In March 2016 I had a call from the New York Times Magazine asking if there were any interesting journeys I’d like to make for one of their voyages issues. The first place that came to mind was the Channel Islands – not because of the sheer intrepid nature of getting there, but I’d recently been discussing Sark becoming a ‘Dark Sky Island’. There is a Dark Sky Association, whose purpose is to protect clear night skies ‘for present and future generations’, and in 2011 they officially designated this small Channel Island the world’s first Dark Sky Island. Enya has even written an album about it.
Sark is not particularly isolated. It lies between the Southeastern coast of England and Normandy in France, and is only one hour by boat from Guernsey. It is, however, blessed with clear skies at night because of a no-car policy and no streetlight – essentially an astronomers dream.
The magazine and I came up with a plan that I would document my journey to the island from England, spend a few days getting to know the place, and then travel home. The lack of vehicles turns the island into a time capsule – it was also off-season, so the hoards of tourists were nowhere to be seen. In fact, we were the only tourists there.
It was so incredibly dark at night. This sounds fairly obvious, but you really were aware of it. I had chosen to avoid a full moon so that I could see the stars better, but this meant there was barely any available light past nightfall – I walked around in the evenings and the only stimulation for the senses was the sound of the ocean and the odd sheep bleating. It was quite an eerie silence, but an amazing experience.
You can read the story and view the online version of the piece here: New York Times – Sark.