August 20, 2022: Dover, England. I recall sitting in music class as a kid and singing the old folk song and wondering “where the heck are Harlem and Dover?”
“I’ve been to Harlem, I’ve been to Dover, I’ve traveled this wide world all over!
Over! Over! Three times over. Drink all you have to drink and turn the glasses over.”
― Old Folk Song
At the time I could probably only name three places in England: London Bridge (it was falling down), Sherwood Forrest (where Robin Hood lived), and Nottingham (again, Robin Hood).
The White Cliffs
Dover is famed for its blazing white cliffs, rising above the English Channel to a height of 350 feet. They have long served as a beacon for channel sailors. They can easily be seen from 20 miles across the water in France – as can the matching cliffs in France from Dover.
The cliffs are chalk, formed over the last 100 million years by the slowly accumulated skeletons of plankton on the sea floor. Geologic activity over the last 60 million years or so raised the seabed to the surface. Erosion eventually wore away what is now the English Channel.
Rising seas after the last ice age finally separated Britain from mainland Europe only about 10,000 years ago. That’s 10,000 – 20,000 years after early humans painted the caves at Lascaux and Chauvet (see The French Trip). So how did people first get to Britain? They walked!
And a only couple of thousand years later, they built the ancient megaliths like Stonehenge.
Today Dover docks massive ferries carrying lorries (trucks) with trade goods between the UK and EU. The Channel Tunnel is also nearby, whizzing passengers underwater to and from the continent.