The barbed wire proves an easy deterrent to navigate as we casually slip around the locked and pinned steel gate. Looking back at the dark promenade we double check for onlookers. Empty. Had there been any passers-by, they would have witnessed an unusual scene for 2am in the morning – three would-be-spies stealing on to Brighton’s most iconic nautical landmark; the West Pier.
Alone in ThoughtBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D90 / 80 - 200 f2.8
Darting along a steel reinforced walkway we traverse the first narrow length of pier with ease, arriving at the broken shell of the first hulking wooden dome. Once an ornate space for the south-coast’s elite, the skeleton is now a rotting, peeling carapace of it’s former glory. It still oozes classy Victorian façade, albeit half-hidden by mould and time.
The Royal PavilionBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D700 / 14 - 24 f2.8
SaranchaiBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D700 / 14 - 24 f2.8
We flank the hall by way of an outer walkway and slowly approach a second length of pier, no re-enforced steel here, just saturated wood and cooing pigeons settling in for the night. Crouching on all fours we spread ourselves out and work along the brown-turned-green planks, step by step, passing deep-red, rusting iron chairs where once sat royalty.
The Palace Pier, actuallyBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 35 f1.4
Shoreham BeachBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 35 f1.4
The lizard crawling in pitch black on rotting wood forces me to pull out my Nokia 3310 in an attempt to light the way, except the ice-cold wind has similar motives, prising the object d’art from my numb fingers and sending it to the depths below. The little white light fades away quickly in the gloom, devoured by a restless sea.
Taking A Well Earned BreakBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 70 - 200 f2.8 / Brighton
The BandstandBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 70 - 200 f2.8 / Brighton
After what seems like an eternity we arrive at the main hall – a catastrophic mess of mangled wood and twisted wrought iron, of derelict materials strewn by the high sea winds, of a million birds-nests perched on every protrusion visible.
A Soft LandingBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D700 / 70 - 200 f2.8
The Other EndBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D300s / 35 f1.4
It’s a sobering moment to behold. Cowering out of the cold night wind, blue moonlight streams through gaping holes in the roof, eerie spotlights casting ghostly shadows within the beaten and broken frame. The ancient flooring creaks nervously as we push onward, passing large black holes descending down to the crashing waves beneath. A fall now would be certain death.
Rock Shop With A Sea ViewBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D90 / 50 f1.4
Brighton BuskingBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D4 / 70 - 200 f2.8 / Brighton
We push forwards with single-minded focus, out to the very end of Brighton’s iconic West Pier, so far from the promenade all we can hear is the roar of the wind and crashing of sea.
Couch SurfingBarnaby Jaco Skinner / Nikon D90 / 50 f1.4
Sliding my head through the last Victorian grating, I settle in to a well-earned grin. With the cold sea mist and pitch black of night belittling our victorious triumph, I finally let the white noise take over.