Tuesday 7 April 2009

The boat that wouldn’t be photographed

I did see an interesting boat in Mallorca but it was 29 metres underground. Four rowing boats live on the subterranean Lake Martel, an unusual body of water 170 metres long by 30 wide in the Coves del Drac in Mallorca. The caves are nearly 2km long and are home to fantastic formations of stalagmites and stalactites. The French speleologist A T Martel explored the caves in 1896 (He’d explored Gaping Ghyll in Yorkshire the year before.) discovering another series of caves and giving his name to the lake.

The boats that ply lake Martel are curious in that they have developed for a specific use. The boats transport musicians. In the 20’s and 30’s the caves were developed for visitors and concerts on the water soon became a feature. The boats are rowed facing forward, the lake is narrow and if you’re not looking where you’re going I imagine it’s all too easy to bump into a stalagmite. The oarsman sits right on the stern to give the musicians room to play. With the gunwales illuminated the boats glide slowly across the water. It looks great even if the overall impression is a little kitsch.

Maddeningly no photographs are allowed. This is evidently to maintain the monopoly of stalagmite snap sales at the exit. I asked if I could photograph the boats but the guide told me, in four languages, that photography was not permitted. A German who was foolish enough to use a flash received a curt ticking-off.

The boats are about 14 feet long by six wide, with bluff bows and a high, raked stern. After the concert they ferry the spectators to the other side of the lake, each craft carrying 16 tourists, a considerable weigh for the small boats, but despite being over laden they seem quite safe on the preternaturally calm waters.

I tried to take some surreptitious photos of the vessels but the light was hopeless. On the way out I managed to get these clandestine pictures of the stalagmites and stalactites.

And here’s a very small one of the boats.

1 comment:

Mar said...

Hi Ben!!!
How are you doing???
It was very nice met you in Palamós.
Very interesting you and your blog :-), and I hope see you again and talk for a long time.
I took some pictures when you was on board of your cute boat, and if you send me an email I could send you.
My email is:

Atlantic regards,