This cave which sits right next to the arch at Lands End is huge; you could literally park several city buses in it. Getting to it (as of 2-11) means either a boat drop on the beach, or as I did, scampering around two rock outcrops from Divorce Beach waist deep in the surf at low tide to get up onto the beach in front of the cave.
This was a somewhat treacherous undertaking.
On the return trip back around the rock outcrops while not paying
close attention to the set of waves, I was grabbed by the surge, swept
out to sea a dozen yards or so and then slammed back into the rocks on
the returning swell. It knocked the wind out of me, and scared the
living crap out of me too. I managed to hold onto my tripod and the
dry bag on my back containing my gear, and escape back around the
corner up onto Divorce Beach before the next wave bore down upon me.
Ouch! Hyperventilating. Chills.
Numerous cuts and bruises abound and barnacle cuts take forever to heal.
Having grown up near the seashore in South Florida I thought I
understood waves pretty well, but these are different. These waves are
open ocean swells that have been traveling unimpeded across the
Pacific for thousands of miles. They are long low frequency waves with
up to several hundred feet between the troughs. It's a huge mass of
water up to 8 feet tall, or even taller. If they grab you you're
simply going where they go, out to sea or back in against the shore.
There is no fighting this; the power they contain is nothing short of
I have been humbled by this experience.
Two days later and a couple of hundred yards up the beach from this very spot, two tourists from Canada drowned fighting this same surge on Divorce Beach. They were taking a family photo with their backs to the sea. Sounds innocent enough right? While not paying attention to the surge it roared in and caught the whole group. The grandparents were swept to their deaths while the rest of the family looked on in terror. The Mexican navy had to send divers into the surge to retrieve one of the bodies as the survivors watched.
I'm not making this up or trying to scare you off from going in here yourself. As you can see from all of the footprints, people are apparently in here quite often. I'm telling you this is a dangerous location if conditions are not perfect. Even then you're a long way from help if something bad happens. This is probably why you don't see many images shot from inside of this cave or the smaller one right next door to it.
It's not that often I get scared on a shoot but this place is different, and potentially lethal. On a calm day (about 3 days per month according to my guide) you could paddle around the arch on a swimming pool float or snorkel here. But on a 'normal' day the surge that occurs here at Lands End could knock a house down flat.
In fact, every time I shot around this location I got what I call 'The
Creep' which I've had numerous times alone on mountain tops over the
years as well. It's like something's watching you, something that
might not necessarily care either way if you live or die. Something
indifferent, not menacing, just wholly and completely indifferent to
your being. "The Creep"; it makes you take each step very
very carefully and deliberately. "The Creep" can also make
you do dumb stuff because you're not completely focused and perhaps
getting a little panicky too which is how I got slammed into the
rocks. For me personally the key to "Creep Management" is to
balance the reality of the danger at hand (the surge) against the task
that must be performed (getting the shot). It sounds pretty easy on
paper doesn't it?
Those of you who've gone solo know what I'm talking about.
I could have backed off, easily come back the next day by boat, but I didn't because of tunnel vision.
And THAT my friends is how s**t happens. :-)
Here's a video (NOT MINE) of the corner you must traverse to get in
the cave, looking down at the corner from up on Divorce Beach. This
was shot at high tide but you'll get the idea of what's involved with
running around the corner to get to this little beach in front of the
cave. From this angle it's even more imposing since you can't even see
what's down around the corner. The only reason I tried this stunt is
because I had scoped it from a boat the previous day, so I was pretty
sure it could be done.
EDIT: As of late April 2011 the sandbar has returned and you can
simply walk right up under El Archo. So chalk this whole adventure up
Hoping the sandbar will still be there in July '11.