The Angry Corrie 17: Feb-Mar 1994
...The Very Inner Hebrides
From his plush bothy deep in the soft white underbelly of Britain,
I discovered them quite entirely by accident. It was a damp Tuesday night and I was ensconced in my favourite armchair, smoking my favourite pipe and looking over an old map (OS Sheet 25) - reliving past adventures, planning treks for the future, you know the sort of thing. As my eye followed the River Elchaig, which from Loch Long climbs far into the wild heartland between Affric and Strath Carron, I was startled to discover that it ended up back in Loch Long again. Okay, its name had changed along the way, but this is usual with most rivers. I looked again and there was no doubt about it - Killilan was in fact an island. So I looked further. Before long I had uncovered a whole network of inter-linking blue lines which joined sea with sea, creating in the process the islands which I have called "The Very Inner Hebrides". The map shows the extent of this strange, hitherto undiscovered, inland archipelago.
Having read about electric lochs, glens, streams and the like in TAC, I naturally assumed that what I had found here were more examples of the same phenomena. I decided to consult an old friend, Professor PP Posselthwaite, with my findings. Old Possel, as he is affectionately known, is something of an authority on unusual geological features and is head of the Royal National Institute for the Study of Highland Geomorphological Features at the University of Gyppeswyck. He had an interesting explanation of these supposed "electric streams", and has given his permission for me to quote his reply in full:
My Dear Prospect,
These "electric streams" as you so quaintly describe them are, in these enlightened days of political correctness, known as "Geomorphically Challenged Channels". They are neither streams nor indeed are they in any way electric. I mean, imagine the number of batteries which would be needed to run them if they were! They are in point of fact proper marine channels, albeit in their final stage of devolution, and, as you have suggested, delineate a number of islands hitherto unrecognised by conventional geographers.
So how, you ask, were they formed? Well, as I'm sure you are aware, during the great glacial period of the last epoch, the weight of the Scottish Ice Cap caused the land to sink quite considerably below sea level. Such depression was naturally greatest where the ice was at its thickest. As the ice retreated, the land isostatically rose again, creating for instance the famous raised beaches of Jura, Mull and elsewhere. (It is indeed still rising in some places, hence the occasional discovery of new "Munros" previously thought to be below the magical 3000ft.) The land rose highest where it had previously been depressed the deepest. Thus, should one such point coincide with a former channel dividing two islands, the channel might find itself raised far above the actual level of the sea. The water contained therein would naturally flow in two opposite directions, both of them downwards towards sea level from the highest point - or apex - of the channel.
The question remains as to how sufficient water can be retained in the channels to enable them to flow continuously in two opposing directions. The University of Gyppeswyck Geological Society Expedition of 1987, which it gave me great honour to lead, sought to solve this mystery by investigating the "apex" of the Elchaig-Ling Channel. This was found to coincide with a widening of the Channel at a point where no perceivable motion could be observed. Though inconclusive, it was nonetheless noted that at this point there was almost perpetual rainfall - and this I believe in itself to be sufficient for a continuous flow. Any sceptics who refute this have obviously never been to Scotland!
Yours with kindest regards,
PS - Now how about that pint you still owe me?
Of course this all adds a completely new perspective to the Skye Bridge controversy. The Hebrides are already joined to the mainland by the bridge at Dornie, and that currently under construction at Kyle merely joins one island to another.