Damp, dark and microbial communities – welcome to Piper’s Hole…
With the purpose of investigating 17th century tin mining on Tresco with mining heritage expert and geologist Barry Gamble, a small group of Tresco residents took the plunge into Piper’s Hole last week.
Piper’s Hole is a sea cave situated at the north end of Tresco. From a small entrance packed with large boulders the cave opens up inside to reveal a small freshwater pool. At the far end of the pool is a tiny gravel beach beyond which is a narrow corridor of granite that peters out after about 30 metres.
Piper’s Hole cuts across a seam of tin which was mined during the 17th century. The idea was to bring sufficient illumination to be able to check the granite walls of the cave for evidence of human excavation such as pick-work. It was in the the “corridor” at the back of cave that we hoped to find marks in the granite that would show that miners once worked the rock.
Sadly the surface of the granite was naturally in such a decomposed state that any 250 year old scars from pickaxes would have long disappeared. However, it was an excellent excuse to shed light on a fascinating part of Tresco. Most noticeable on the roof of the cave was a glittering, metallic sheen. Much as it looked like silver, the disappointing news is that this no more than a winning combination of condensation and some…er…”microbial communities”, whatever they may be. Lovely.
The water of the pool is cold and rather unappealing, with evidence of other crossing attempts such as bits of wood and polystyrene floats. The walls by the beach and in the corridor contain patches of clay. For hundreds of years most smokers enjoyed their tobacco through clay pipes and it may be that this is how Piper’s Hole got its name.
Though we found no evidence of mining, Barry still felt that, geologically, the furthest reaches of Piper’s Hole did not feel like the a naturally-formed sea cave…perhaps further investigation is required. A big thanks to Nick Shiles for his help with the illuminations, along with Rosie and Jon. Thanks also to Alex Christopher for the use of his dinghy, as well as Richard Mills of Scilly Sailing for the wetsuits!
If you visit Piper’s Hole you do so at your own risk. Access is dangerous – always tell someone your plans, don’t go alone, visit at low tide in good weather and take a good torch.