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by Andy McInroy
Photograph Of The Month - August 2008

The Mayor's Cave, White Rocks, Portrush, County Antrim

5P21
The Mayor's Cave
White Rocks, Portrush, County Antrim

Technical Details
Date/Time: 4.18pm 14th July 2008
4 exposure Photomatix HDR (High Dynamic Range)
Exposure times: 1/120, 1/30, 1/8, 0.6 seconds
Aperture: F8
Focal Length: 14mm (APS Sensor)
Lens: Pentax 14mm DA
Camera: Pentax K10D
Support: Tripod with cable release
Filtration: None

A Secret Tunnel
and a Growl in the Dark

In recent months I have been busy on the north coast as I have continued with my Antrim cave project. Back in June I finally made it into the legendary Dunkerry Cave to take the first ever photograph of its interior. That story made headlines in the Irish newspapers. However, this month I want to share with you another interesting tale of underground adventure as we return to the remarkable limestone cliffs of the White Rocks near Portrush.

This story begins in the Mayor's Cave, which is located in the central section of the White Rocks cliffs. Unfortunately, this cave is difficult to access due to the depth of water over its constantly submerged floor. However, even from the entrance I was able to find an interesting viewpoint looking inwards. The huge blowhole in the roof allows a good amount of light to enter this chamber and to illuminate the turquoise waters beneath. As I busied myself with the photo taking, I was startled by a fierce, amplified growl emanating from somewhere deep in the interior. I was unable to spot the animal in question, but I can only assume it was a large seal hidden somewhere at the back of the cave, perhaps in the dark triangular recess that you can see in this photograph.

After an interesting conversation with a local expert, I discovered that the recess at the back of the Mayor's cave is actually a tunnel which connects it to a larger series of caves, arches and tidal platforms stretching westwards towards White Rocks strand. Intrigued, I returned in late July to see if I could find the tunnel and perhaps even share a flask of tea with the beast living within. So, on a low spring tide in late July, I made a dash for it along the tidal platforms from the western end of the White Rocks.

The route was exciting and involved plenty of scrambling. It also involved a short waist-deep wade through the Priest's Cave and a jump across a deeper channel at the Ace of Spades Cave. At the end of the wave cut platforms I came to a unassuming cave which I crept into. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I found the secret triangular tunnel that leads down into the back of the Mayor's cave, thus completing the connection.

Sadly, there was not a sight nor a sound of the seal which I had hoped to catch a glimpse of. That mystery therefore remains unanswered. However, given the remote nature of this connecting cave, it would be the perfect place for a seal to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet after a hard day at sea.

I decided not to hang around, fearing that the tide might cut off my retreat home. So I set up my tripod and worked quickly to try to capture the mood of this secret tunnel. After retracing my steps back along the cliff base, I climbed up to the safety of the cliff-top. There I spotted a dark shape bobbing in the waters below, a seal!. Perhaps next time I call round to see him, he might be considerate enough to be at home.

Mayor's Connecting Cave, White Rocks, Portrush

5P23
The Mayor's Connecting Cave
White Rocks, Portrush, County Antrim

Technical Details
Date/Time: 2.52pm 20th July 2008
5 exposure Photomatix HDR (High Dynamic Range)
Exposure times: 1/10, 0.4, 1.5, 6, 20 seconds
Aperture: F8
Focal Length: 14mm (APS Sensor)
Lens: Pentax 14mm DA
Camera: Pentax K10D
Support: Tripod with cable release
Filtration: None

Text and photos © Andy McInroy