Thursday, 31 May 2012

Skye location

image from the Prometheus international launch trailer

A quick geographical jump. I'm probably about the billionth person to notice this, but I was interested to see the above scene of rock formations at The Storr, Skye, at around 0:40 in the international launch trailer for Riddley Scott's Alien prequel, Prometheus. A number of newspapers have carried pictorial features on this Skye location, such as the Daily Record (Scottish connection to stunning Alien prequel Prometheus) and the Daily Mail (A Skye-fi thriller: How Scottish island became the perfect landscape for new Alien blockbuster Prometheus).

The Storr, Skye, image by "Wojsyl", reproduced under
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
I visited Skye in the summer of 1977, and am not sure I fully appreciated it. I was in a poisonous mood, angry and depressed after finishing Cambridge with none of the "glittering prizes" (good degree, interesting job, relationship, lots of friends) I'd hoped, expected even, to come of it . In addition, I felt actively cheated by family and other advisors who'd dangled those prizes in front of me as a certain outcome of going there and staying the course, and also enraged at what I felt was my own weakness in failing to achieve these goals. Not a fun time, really, but a planned holiday in awesome surroundings seemed the right thing to do.

Anyhow, the Skye landscape at least remains a positive memory, particularly that of the Trotternish peninsula. It's vaguely pertinent to recent weblog posts here, as it has strong resonances with the kind of undercliff landscapes I like in southern England, though writ very large. It is a kind of 'Jurassic coast' - the rocks at sea level are soft Jurassic shales - but these are overlaid with thick Tertiary basalt lava flows (see Scottishgeology). As with the Lyme Regis and Isle of Wight undercliff coasts, this hard-over-soft geology gives rise to landslips; but the greater coherence of the overlying basalt means the slipped blocks tended to be larger and to stay more intact, and the colder climate means this geology doesn't get overgrown.

Trotternish is some 30km long, and contains some of the most spectacular scenery of Skye, notably The Storr, with its eroded rock pinnacles (the tallest is the "Old Man of Storr"); and the Quiraing, an area of escarpment edge with features such as The Needle, The Prison, and The Table - a slipped grassy plateau surrounded by towers of rock, and only accessible by ascending a stone chute.

Quiraing - by "Stinging Eyes"
reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

The Trotternish landslip is one of Britain's most unusual landscapes, and Prometheus isn't the first film to use it. The Quiraing featured as one of the locations in the 2007 Stardust, the extremely good adaptation of Neil Gaiman's fantasy novel Stardust.

- Ray

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