Les Dirouilles – strange rocks

A few members of the Jersey Canoe Club have been visiting Les Dirouilles more frequently over the last few years. Partly because of the popularity of the Ecrehous and subsequent overcrowding and partly because it is an easier paddle. One thing, which has provided interest over the last few weeks is something we have referred to as Les Dirouilles Strange Rocks.

Furthest east
This is the rock which is the furthest east. The rope is from a line of lobster pots which had been exposed due to the very low tide.

The main rock at the Les Dirouilles and the Ecrehous seems to be a form of gneiss. Reddish in colour with a range of crystals of different sizes. Our interest was first raised when we noticed a rock of a much darker colour, which looked as if it could have been quarried. We returned last week to look for other rocks, which are much darker and easily indentifiable as not from the immediate area. I hadn’t heard of any mention of these rocks from other people or in the limited literature available. This was possibly because landing in this area would be difficult from most types of boats.

Les Dirouilles probably marked the western end of a headland stretching from the Cotentin Peninsula, on the French mainland. It was part of a much larger landmass, including the Ecrehous. This would have been in existence until about 5,000 BC, when sea level change broke the reefs up into smaller entities.

On the Ecrehous there have been a number of archaeological finds which indicate that there was human activity. Pieces of pottery, animal bones from domesticated animals such as sheep and pigs, a menhir etc. The present areas of the Ecrehous is significantly larger than Les Dirouilles. The reef is also higher above sea level so the evidence of Neolithic man is better preserved. If there were people on the area, which is now the Ecrehous it is likely that they were also in the area occupied by Les Dirouilles. It is just that the evidence hasn’t survived.

Standing in line at Les Dirouilles
Jim and Eric standing on two of the rocks. These were part of the line of 7.

So what were these strange stones? The first time it had registered as something different we only saw one. Last Friday though we visited the reef with intention of seeing if there were any more. In total we found 12. There were 7 in a line running 138 to 318 degrees, stretching about 40 metres. Next time we must take a tape measure to make sure! There were 4 stones running from 25 to 205 degrees covering a distance of about 15 metres. They crossed the other line of stones, virtually at right angles, towards the western end of the section.

Seaweed
This rock was harder to identify as there was a reasonable amount of sea weed growing on it but as can be seen one face of the rock was still mainly free of sea weed.

That accounts for 11 of the 12 stones we identified, the other one was slightly to one side of one of the others. Perhaps it had been moved by the sea. The location of the stones was slightly to the east of one of the largest rocks in the reef. This probably offers significant protection from the largest waves, which would approach from a westerly direction. In addition the fact that they are only exposed at low water springs means that when the largest waves are breaking in this area they are probably under 7 or 8 metres of water.

Les Dirouilles.  Strange Rocks
Preparing to depart the reef, the strange rocks we had come to visit are to the right of the main rock.

So what are these stones and why are they there? The short answer is that we have no idea but they are in a location which has possibly seen human activity but is now under water most of the time. It is also a place which sees very little modern day human activity. Therefore it is likely that very few people will have had the opportunity to see them and subsequently ponder their origins.
In no way do we claim to be archaeologists. We are just a few sea kayakers who have encountered something unusual. We can’t explain it and have been unable to find any further information. Any suggestions, ideas, comments etc will be greatly received.

Les Dirouilles
Nicky and Janet heading through one of the narrow channels to the west of the reef, as we prepared to start the crossing back to Jersey.