Isle of the Ancient Mariner

Homer called this island “Ogygia,” where the divine nymph Calypso held the “master mariner and commander” captive for seven long years, but the Maltese call it Gozo. The cave itself is said to be a grotto high in a cliff overlooking the beach at Ramla Bay, on the north side of the island, the second largest in the Maltese archipelago. Jutting from the waves of the wine-dark sea, Malta and her siblings—Gozo, Comino, Cominotto, and Filfla—present to the eastbound sailor an aspect of stunning grandeur, a sheer wall of yellow limestone rising more than 120 meters from the water to its crown. On the far side of the island, this giant table slopes gently into the surf, greeting the water with sandy beaches and wide bays, listing where it was left by tectonic forces millions of years ago. What lies between is a rocky, rolling plateau, devoid of fresh water and arable only in small, dusty plots where human trials have sifted the stones from the thin, dry soil. Few trees interrupt this landscape, and through the centuries and millennia the Maltese have accustomed themselves to wresting a living from this inhospitable rock.

Open PDF