Archive for November, 2007

A journey to the cretaceous-tertiary boundary

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Bjørn and Tim set out from the beach at Præsteskov, just north of Stevns Klint, which is a chalk and limestone cliff about twenty km south of Copenhagen. A westerly gale was blowing but we naively assumed that we would enjoy a calm paddle in the lee of the high cliffs.


This is Bjørn trying to identify the thin layer of marl in which Luis Alvarez, in 1980, discovered a high concentration of iridium, suggesting that a meteorite impact might have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

near the quarry

Further on, a rare burst of sunshine illuminated the pale yellow chalk cliffs. Just out of the frame to the left is a vast quarry whose opening to the sea caused an intense wind eddy, which can be seen darkening the water in the middle distance.


A little further south we encountered this rare example of architectural anarchy in Denmark – an outpost of Christiania in one of the roughest parts of the Danish coast. The access path to the right crosses a chalk scree slope which must be impassable in wet weather, then a steep ladder leads to the cliff top.

quarry trace

The cliff has been quarried for centuries. Here you can see traces of the vertical holes where blasting charges were placed to crack huge blocks off the cliff onto the beach. The soft limestone has been used to build aristocrats’ houses in Copenhagen and several churches in the local area, notably the church perched on the clifftop at Højerup. That was our destination for this short November tour but as we rounded the corner the force of the south westerly gale gradually became apparent, forcing us to turn back.

Tim Padfield joins a tour around Copenhagen Harbour

Friday, November 16th, 2007

We started from the small yacht harbour just north of the little mermaid and took a turn around Langelinie, the quay where the cruise ships tie up. The picture shows the nineteenth century warehouse designed by Jens Vilhelm Dahlerup (1836-1907).

Dahlerups pakhus

Then we headed over to Trekroner, the fortress which has guarded the entrance to Copenhagen harbour for centuries, and took a notable part in the 1801 defence against the British fleet. A fresh gale swept us rapidly across.


Our lunch stop was in front of some of the unrestored storage units for the cannon-boats, in a quiet part of the harbour which forms a defensive canal around the eastern side of Copenhagen. The cannon boats were rowing boats with a single cannon mounted at one end. They were part of the line of hulks which held Nelson’s attack to a draw (according to the Danish accounts) at the naval battle in 1801 and were used later in the Napoleonic war against the British blokade of the entrance to the Baltic sea.

Most of the cannon boat houses have now been restored and are used as architects’ offices and Communications consultancies.

Our next passage was through Christianshavn’s canal. This was constructed in the 17th century and is lined with merchants houses and warehouses.


Turning the corner towards the main channel of Copenhagen harbour one is faced by the massive polished granite facade of the Royal Library.


Turning south we paddled down a most depressing channel, lined with the pompous offices of international companies and international hotels and banks.


The wind rushed between the tall offices, arranged like a set of teeth with gaps just wide enough to allow the full force of the westerly gale to whip the spray off the water. After a kilometre of this dreary monument to the vulgarity of modern business we reached a challenge to its blandness – the M/V HalfMachine. A pensioned cable repair and diver support vessel. It now houses a culture centre and workshop for making art from scrap and obsolete electronic equipment You can just make out the two-man submarine moored alongside.

We returned northward through the canal which surrounds the island occupied by the Danish parliament building.


In the fading light and abating wind we weaved under the slanted pillars of the not-quite-finished National Theatre.


We disembarked in the twilight and I walked back to my lodging, along the quay, looking over to the recently completed National Opera.

opera at night