Moista Sound

Artist(s) : Joseph Verschoyle (Draughtsman)

View of Moista Sound, a narrow chasm, or dyke, flanked by sheer cliffs in Co. Mayo. A small boat at the far end of the narrow sea passage emphasizes the scale of the geological formation. Further cliffs and a mountain loom in the background, closing off the perspective beyond the boat and the stretch of water behind it.

Inscribed in Image

  • Caption outside of boundaries of image – Moista Sound.

Image Details

Genre Landscape
Technique Wood engravings
Subject(s) Marines, Nature
Geographical Location
  • Moista Sound - Named locality - c. 4 miles west of Belderrig
  • Mayo - County
  • Connaught - Province
Keywords(s) Birds, Boats, Cliffs, Passengers, Ravines, Rock formations, Seas
Colour Monochrome
Dimensions 7 cm x 8.5 cm
Published / created 1841

Bibliographical Details

Travel Account Sketches in Erris and Tyrawly
Print or manuscript Print
Location of image in copy p. 287
Source copy National Library of Ireland Ir 914123 o 2
Alternative source

This is a link to a digital copy hosted by an external website.$b759442?urlappend=%3Bseq=313
Rights Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

Related text from travel account

We were rowing now along the cord of an arc, the half circuit of which was composed of those painted precipices—here a point laughing in full sunshine—there a gorge cast into mysterious shade; and riven away from the uppermost eminence, as struck by the trident of Neptune, and brought down in varied wreck; below were immense masses of rock, around which the waves moaned, gurgled, and spouted—some assuming the forms of churches, others of towers, of chimneys, of pyramids, of elephants, men on horseback, and lawyers with their wigs; and we now came along the line of our semicircle, from Benmore to Benwee, until we seemed directing the bow of our boat directly against the face of a cliff so very perpendicular, that not a sign of any green thing could be seen, to tell that there was one spot where vegetation could catch at: and still the boatmen determinately bent to their oars, and the steersman held on his course against this mountain-face, which rose 600 feet. It might, and indeed it did remind me of Sinbad's incontrollable course, when nearing the magnetic and talismanic mountain.
But soon the mystery of our course was solved; for Lieutenant Henri, who held the helm, by a slight change of his hand turned the boat's head to star- [p. 286] board, and all at once I saw, forward, a cleft in the mountain-barrier, like a gigantic saw-cut, apparently so narrow, and yet so straight, so cleanly cut, and so distinct in the downright sunlight of noonday, that when comparing this fissure with the gigantic objects all around, it appeared as if a broad-shouldered man could not pass through it, not to say a boat with oars; but we did, however, unhesitatingly, but with reefed oars, proceed slowly and gracefully to pass through—and indeed it was a sublime sight.
"Take off your hat, sir, and look up; observe what a clean cut it is; mind how the walls on either side are conformable—how the stratifications fit—how the ochres and the lichens dispose their harmonious tints all the way up—how here a mass of milkwhite quartz, there a facet of shining mica sparkles in the sun—below a cormorant skims his dull, heavy flight through the chasm, and leads our way, not very ominously—above, again, a flock of blue pigeons has, on rapid wing, gone through also, glad as it were of such a short cut through the mountain. I am obliged to that eagle that has just opened out his pinions on the brow of Islan Maistre, and one of his feathers falls as he soars away, and comes down in leisurely circles, and will, I hope, reach the boat as it creeps onwards through the sound.—Rest on your oars a little, boys; why so fast ? the day is long. I can never expect to see this again—give me the means of such enjoyment a little longer."
But it is easier to feel, to wonder, and enjoy than to describe. So, for want of power, I can only do the best I can, and give you, reader, what I consider [p. 287][image: Moista Sound] [p. 288: blank] [p. 289] a very accurate drawing of Moista Sound, executed on the spot by my friend Archdeacon Verschoyle, who has so philosophically and so faithfully described the geological formations of this coast, in his valuable Memoir on the Northern Coast of Mayo and Sligo.
I would take this cut, as far as my eye could judge, to be about two hundred yards. Mr. Henri, in nautical phrase, asserted it to be somewhat more than a cable-length. Well, we are now through, and you look backwards and see the sunbeams shedding their lucid glory on the green sea, eastward of the chasm—a sea, to all appearance, surrounded on all sides with stupendous precipices. And here you have the grandeur of Alps and ocean combined, and, looking on straight forward through the cut, you see on the opposite precipice, in a direct line eastward, a black line running down from the top to the bottom of the mountain, until it sinks into the sea; and this black ribband is apparently of the same width as the cut you have passed through—What is it? It is a trap-dyke, whose dark, igneous, basaltic mass is altogether distinct from the rock, on either side—a great perpendicular vein, dividing the strata of the mountain.
"Now," says Mr. Henri, "don't you see the cause of the fissure you have just passed through? It was once filled up with a trap vein—with a portion of that very dyke that you see inserted directly opposite you, and which has heretofore incontestably filled up this gap."
But here I took leave to observe that the stone forming a trap-dyke was generally of the hardest [p. 290] texture, and most likely to resist the force of the sea, and that I had, in many places, seen such dykes running out from shore, braving the shock of ocean, while all around was worn away.
"True," said Mr. H., "I do allow that there is great hardness in these igneous formations, but it is not the dyke that wears first, but the adjacent sides of the rock, which in most cases are chemically altered and disintegrated by the intense heat of the fused trap as it bursts up from below. The mechanical power of the sea then works, not on the trap, but on its sides, which are worn away, and then the dyke is left to stand by itself, unsupported, and soon goes down, yielding to the ceaseless attacks of the ocean."
"I have examined many of the sea caves on this coast, and find that their formation was connected with the causes I have just stated—but more of this by-and-by." [pp. 285-290]
Moista Sound