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The Giddy House has been leaning at a very odd angle since the 1907 earthquake in Port Royal.
PHOTOS BY PAUL H. WILLIAMS - Ruins of the original buildings of the Plumb Point Lighthouse on the Palisadoes strip.
The sun seems to be the light coming from the Plumb Point Lighthouse on the Palisadoes strip.

Light and giddy in Port Royal

I suffer from vertigo, and when it peaks it can be a frightening experience. Just imagine feeling as light as a feather, as if you were floating, especially when going up flights of stairs, travelling in a speeding vehicle, going up long escalators, walking on precipices, and being atop a multistorey building.

But the adventurer that I am makes me forget sometimes that I have this dreadful condition. There I would be enjoying myself, until I find myself in one of the situations listed above. Yet, what happened on Easter Sunday at Port Royal did not occur in any of them. The first sign of a potential episode came when I was at the Plumb Point Lighthouse with some friends.

Seventy feet tall, it rose majestically against a cloudless, blue sky. The sun was out in all its glory and fury. The blackish sand was so hot it could cook food. We could not get enough pictures of this decades-old sentinel. Every angle was simply beautiful. I kept looking up at the turret until it seemed to be moving. Red flag. So, I turned my eyes back to terra firma. This illusion was just too powerful.

When we went to the other side away from the sun, I noticed the peak of the lighthouse seemed to be directly in front of the glow of the sun. The glare looked like a halo. As the sun rose gradually, it looked like it was the light coming from the lighthouse. Another amazing illusion, and a sight I could not get enough of until the lighthouse seemed to be moving again, and the glare had become blinding. I remembered my vertigo and looked away knowing that I would have enough photos to look at.

As I walked away, I looked at the spiral staircase, out of bounds, that led to the top. I thought about the views from above, perished the thought, and moved on. Something was pulling me, elsewhere in Port Royal, and that was Giddy House, part of the Fort Charles Heritage Site.

Fort Charles, formerly called Fort Cromwell, was one of the first forts established at Port Royal. A large portion of it sank during the 1692 earthquake. It was rebuilt in 1699. Other earthquakes and hurricanes were to shake and batter the peninsular over the years. Yet, there was another massive quake, in 1907, that all but flattened Kingston and Port Royal, where 180 metres of coastline sank.

Fort Charles was once against destroyed. Some areas of the fort disappeared forever, many of its cannons and guns sank into the sand. Buildings and docks were badly damaged, and the Royal Artillery House, built in 1888 to store weapons and gunpowder, was part of the casualty.

It tilted into the sands at an odd angle, and has been like that ever since. It has come to be called Giddy House because of the dizzying sensation that people feel when they attempt to stand straight in it.

Now, on Easter Sunday, when I stood at the entrance taking some pictures of the slanted interior where some youth were, I felt something like a magnetic pull drawing me towards the inside of the building. The young men inside said they, too, felt weird, but they seemed to be enjoying the weirdness, for there they were taking pictures of each other. And I was outside resisting the energy that was pulling me from inside.

I felt my vertigo coming on, so I quickly removed myself from the entrance. If I can feel this giddy and I am not inside, why would I want to go inside, I thought to myself. My brain would have been scattered.

Scatterbrain is one of the meanings of giddy, which the lighthouse and Giddy House almost gave me on Easter Sunday, when I went to resurrect the history of the much-crucified Port Royal. 

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