At the Very Edges of the RNLI

As we entered the lift and rattled our way to the clifftop, the wind chased behind and made sure that we could barely lay claim to our own breath.

The perpetual cavalry of rolling waves carried the breeze on its back, delivering it in giant slabs to the slipway below us.

There were no real gusts, just the relentless, unerring reminder that we were in a wild location — Lizard Point, home to the most southerly RNLI lifeboat station on the UK mainland.


The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
On the aft deck of The Lizard Lifeboat, RNLB Rose, high up on the huge slipway (made using the Lomo LCA Wide kindly gifted to the Project by Lomography UK)

By documenting every RNLI lifeboat station on the network, I’m weaving my way around our nation’s extraordinary coastline.

Along the route, I’ve already encountered extremities; lifeboat stations that could not only be considered as outposts but also as defining landmarks in the RNLI’s infrastructure. Perhaps akin to the key stars in a constellation; they define the overall shape, yes, but look more closely and there’s a whole lot more going on between them!

The Lizard is a good example, for sure, and one that gave me the distinct feeling of simply being at the edge — a geographical sensation I find thrilling.

In making the photographs there, I had to quickly get used to the most challenging logistics so far. Much of those logistics involved gently clattering up and down the 140ft cliff face in the spectacular purpose-built lift.

Time spent in that mesh box not only provided an understanding of the station’s context within such a special stretch of coastline, it also offered me a fresh perspective on how the Project was beginning to shape up.

In those moments — usually clutching a plate holder laden with glass and silver nitrate — I reflected on three of the defining landmarks now documented by the Project:

  • Lowestoft, the most easterly lifeboat station on the entire RNLI network;
  • Sennen Cove, the most westerly lifeboat station on the English mainland;
  • The Lizard, the southern-most lifeboat station on the UK mainland.

With those three stations now under the Project’s belt, it’s a satisfying indicator that this huge body of work is beginning to come together.

Other stations beckon at the very edges of the RNLI. Check out the interactive Mission Map to see if you can locate them:

  • Aith, the most northerly;
  • Valentia, the most westerly;
  • St. Helier, the most southerly.

In short, I can’t wait…


The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
The View from Lowestoft Lifeboat Station, the most easterly lifeboat station on the entire RNLI network (12×10 inch Ambrotype). Click the image to find out how to buy a limited edition print of this photograph…

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
The View from Sennen Cove Lifeboat Station, the most westerly station on the English mainland (12×10 inch Ambrotype). Click the image to find out how to buy a limited edition print of this photograph…

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
The View from The Lizard Lifeboat Station, the southern-most station on the UK mainland (12×10 inch Ambrotype). Click the image to find out how to buy a limited edition print of this photograph…

ONE MORE SHEET IN THE BOX…

Towards the end of the day at The Lizard, I’d just one more sheet of glass in the box.

The scheduled photographs were made but I’d been entranced by the view looking north from the slipway all day. It looked prehistoric, touched by nothing other than the merciless elements for thousands upon thousands of years.

I couldn’t resist one more trip to and from Neena, up and down the cliff face; a glass plate of the scene made today would surely look so similar to the same scene recorded in the 1850s, when wet plate collodion was first invented…


The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
The View North from The Lizard RNLI Slipway (12×10 inch Ambrotype). Click on the image to find out how to buy a limited edition print of this photograph.

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BEHIND-THE-SCENES: AS FEATURED IN THE PROJECT’S DIARY ON INSTAGRAM

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Battling with the wind on the clifftop (photograph by John Chennells using the Project’s Lomo LCA Wide)
The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Working on The Lizard slipway (photograph by John Chennells)
The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Neena parked next to the lift’s clifftop winch house on the night of the lunar eclipse…

9 Comments

  1. Still enjoying sharing your adventure, Jack. Love the special quality you give to your images and your descriptions.

  2. Thank you Jack, for a marvellous seminar at Perma Jet open day today, Looking forward to exploring through this website.

  3. This is really inspiring, I’m a mature student at AUB and we are currently working on a competition with the RNLI, your work is really inspiring me, thank you. Will your photos be exhibited? And if so where? Amazing thank you!

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