Travel Journal May 5, 1999


Goonhilly Earth Station is a major telecommunications center, and includes over two dozen large satellite dishes. It is an entirely commercial undertaking - no scientific research is done here. But a large amount of television, radio, telephone and internet traffic is routed through here.

The dishes are all named after various Arthurian characters; This one is the oldest dish, and is named Arthur. It's located right in front of the exhibit center, and is thus outside of the high security perimeter which protects the other dishes.


Here's the inside of the exhibition center. Before you get on the tour, there's a little film that they show you (mostly style, very little substance, except that they properly laud Arthur C. Clarke for inventing the synchronous orbiting satellite.)

Yes, Virginia, there is an Amiga computer in that interactive display.

There's a bus tour which takes you around the site. Actually, it only stops at two or three spots, really.

The first stop is the observation tower (looks like a traffic control tower at an airport.) This is no longer used - originally it was designed so that the controllers could see the antennas moving as they tracked the satellites as they moved across the sky. Now that virtually all satellites are synchronous, there's no need for the antennas to move, so the tower is now a visitor observation deck.

Note that they don't actually take you to the real control room, for security reasons.

"Please stay within the yellow hatched area. There are infra-red beams which will set off an alarm if you step outside the marked area." I didn't see any recievers or emitters, so they are either well hidden, or it's a hoax.

The entrance to the observation tower.

Lots of antennae in the distance.

Here's Guenivere.

This one is Merlin, built recently by Mitsubishi. It's about 1/10 the weight of Arthur, for a dish of comparable size.

I thought this stretch of road looked rather pretty.

Charleston, in southern Cornwall. Home of the Maritime and Shipwreck Museum.

Not exactly a shipwreck, but a functional ship (not part of the museum, it's a seperate entrance fee). Unfortunately, I don't remember the ship's name. However, I did notice that it had a very long quarterdeck, almost half the length of the ship.


One thing I immediately noticed about this smaller craft is that the bow and stern were in the Hellenic style. Turns out this was built for the TV special "The Oddysey".


Some of the ship's crew enjoying lunch.

Here's the entrance to the museum.

There's a restaurant above the museum, which has a perfectly ghastly name: "The Bosun's Bistro". I went inside and asked the waitress if they had any good chowder (this being a seafood restaurant after all.) The waitress didn't know what "chowder" was, had never heard of it. Now, I've had chowder at other seafood restaurants in England, so I know it's not simply a cultural difference. So I decided to eat at at the inn down the road instead, before I too began to fall under the influence of the Stupid Rays.

Later that day, I drove to Plymouth. There are a number of minor but interesting things to see. However, as I tried to make my way through the town, I began to get more and more annoyed, fighting through the traffic, going round in circles attempting to find the way to the thing I was trying to see. There were signs that pointed the way to the sights, but the signs always seemed to peter out long before I got anywhere near where the sights were supposed to be. Finally, I said to myself "To hell with this. I'm going back to Glastonbury to be with my friends." It's a good thing I did this, because the next day I fell ill...and then something strange happened.