 2013

After counting dog whelks, picking up marsh plants, and going over tidal zones, today we finally explored what I’m passionate about: Rocks! As a geology major, I was pleasantly surprised by all sorts of geologic formations as we traversed the 1126 steps of South Stack Island.  This island is located on the northwest coast of Anglesey and is known for its spectacular rocky cliffs, a prominent lighthouse, and nesting birds.

The geologic history of South Stack is quite interesting. Most of the rocks are Precambrian to Cambrian in age (around 500 million years), which is why some of the world’s oldest fossils have been found in that area. As we hiked down to the island, we saw various synclines and anticlines, and other geologic marvels as the rocks twisted and curved on the cliffside.


The lighthouse, which stands 28 meters tall, was completed in seven months.  Furthermore, at the time (1809) the only way to transport materials to the island was via basket and cable.  I don’t know about you, but seven months seems pretty darn impressive! We took a tour up to the top of the lighthouse, and the view was awesome. We even got to see some glimpses of porpoises in the water below. The lighthouse still has the original glass made to surround and reflect the light out to sea, pretty cool!








Before heading out from South Stack, we appropriately had a tea and coffee break; we then loaded up the vans to head to the coast to Rhosneigr, which sits on the Caernarfon Bay. The streets were bustling because everyone here is finally on “holiday!” 

We passed up cold-water surfing with the locals to investigate tide pools; we identified as many organisms as we could and collected diversity data from pools of different sizes.  Some students were even lucky enough to find a nudibranch!



About David Malmquist

David Malmquist is the Director of Communications at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.
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