Whilst on holiday in Menorca, we visited "La Mola" - a huge fort on a small island defending the main port/city. It is now a tourist attraction.
The Fortress of Isabel II was built between 1848 and 1875 after a lot of pressure by the British, who were threatening to return to the island in order to use it as a base in their defensive operations against the French. These two powers were disputing naval control of the Mediterranean.
Before the Fortress was even finished it became out-dated. In the 1860s there was an important evolution in artillery technology. Instead of the old-fashioned muzzle-loading cannons (front loaders), powerful breech loading cannons (rear loaders) were designed, which had rifle boring (a series of helical grooves in the interior of the barrel) which made the projectiles fire with more spin, improving their accuracy.
This meant that the island’s defence system had to be reconsidered. Instead of mounting all the cannon emplacements within the fortress, a second development phase was initiated (1896); a series of coastal batteries were set up away from the walled fortification. These batteries took care of the remote defense of Minorca’s coastline, with their powerful projectiles capable of detaining all types of enemy battleships.
More info can be found on the “La Mola website”:http://www.fortalesalamola.com/ingles/historia.htm
The scale of La Mola is beyond comprehension. It fills an island which is about a mile wide (a small van drives around to take you to some of the more remote parts, to avoid walking in the blistering heat!) We spent a good few hours walking around. We saw military tunnels, crazy arches, a derelict prison and a giant cannon.
I want to go back, if only to photo the cannon and get it all in shot! In the guidebook there is a photo of a man IN the barrel – that’s how big it was!
If you’re in the area, check it out!
(All photos Lomo LC-A and Kodak Ektar)