Humberside Geologist no. 16

Report of the Bisat Project 2014 to 2019

By Dennis Haughey

W.S. Bisat

William Sawney Bisat, (1886-1973), earned his living as a civil engineer for most of his life; it was this that probably drew him into his passionate interest in geology. Amongst other things he had a particular interest in the stratigraphy of the Holderness coast. He was a brilliant man, he must have been because at one time he was President of the Hull Geological Society! He had a huge range of interests and published a range of well received scientific papers. His life is well worth a little research on the internet, it is an inspiration to us all.

W S Bisat 

Between 1932 and 1952 Bisat walked the 56 kilometres of coastline between Easington and Sewerby. The 2nd World War caused him to drop his task for several years. He sketched and described the stratigraphy along this whole coast and finally at the end of his marathon walk he combined his findings onto a single sketch on a roll of paper 8.2 metres long.

At the time he was living in North Ferriby so the logistics of getting to and from the coast and up and down the cliffs whilst still working full time as a civil engineer must have been quiet daunting. (My first car was a 1932 Austin 7 and it was reliable and comfortable so Mr Bisat probably travelled in some comfort and style). He probably had assistance in his task, but we have no record of that.

The project

Sometime in 2014, Mike Horne had the idea that someone, or some people, may like to replicate Bisat’s 1930s work on the Holderness coast. At first there was a large response and a few groups got together on the beaches, but we quickly recognised the enormity of the task. After a few false starts Graham Kings agreed to take on the job. Rather than sketches, Graham, who is interested in photography, decided that he would take photographs of the whole of the coast and then somehow stitch them together once they were all taken.

On 22nd April 2015 Graham took his first photograph, using the edge of the Sewerby Buried Cliff as his northern marker and a long scaling pole as his southern marker 30 metres to the south of the Buried Cliff. He positioned his camera, on a tripod, 30 metres out from the cliff. This pattern was repeated for the whole of the next 56 kilometres; more than 1514 photographs in total. The last picture was taken on Monday 30th September 2019.

The photographs will be printed onto individual A4 sized sheets creating a record 455 metres long thus dwarfing Bisat’s original huge sketch. All the photographs will have an accurate GPS location marked on them and they will be filed in accordance with the coastal visits thus creating approximately 50 separate folders.

Rodger Connell working on the Bisat Project

(Photograph by G Kings)

Graham did all of the photography and he is the only one that walked the whole of the coast. He did have help from quite a number of people, including his wife Pam and in particular Rodger Connell, who did just about all of the walk. Also Dennis Haughey, Arthur Speed and many others who each did some of the walk.

Graham Kings working on the Bisat Project

(Photograph by M Horne)

The logistics of the task are a little surprising, here are a few:-

·         Each visit, and there were more than 50 included at least 3 cars, each car covering about 40 km, about 6,000 km motoring in total.

·         Each kilometre of coast took at least 3 km of walking including to and from the cars and to and from the start point for the photographs. On each visit there was a group of 3 people, a total of more than 500 km walked.

·         Most importantly each visit included a debrief in the most local coffee shop, at least 3 coffees per person, so about 500 coffees were bought, thus helping the local economy somewhat.

These visits were very pleasant, we got to be on speaking terms with many local people…one of the most memorable was Dot from Withernsea. She is a retired farmer and is a very knowledgeable local historian.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the task was getting access to the cliff top and then down to the beach. The public have rights of access to all of the beach, apart from a short area where there are all kinds of live and dead ordnance just laid around on the surface. However, in general the cliff tops are privately owned, mainly by farmers but also caravan sites, gas treatment plants etc. The cliffs at Easington are protected by armed police. Eventually we got to know many of the owners and operators and without exception they were cooperative with us.

Bisat Project and rotting whale 

(Picture by G Kings, 2016)

It’s surprising what one finds on the beach…nudists…dead whales…fishermen galore….but they are other stories.

The project team included Rodger Connell, the late Derek Gobbett, Dennis Haughey, Annie and Mike Horne, Stuart Jones, Graham Kings, Brian Kneller, Arthur Speed and Paul Thornton.

Copyright Hull Geological Society.

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copyright Hull Geological Society 2020