Tucked away behind the nineteenth century chimney at the summit of Cape Cornwall is a little white building with spectacular views across the ocean. It’s the National Coastwatch Lookout Station for Cape Cornwall and it’s a fascinating place.
The station’s open 365 days a year, whatever the weather and manned entirely by volunteers. There are 24 active watch keepers at Cape Cornwall looking out for anyone in danger around the local coast, for flares and sailors in distress. We met Jonathan Rothwell, the Station Master for the Lookout Station to find out a little more…
Around midday there’s a handover to the second watch keeper to share any points of interest and the watch continues. Visitors are welcome and there’s often wildlife to spot – a pair of seals are frequently sighted at high tide enjoying the waves, with the warmer months bringing basking sharks and huge sunfish closer to the shore. Gulls, puffins, choughs and kestrels soar through the skies. At the end of the day, the logs and reports are filed and the coastguard notified that the station has closed. And as for the most unusual sighting? ‘A difficult choice between the Dawn Treader ship from the Narnia films or the JS el Carno a distinctive four masted Spanish schooner!’
The station’s day starts just before 8am when the first watch comes on duty to open up and declare facility status to Falmouth coastguard station. After phoning through a weather report to BBC Cornwall, all the marine vessels that pass by are logged. The station’s equipped with radar, online GPS tracking equipment, radio and a pair of custom made binoculars with an impressive 25 times magnification power. The watch keeper keeps an eye on all the local marine traffic, from huge container vessels right down to small lobster fishing boats and kayakers. They communicate any significant sightings or concerns by phone with other lookout stations and Falmouth coastguard station should any rescues be needed.