28 March 2015, Container Ships, Copper, Bromine and Porpoises

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Approaching Porth Wen (site of the old brick works)

Saturday, 28 March was a typically windy day on Anglesey, with strong southwesterlies.  Nevertheless, many sea kayaking groups were out, making the most of the day’s conditions.  On the West Coast at Trearddur Bay we met Roger Chandler, coaching on an advanced skills course in the lee shore “windward” conditions.  On the North Coast we found Barry Shaw, coaching an introductory sea kayaking session for Sea Kayaking Anglesey.  Further along the coast Mark Tozer and Helen Wilson were also sheltering from the wind for their Greenland Style Rolling Course.  Finally, we also saw Manchester Canoe Club heading to the straits for a skills development fun day.  This nicely illustrated how there is usually something for everyone to do sea kayaking along the Anglesey coastline.

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Ed at Bull Bay with the Sea Kayaking Anglesey group in the background

One of our favourite options, on a day like this, is to paddle a returning linear route along the North Anglesey Coast.  On this particular day we paddled from Porth Llechog, Bull Bay to Ynys Badrig, Middle Mouse and back again.

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Ed with a container ship on the horizon

Often, when paddling or walking along the North Coast of Anglesey, you may see very large ships on an Anglesey landward heading. Their objective is to take on board a pilot, from the Anglesey port of Amlwch.  These pilots then convey the ships safely onward to Liverpool. Amlwch has an amazing history as an industrious coastal community.  It’s first major industrial activity was to facilitate the export of the copper ore from Parys Mountain.  During the 18th and 19th centuries North East Anglesey was the location of the Worlds’ largest copper mines.  Anglesey Mining plc intends to re-establish zinc, copper and lead mining at Parys Mountain, when the market price of these metals becomes more favourable.

Following the decline of the copper mining industry, a chemical factory, “The Octel” was built at Amlwch in 1953.  The Octel’s purpose was to produce bromine and dibromoethane (DBE).  Amlwch was chosen for this site as it has a plentiful supply of very clean, Gulf Stream warmed seawater and was well connected for export utilising the Anglesey Central Railway Line. Dibromoethane was an important constituent of anti-knocking agents needed to allow engines to efficiently use petroleum fuels.  The introduction of unleaded petrol in the 1980’s reduced the demand for DBE, resulting in the eventual closure of “The Octel” at Amlwch in 2005.

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Paul porpoise spotting

During our journey we encountered Harbour porpoises, Phocoena phocoena, at four locations along the coastline. Our encounters with porpoises are often at the turbulent waters caused by the strong tidal streams.  These areas are productive feeding grounds, providing the porpoises with the ~6 kg of food they need each day.  Porpoises feed mainly on cod, herring, pollock, mackerel, sardines, and whiting.  The frequent sightings of porpoises along the coastline of North Wales is a good indicator of fish stocks.

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Ynys Badrig, Middle Mouse

Paddling today were: Richard, Paul, Ed and Geth.

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