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Caithness Stack

Caithness in the extreme north east of Scotland, is separated from the Orkneys by the Pentland Firth, a strait about 14 miles long and from 6 to 8 miles broad. Owing to the rush of the tide, navigation is difficult, and, in rough weather, dangerous. The tidal wave races at a speed which varies from 6 to 12 miles an hour. At the meeting of the western and eastern currents the waves at times rise into the air like a waterspout, but the current does not always nor everywhere flow at a uniform rate, being broken up at places into eddies as perilous as itself.

The breakers caused by the sunken reefs off Duncansbay Head create the Bores of Duncansbay, and eddies off St Johns Point are the origin of the Merry Men of Mey, while off the island of Stroma occurs the whirlpool of the Swalchie, and off the Orcadian Swona is the vortex of the Wells of Swona. Nevertheless, as the most direct road from Scandinavian ports to the Atlantic the Firth is used by many vessels every year.

In the eastern entrance to the Firth lies the group of islands known as the Pentland Skerries. They are four in numberMuckle Skerry, Little Skerry, Clettack Skerry and Louther Skerryand the nearest is 4 miles from the mainland. On Muckle Skerry, the largest, stands a lighthouse with twin towers, 100 ft. apart. The island of Stroma, belongs to Caithness and is situated in the parish of Canisbay. In 1862 a remarkable tide climbed the cliffs (200 ft.) and swept across the island.

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