Friday, 23 August 2019

23rd August 2019

Weather:  W 4, 2/8 cloud, good vis

The day began quietly enough with just three Willow Warblers and a Whitethroat on the island.

It was a stunning day weather wise but a fresh westerly meant that a seawatch was in order with an early morning Bonxie followed by another during the afternoon and a day count of 13 Arctic Skua.

It was during the tide in the afternoon that observers noted smoke emanating from the cave works at the North End.  At first it was taken to be part of the curing process for the expanding foam that had been used to fill the cave behind the wall works that were being undertaken.  There was a small amount of yellowish smoke seeping out..  Our members who were present kept an eye on the situation and over the next few hours it became apparent that there was a problem with the smoke beginning to billow out of the cave and drift down the estuary as the wind had dropped almost completely.  There was hardly any visitors on the island over the tide and members advised one couple to stay away from that area of the island.

It was at this point that members decided to contact the mainland for assistance and after the tide the contractor, police, fire and coastguard all came out and the fire service took over the situation and the island.

Members were told to evacuate the island once the wind changed direction and the island began to get covered in black smoke.  This is the first time that members have been evacuated from the island since the foundation of the Observatory in 1957.
The island was then closed to visitors for the foreseeable future with daily assessments to be undertaken.

We do not comment on the cause of the fire whilst investigations are ongoing into the cause of the fire and the also into the works being undertaken by the contractor are investigated by the fire investigation officer and Wirral Borough Council respectively.
Meanwhile the migrant Willow Warblers are oblivious to the drama.
 Photos SRW& AS

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