Big Guns, Worldwide Communications, and Peterhead’s Other Seaside Community
In 1873, a telegraph station was built for the terminal of the Scottish Norwegian undersea cable, which had been laid in 1868. Peterhead is the most easterly point of the Scottish mainland, and was the obvious point for this new communication route to come to land, the cable was used to convey messages from all over the world, and it was from here that the first shocking news of the Russian Revolution reached Britain in 1917. You can still see the end of the cable on the beach between the old station building and the mineral well.
This was also the base for the Artillery Volunteers and the Gadle Braes Battery which was established in the early1880’s. There were two buildings - one contained two cannon and the other one a machine gun. The base closed in 1909, but is commemorated in the name of the nearby Battery Park.
Peterhead is a thriving, busy town, and no less so on the shore. There are some excellent beaches to get a glimpse of the secret world that exists between the tides – that in between world between land and sea.
The beach here at Gadle Braes is a great example. Just along from the busy harbour, beneath all the houses providing homes to humans, is a habitat providing homes, nurseries and food outlets for a wide variety of plants and animals.
Twice a day the tide comes in and the tide goes out, so twice a day the plants and animals that live there get wet and dry, warm (if the sun’s shining!) and cold (as the North Sea covers them again), the rock pools get saltier (as the water evaporates) and less salty (if it rains), and on stormy days have the waves pounding them. So they have a hard life and are adapted to survive these conditions.
Many animals baton down the hatches to survive – barnacles, limpets, periwinkles, dog whelks and mussels all shut up shop to avoid drying out as the tide goes out. Some hide away from the sun – anemones, worms and shrimps can all be found if you look under rocks and seaweed. Some seaweeds provide shelter for other seaweeds too – the large leathery kelps at the bottom of the beach are home to many animals and other seaweeds.
The rock pools themselves provide shelter for animals normally found further out to sea. Many fish come inshore in the spring to have their young, who remain in the relative safety of the pools until they are old enough to fend for themselves out in the big sea. Young sand eels, lump suckers, and scorpion fish can be found in the pools in spring and early summer. Other fish make their homes here all year round such as shannies, blennies and butterfish – but you have to be quick to catch them!
The rocky shore is a wonderful larder – for humans and animals. Crabs are aplenty here – feeding on anything they find, dead or alive. Vegetarians such as periwinkles and limpets enjoy the abundance of seaweed to eat, while the hunters such as dog whelks and starfish make the most of all the easy to catch, slow moving prey in the pools. We can find food aplenty here too, as well as the obvious shellfish, seaweed is a great source of vitamins and minerals – lava (looks like purple/brown cling film), sea lettuce and the delightfully named gut weed (both green) can all be simply cooked and eaten. But did you know you may have eaten seaweed and not known it? A jelly like substance is extracted from seaweed and used in the production of ice-cream, jelly and toothpaste.
So why not go and have and explore? Watch the tides and your footing, but there are endless hours of discovery and enjoyment to be had on the rocky beaches of Peterhead.