Diane Radford, M.D.

Sochi, Curling, and Ailsa Craig

February 14, 2014

 

Feb 12, 2014; Sochi, RUSSIA; Anna Sloan (GBR) in the women’s curling round robin session 4 during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Ice Cube Curling Center. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 12, 2014; Sochi, RUSSIA; Anna Sloan (GBR) in the women’s curling round robin session 4 during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Ice Cube Curling Center. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Curling is a sport born in Scotland, and played there since medieval times. The first written record of this contest on ice dates from 1541. The game’s popularity and viewership soar every Winter Olympics, particularly during the Games in Sochi, Russia where the British team, skippered by Eve Muirhead made Olympic history when they scored a “seven-ender.” The maximum number of points that can be scored in an end is eight, so this was a feat indeed for Eve and her teammates Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Claire Hamilton.

The curling stones, each weighing forty-four pounds, released with such accuracy from the curler before gliding along the ice sheet towards the house, were born in Scotland too. The rocks of polished, dense, water-impermeable granite were quarried on the island of Ailsa Craig. That island, which I liken to a Christmas pudding rising out of the waters of the Firth of Clyde, is one of my favorite sights on Earth. Driving back to Troon from Glasgow University Medical School, down the A77, I’d reach a bend on the road and would know that as the road curved, I’d see the shimmery Atlantic, the cliffs of the Heads of Ayr, the volcanic plug of Ailsa Craig, and the Isle of Arran.

The varieties of Ailsa Craig granite — blue hone and common green— make up the raw materials for most of the world’s curling stones. The curlers in every Olympics since 1924 have pushed Ailsa Craig rocks. The body of the curling stone comprises common green granite, the base formed from blue hone.

Ailsa Craig from HMS Campbeltown. Geograph project. Johnny Durnan.

Ailsa Craig from HMS Campbeltown. Geograph project. Johnny Durnan.

The steep cliffs of Ailsa Craig are home to over 70,000 seabirds. The island is home to 36,000 pairs of gannets, making it the third largest gannetry in the world. Humans though, do not make their home on its harsh, craggy terrain.

As I watch the skill of the Olympic curlers in the Sochi Ice Cube, as they crouch and propel the rocks forwards, I think of the Scottish island and its precious stone, and imagine the cackle of the gannets circling overhead.

I my mind’s eye I envision the view of Ailsa Craig from Troon beach — the Christmas pudding on the horizon.

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  • http://www.lisatener.com/ Lisa Tener

    Had to google “Gannets” for photos. I learn something new every time I read your work!