Recently in Boats & Sea Category

The Ocean to City An Rás Mór is a 15 mile rowing event, starting from the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven in Co Cork and finishing up at City Quarter, Lapps Quay, Cork City.

The race is run on a handicapped pursuit basis.All prizes will be awarded on a 'First over the Line' basis. The race is open to all types of traditional & non traditional craft with fixed seats.

The race is also open to Canoes and Kayaks. Should you have a query about your boats eligibility to enter then please contact the race office

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The Whale Man and the Kayak


Nature photographer Duncan Murrell has amazed people around the world with his close-up images of humpbacked whales. Duncan's fearless obsession with capturing the 30 tonne mammals on camera brought him just metres away from the whales in freezing Alaskan waters. Even though his photographs were taken 25 years ago they have recently attracted a lot of new attention. When Ritula Shah spoke to him on the line from the Philippines, where he now lives, Duncan told her how he is able to get so close to these gigantic creatures.





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RTE One - Currachs on Inis Méain 1977

Hat tip to Una Ni Choinceanainn for pointing out this beautifuly filmed and narrated  documentary about the use of currachs in daily life on Inis Méain in the never-ending summer of 1977.
"Hands" was an Irish television program that showcased some of the country's finest craftsmen and women. Who do you recognise in this short film?  Please tell

The currachs of Inis Méain

Hat tip to Una Ni Choinceanainn:  "I remember the evening. I am one of the girls in the currach going out to the Naomh Eanna inthe Hands video - The one with the red hair!"
for pointing out this beautiful flimed and narrated  documentary about the use of currachs in daily life on Inis Méain in the beautiful summer of 1977.

"Hands" was an Irish television program that showcased some of the country's finest craftsmen and women.

From Deep Ocean, Ugly and Tasty, With a Catch


The answer to the eternal mystery of what makes up a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich turns out to involve an ugly creature from the sunless depths of the oceans, whose bounty, it seems, is not limitless.

The world's insatiable appetite for fish, with its disastrous effects on populations of favorites like red snapper, monkfish and tuna, has driven commercial fleets to deeper waters in search of creatures unlikely to star on the Food Network.

One of the most popular is the hoki, or whiptail, a bug-eyed specimen [not unlike the pollack] found far down in the waters around New Zealand and transformed into a major export. McDonald's alone at one time used roughly 15 million pounds of it each year.

The hoki may be exceedingly unattractive, but when its flesh reaches the consumer it's just fish -- cut into filets and sticks or rolled into sushi -- moist, slightly sweet and very tasty. Better yet, the hoki fishery was thought to be sustainable, providing New Zealand with a reliable major export for years to come.

But arguments over managing this resource are flaring not only between commercial interests and conservationists, but also among the environmental agencies most directly involved in monitoring and regulating the catch.

A lot of money is at stake, as well as questions about the effectiveness of global guidelines meant to limit the effects of industrial fishing.

Without formally acknowledging that hoki are being overfished, New Zealand has slashed the allowable catch in steps, from about 275,000 tons in 2000 and 2001 to about 100,000 tons in 2007 and 2008 -- a decline of nearly two-thirds.

The scientific jury is still out, but critics warn that the hoki fishery is losing its image as a showpiece of oceanic sustainability.

"We have major concerns," said Peter Trott, the fisheries program manager in Australia for the World Wildlife Fund, which closely monitors the New Zealand fishery.

The problems, he said, include population declines, ecosystem damage and the accidental killing of skates and sharks. He added that New Zealand hoki managers let industry "get as much as it can from the resource without alarm bells ringing."

The hoki lives in inky darkness about a half-mile down and grows to more than four feet long, its body ending in a sinuous tail of great length. Large eyes give the fish a startled look.

Scientists say its fate represents a cautionary tale much like that of its heavily harvested forerunner, orange roughy. That deepwater fish reproduces slowly and lives more than 100 years. Around New Zealand, catches fell steeply in the early 1990s under the pressures of industrial fishing, in which factory trawlers work around the clock hauling in huge nets with big winches.

Hoki rose commercially as orange roughy fell. Its shorter life span (up to 25 years) and quicker pace of reproduction seemed to promise sustainable harvests. And its dense spawning aggregations, from June to September, made colossal hauls relatively easy.

As a result, the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries set very high quotas -- roughly 275,000 tons a year from 1996 to 2001. Dozens of factory trawlers plied the deep waters, and dealers shipped frozen blocks and fillets of the fish around the globe.

Moreover, the fishery won certification in March 2001 from the Marine Stewardship Council, a private fisheries assessment group in London, which called it sustainable and well managed. The group's blue label became a draw for restaurant fish buyers.

"Most Americans have no clue that hoki is often what they're eating in fried-fish sandwiches," SeaFood Business, an industry magazine, reported in April 2001. It said chain restaurants using hoki included McDonald's, Denny's and Long John Silver's.

Ominous signs of overfishing -- mainly drops in hoki spawns -- came soon thereafter. Criticism from ecological groups soared. The stewardship council promotes hoki as sustainable "in spite of falling fish stocks and the annual killing of hundreds of protected seals, albatross and petrels," the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand said in May 2004.

When the stewardship council had to decide whether to recertify the hoki fishery as sustainable and well managed, the World Wildlife Fund, a Washington-based group that helped found the council, was strongly opposed. "The impacts of bottom trawling by the hoki fishery must be reduced," the fund said.

The wildlife fund was overruled, and the council recertified the fishery in October 2007. At the same time, the New Zealand ministry cut the quota still further, reducing the allowable commercial catch from roughly 110,000 tons to about 100,000 tons.

Some restaurants cut back on hoki amid the declines and the controversy.

Last year, Yum Brands, which owns Long John Silver's, issued a corporate responsibility report that cited its purchases of New Zealand hoki as praiseworthy because the fishery was "certified as sustainable."

Now, Ben Golden, a Yum Brands spokesman, said hoki was "not on the menu."

Denny's said it served hoki only in its New Zealand restaurants.

Gary Johnson, McDonald's senior director of global purchasing, said hoki use was down recently to about 11 million pounds annually from roughly 15 million pounds -- a drop of about 25 percent. "It could go up if the quota goes up," he said in an interview. He noted that McDonald's also used other whitefish for its Filet-O-Fish sandwiches.

Mr. Johnson called the diminishing quotas a sign not of strain on fish stocks but of good management. "Everything we've seen and heard," he said, "suggests the fishery is starting to come back."

The Ministry of Fisheries agreed. "If you look at the current state of the fishery, it's apparent that the string of management actions that we've taken, which came at severe economic impact, have been effective," said Aoife Martin, manager of deepwater fisheries.

But the Blue Ocean Institute, a conservation group in East Norwich, N.Y., that scores seafood for ecological impact on a scale from green to red, still gives New Zealand hoki an unfavorable orange rating. The fish is less abundant over all, the group says, and the fishery "takes significant quantities of seabirds and fur seals."

Mr. Trott of the wildlife fund was more pointed. He called the fishery's management "driven by short-term gains at the expense of long-term rewards" -- a characterization the ministry strongly rejects.

But he, too, held out the prospect of a turnaround that would raise the hoki's abundance off New Zealand and significantly reduce levels of ecological damage and accidental killing.

"We are currently working with both industry and government to rectify all these issues," he said. "Our hope is that we will see great change and willingness by industry and, importantly, government to improve the situation dramatically."

Tragedy as Galway hooker sailor drowned

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HEROIC EFFORTS by the crew of a Galway hooker to save two brothers whose boat had capsized were praised by a priest at the funeral of a renowned Connemara sailor yesterday.

Fr Peadar Ó Conghaile told hundreds of mourners, who filled not just the church but also the grounds of St Mary's Church in Carna, that the four crewmen should get medals for bravery.

Seán Mac Donncha (67), known locally as Johnny Sheáin Jeaic, lost his life in the accident on Saturday morning as he and his younger brother Josie, went to take their traditional Galway hooker McHugh from Kinvara in the south of the bay to a regatta in Rossaveal. The boat capsized shortly after leaving Kinvara.

Mourners were yesterday told how the crew of Bláth na hÓige , which also left from Kinvara, came to their aid. The four men, Gearóid Ó Cualáin, Máirtín Ó Conghaile, Aonghus Ó Cualáin and Máirtín Ó Ceoinín, managed to rescue Josie but they were unable to save his brother.

"These men, especially Gearóid Ó Cualáin, risked their lives to save others," said Fr Ó Conghaile. The Carna parish priest said that, as in so many other coastal villages, loss at sea was all too frequent. Hundreds of mourners brought the small south Connemara village to a standstill.

St Mary's was packed from early morning and the mourners extended out on to the main road in the village.

They had travelled from the three nearby Aran Islands, Inishbofin and other offshore islands, as well as coastal communities from Cork to Donegal. Others had travelled from the United States where wider family members reside.

"We are all too familiar with loss at sea in these parts, yet there was enormous shock when the news came through on Saturday morning," Fr Ó Conghaile said.

"Johnny was a man who was renowned and respected as a man of the sea, a lover of the Irish language and Irish culture, and a great singer. He is an enormous loss to the community."

Mr Mac Donncha, from Ard West, Carna, is survived by his wife Barbara, daughters Kathy, Maureen, Roisín and Fiona, and son Seán. He was buried in Moyrus cemetery outside Carna.

Robert Flaherty - A Boatload of Wild Irishmen

Robert Flaherty Feature Doc to Begin Post Production

31 Jul 2009 |

Robert Flaherty
Editing will begin shortly on 'A Boatload of Wild Irishmen', a feature length documentary on Robert Flaherty, who became one of documentary cinema's most influential figures directing and producing the 1922 feature length film 'Nanook of the North'.

Written by Brian Winston, an Emmy award-winning documentary script-writer, 'A Boatload of Wild Irishmen' is being produced/directed and shot by Mac Dara Ó Curraidhín. The actor (and Aran Islander) Macdara Ó Fátharta will narrate the Irish language version of the film. An English language version for international distribution may be produced at a later time.

The documentary will explain the importance of Robert Flaherty, over the dramatic footage he took of a currach caught in a monstrous sea (from Man of Aran, 1934). He was the first to see that film of the every day life of 'real' people could be moulded into dramatic, entertaining narratives: but, by the same token, he is also the father of manipulation and distortion as well as being a bridge whereby stereotypes of exotic peoples (including Aran Islanders of the 1930s) became part of cinema.

The prime-source of imagery for the documentary will be the Flaherty film archive including 'Nanook of the North', 'Moana; The Pottery Maker' (1925); 'The 24 Dollar Island' (1926/7) and 'Man of Aran'.

This will be augmented by contemporary photography of various locations in Ireland, England, the USA, Canada and Samoa; his stills; other archival materials including 'Man of Aran: How the Myth was Filmed' and interviews with Mrs Frances Flaherty, Colman 'Tiger' King (recorded by Breandán Ó hÉithir in England in the 1970s) and Portrait of Robert Flaherty (a BBC radio documentary of 1952 with interviews with Flaherty, among others).

Editing will take place over the next six to eight weeks in Lincon, UK, and will be overseen by David Sleitht.

The film was funded by the BCI, TG4, the Irish Film Board, EM Media (U.K.), and MEDIA Europa.

Search resumes on Aran Islands

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The Doolin Coast Guard Delta boat went to Inis Óirr, the smallest of the Aran islands, this morning to continue the search for a for a visitor who went missing off the coast of Inis Oirr in the Aran Islands on Saturday night.

The alarm was raised on Sunday afternoon and helicopter, lifeboat and the coastguard, as well as gardaí and islanders, took part in the search.

More Coast Guard team members along with a SARDA Ireland Search Dog  also went across on a passenger ferry. The Doolin Coast Guard Delta and the Aran Lifeboat conducted line searches from Inish Óirr to Blackhead. The Shannon Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter also searched the area. Galway Sub Aqua Club a local boat and a boat from Carna also searched.

Coast Guard team members and the SARDA search dog searched the 10.2 km of coastline around the Island.

The man, in his mid-40s and from Derry, was last seen on the island's main pier at about 10pm.

John Falvey, divisional controller of Valentia coastguard, said the man was last seen on a pier at 2100 BST on Saturday.

"He wasn't seen entering the water at any location so we are searching the whole island as well as the sea areas off it."


Each of the Aran Islands has its own festival to celebrate its individual Patron Saint. Its an action packed weekend of currach races, swimming, Tug o' war, donkey racing, music and dancing on the pier. The high-light of the day is generally a Hooker Boat race in the bay.

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  • Patrún Inis Mór 2008 27th/28th/29th June
  • Patrún Inis Méain 2008 1st/2nd/3rd August
  • Patrún Inis Oírr 2008 15th/16th/17th August
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LORNA SIGGINS Marine Correspondent The Irish Times

The Shannon rescue helicopter is taken for granted now in the skies above the west coast as it approaches its 20th birthday, but it took a series of tragedies before the crucial service was established

A HAG OR "cailleach" was chasing Cuchulainn across Loop Head, Co Clare, when he leaped onto a rock several metres offshore. She attempted to follow him, fell into the sea, and her body was washed up on the headland named after her.

Were she to repeat her unfortunate experience now, the "cailleach" might well have survived and found herself at the end of a winch suspended from Shannon's Irish Coast Guard air-sea helicopter.

Airman Jim O'Neill might even have told her a few jokes to calm her, having already spotted her in the briny with his heat-seeking infrared camera before leaving the aircraft by cable and karabiner with his bag of parademical gear.

For just as Hag's Head is a distinctive part of the southern Clare shoreline, so the Shannon rescue helicopter has become an institution - taken for granted now in the skies above the west coast as it approaches its 20th birthday.

On a Sunday evening training mission, its presence is a subconscious comfort for the novice surfers - resembling diving beetles - navigating the swell off Lahinch, and the passengers on the Doolin-Inis Oírr ferry. An indigo Atlantic seems deceptively tranquil as the Sikorsky S-61 sweeps over the weathered rock buttresses forming the Cliffs of Moher.

There's a constant patter on the high- frequency radio, with talk about results of football matches mingling with communications between Shannon air-traffic control and the helicopter, call sign Golf Charlie Echo. Should that call sign change to Rescue 115, it is a signal that the training run has become a rescue "tasking".

"Bring some money and your mobile phone," Capt Cathal Oakes had advised this reporter, before becoming airborne with co-pilot Micheal Moriarty, winch operator Ciarán McHugh and winchman Jim O'Neill. "Just in case we have to drop you down somewhere en route."

It didn't arise; but when Capt Oakes donned a pair of plastic glasses, almost completely covered in tape, it was a reminder that even a routine training flight is accomplished under pressure. The glasses simulate night-time conditions. There will be several more exercises by crew members, each having to update his skills constantly, before we land.

Ironically, the most successful missions are often those no one hears about. Only a fraction of the more than 3,000 rescue flights Shannon has recorded over the past two decades have made headlines.

IT WASN'T ALWAYS like this, as those who campaigned over decades for adequate aerial support for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) clearly remember. Back in 1958, the crash of Hugo de Groot , a KLM flight, off Galway, with the loss of 99 lives, prompted such demands.

"Many people will wonder why air-sea rescue operations should have to be co- ordinated from Scotland and southern England when the accident took place within the air-traffic control area of Shannon Airport. Had there been a helicopter in the Republic - not necessarily at Shannon - it could have searched the crash scene by mid-afternoon at latest," this newspaper reported on August 15th, 1958.

There were to be more such calls, particularly from the fishing industry, over subsequent decades. For although pioneering Air Corps pilots undertook many rescues from Baldonnel from as early as 1963, capability was severely restricted by geographical location and helicopter flying range. Much of the coastline was dependent on the goodwill of Britain, principally through the RAF.

It took the death of Donegal skipper John Oglesby on the deck of his boat, Neptune, off the north Mayo coastline in 1988 to change all that. Oglesby, whose son was among the crew, had his leg severed by a trawl warp.

The nearest lifeboat station at the time was Arranmore, Co Donegal. By RAF calculations, the vessel would have reached port before the closest available helicopter would have reached it. Oglesby bled to death within sight of land.

Joan McGinley was distraught and angry at the manner in which Oglesby, a close friend of her partner, had died. After a public meeting in Killybegs not long after the accident, McGinley established the west coast search-and-rescue campaign, run with a group of people including Aran Island GP Dr Marion Broderick, Joey Murrin of the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation, Bryan Casburn of the Galway and Aran Fishermen's Co-op, former Naval Service commanders Eamonn Doyle and Paddy Kavanagh, former Air Corps pilot Comdt Fergus O'Connor and solicitor Peter Murphy.

Its single-issue focus yielded swift results. An interdepartmental review group, chaired by former garda commissioner Eamon Doherty, recommended that the Air Corps place a Dauphin helicopter on permanent 24-hour standby at Shannon as an interim measure - and so the first dedicated west coast air-sea base was in operation by September 1989.

A final report recommended that a medium-range helicopter service be provided to the State on contract from Shannon, with an operating radius of 200 nautical miles, and that the Air Corps Dauphin at Shannon be relocated to Finner military base in Co Donegal.

The Irish Coast Guard also owes its origins to that report, and to McGinley's campaign. The first coast guard director, Capt Liam Kirwan, effected a radical transformation of capability, assisted by the RNLI, which moved rapidly to open a new lifeboat station in Ballyglass, Co Mayo, as part of a further expansion.

NOW RUN BY Chris Reynolds, the Irish Coast Guard service can provide coastal, offshore, mountain and inland rescue. Aircraft cross the Border when requested and can assist Britain when required.

Shannon became a commercial rescue base within two years, with Irish Helicopters initially replacing the Air Corps. Air-sea rescue bases at Sligo (replacing Finner camp), Dublin and Waterford were to follow, with the contract for all four now held by CHC Helicopters.

Capt Dave Courtney, a former search-and-rescue pilot, recalls in his recent autobiography, Nine Lives , how operating procedures blended the best of experience from the RAF, Royal Navy, Air Corps, British Coastguard and commercial companies serving the North Sea oil industry.

Challenges, such as the near ditching of the Shannon helicopter shortly before Christmas 1993, helped to refine those procedures.

The S-61 had been called out to assist an Irish-registered Spanish fishing vessel, Dunboy , with 13 crew on board, which had lost engine power some 65km west of Slyne Head in winds of up to 150km an hour. Winchman John McDermott had just landed on the vessel's deck in a heaving sea when the boat listed 70 degrees, the cable broke and about 120ft wrapped itself around the aircraft's blades. A Mayday call was issued, but the helicopter, flown by Capt Nick Gribble and co-pilot Carmel Kirby managed to recover and fly to Galway, leaving McDermott to be picked up by the RAF hours later.

Not only has flying become safer, but the decision to approve paramedic training for use by winch crew on missions has also helped to save lives. "We used to scoop and run to the nearest hospital," O'Neill explains. "Now we can give certain types of treatment en route."

Even before that particular development, the Shannon S-61 had marked its first emergency birth. On March 17th, 1996, Sorcha Ní Fhlatharta saw first light of day in the helicopter cabin, when her mother, Mairéad, delivered her with the assistance of two nurses and the helicopter crew en route from Inis Oírr to University Hospital Galway.

"The crew were great and it was a sort of a distraction," the mother said some years afterwards. "I really didn't have time to think about the pain."


Even as Shannon prepares to celebrate two decades serving the coastline, helicopter and maintenance crews will also remember the sacrifice of colleagues - notably the four members of the Air Corps who died 10 years ago this week in the Dauphin helicopter crash at Tramore, Co Waterford.

Capt Dave O'Flaherty, Capt Michael Baker, Sgt Paddy Mooney and Cpl Niall Byrne were returning from the first night of the rescue mission in the early hours of July 2nd, 1999, when their helicopter collided with a sand dune in thick fog.

The official investigation highlighted "serious deficiencies" in the support given the four crew.

The four had only learned on July 1st - the day the search-and-rescue base at Waterford Airport was converted to 24-hour cover - that there was no provision for after-hours air-traffic control. An agreement had not been concluded by the Department of Defence and the airport management.

The report by the investigation unit specifically noted that considerable pressure was brought to bear on the late Capt OFlaherty, as detachment commander, to accept the rescue mission in search of a small boat with four adults and a child.

In June 2008, Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea awarded posthumous Distinguished Service Medals to the crew of Dauphin 248.

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

From Labrador to a Connemara Bog...


By Lorna Siggins and Jem Casey

SOME NINE decades after the British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown flew across the Atlantic and landed in a Connemara bog, their historic non-stop flight was celebrated with an air show in Clifden, Co Galway, at the weekend.

In April 1913 (renewed in 1918), the Daily Mail offered a prize of £10,000[4] to "the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland and any point in Great Britain or Ireland" in 72 continuous hours".

The flight nearly ended in disaster several times owing to engine trouble, fog, snow and ice. It was only saved by Brown's continual climbing out on the wings to remove ice from the engine air intakes and by Alcock's excellent piloting despite extremely poor visibility at times and even snow filling the open cockpit. The aircraft was badly damaged upon arrival due to the attempt to land in what appeared from the air to be a suitable green field but which turned out to be the bog on Derrygimlagh Moor, but neither of the airmen was hurt.

The world's only "formation" wing walking team, a jet display and a visit by a replica of the Vimy Vickers model used by Alcock and Brown were among highlights of the event atthe weekend, hosted by Connemara Chamber of Commerce.

"Today we take transatlantic travel for granted, but in 1919, these men undertook a dangerous, life-threatening trip which in time opened the skies for us all," the chamber said in a statement.

"Imagine for a moment the hub of activity that was Connemara 90 years ago when these two men literally dropped from the sky into the bog, and were able to send a message from Marconi's wireless radio station to inform London they had made it across the Atlantic - thus assuring themselves their rightful place in history," said the chamber of commerce statement.

They flew a modified Vickers Vimy IV twin-engined bomber powered by two Rolls-Royce Eagle engines, each of 360hp, taking off from Lester's Field in St. John's, Newfoundland at around 1:45pm, June 14, 1919

The aircraft crashed on landing (53°26′N 10°01′W / 53.433°N 10.017°W / 53.433; -10.017) in a bog near Clifden in Connemara, Ireland [7], at 8:40am on June 15, 1919, crossing the coast at 4.28pm. They flew 1890 miles (3040 km) in 16 hours 27 minutes, at an average speed of 115 mph (185 km/h).[8] The altitude varied between sea level and 12,000 ft (3,700 m) and 865 gallons (3,900 L - assuming imperial gallons) of fuel were on board.

An Alcock and Brown exhibition, by Connemara historian Kathleen Villiers-Tuthill, and a ground display by the Defence Forces was also part of the programme.

The Vimy Vickers replica was flown from the Brooklands Museum in Surrey, England, to Connnemara by John Dodd and Clive Edwards, landing at Galway Airport before flying west to Clifden.

Two memorials commemorating the flight are found near the landing spot in County Galway, Ireland. The first is an isolated cairn four kilometres south of Clifden on the site of Marconi's first transatlantic wireless station from which the aviators transmitted their success to London, and around 500 metres from the spot where they landed. In addition there is a sculpture of an aircraft's tail-fin on Errislannan Hill two kilometres north of their landing spot, dedicated on the fortieth anniversary of their landing, June 15, 1959.

Memorial, County Galway

A third monument marks the flight's starting point in Newfoundland.

A memorial statue was erected at London Heathrow Airport in 1954 to celebrate their flight. There is also a monument at Manchester Airport, less than 8 miles from John Alcock's birthplace. Their aircraft (rebuilt by the Vickers Company) can be seen in the London Science Museum in South Kensington.

A number of teams were vying to win the Daily Mail prize (one of many aviation prizes awarded by that newspaper). The first attempt was launched from England. The Short Brothers aircraft company had produced the first prototypes of the Short Shirl torpedo-bomber towards the end of World War I.

A Shirl was modified with extended wings and a huge external fuel tank to produce the Short Shamrock, of which only one was built. The underslung fuel tank can be seen in the photograph below.

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The Shamrock was powered by a Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engine, which was one of the most reliable aircraft engines of its day. Carrying a total of 435 gallons of fuel, it had a theoretical range of over 3,000 miles.

On April 18th, 1919, the Shamrock took off from Eastchurch in England to fly across the Irish Sea to The Curragh, Ireland, on the first leg of its trans-Atlantic flight attempt. Unfortunately, the engine failed 12 miles out to sea. The pilot, Major J. C. P. Wood, attempted to glide back to land, but was forced to ditch the aircraft in the sea a mile off Anglesey. The aircraft remained afloat, and was towed to the beach, but could not be repaired quickly. After another team successfully flew the Atlantic, it was dismantled.


Padraic's nostalgic trip to Inisheer

Meet Padraic | Q&A

  • Question: So, you were a Lobster fisherman in your youth, what was that like?

    Answer: I was a lobster fisherman for about two years when I was about sixteen. We'd go out in a currach, which is a traditional rowing boat. We'd drop the pots, of various different types, in the hope to find a lobster, or ten, when we'd return the next day. Back then everyone lived off the sea... and back then the lobsters were more plentiful. I have wonderful memories of those days. We all have a great connection here with the sea.

  • Question: The sailboats we see in the video, these are unique to this part of Ireland, right?

    Answer: That's the Galway hooker; you'll find them all along the coast from Galway city to Connemara. All those boats you see are built by hand here in Connemara. They were mainly used for transporting goods from village to village or to the city.

  • Question: Tell me more about the Worm's Hole; I'm fascinated by this...

    Answer: Isn't it amazing; I mean where you would find it! Divers have come here from America, France, Australia and they drop into the worms' hole and not one has touched the bottom. It's a mystery. That's nature for you.

  • Question: What is the most ideal time of year to visit the Connemara coastline?

    Answer: The middle of July, when the sky is clear and blue, and the sea, the same. There's no place on earth as nice. It's heaven. But, if you get clear day in winter, it's just as amazing.

  • Question: You grew up here; all this open landscape is your backyard...

    Answer: I did, and you can walk for miles through these fields and nobody will bother you. If you have the stamina, there's a boreen nearby in Rossaveal that leads to a Martello tower - a round tower with cannon on the roof - just by the edge of the sea. The tower has been there since the 1850's, it must be the only one along the west coast. It has a well inside it. Most of these towers are museums in other countries; here you'd hardly know it existed. It's not advertised. This whole area is not commercialized.

  • Question: I'm very interested in the coral sand beach...

    Answer: It's in of only two coral beaches in Ireland. The other one is supposed to be in Kerry, but nobody's ever seen it, so I wonder... but this is a pure coral beach and it's absolutely just beautiful. I must do more research on coral beaches in Ireland; there's not been any research on this that I'm aware of...

Ocean racing yachts leave feelgood factor in their wake

More than 600,000 spectators were in Galway over two weeks for the Volvo race, writes LORNA SIGGINS

PERHAPS IT was all that adulation and force-feeding by Good Food Ireland, perhaps it was the thought of the royalty bill for its anthem, Mundy s Galway Girl.

Either way, Irish-Chinese Volvo ocean race entry Green Dragon couldn t wait to set sail again for Sweden at the weekend, sprinting off the Galway Bay start line with a commanding lead to the Fastnet Rock.

Revelling in a force seven northeasterly, the fleet of seven round-the-world yachts had flown their kites as in setting their spinnakers for the downwind start of the race s eighth leg off Mutton Island and Salthill.

After a two-leg loop over four nautical miles, they were out beyond the Aran Islands and heading for south for the Blaskets.

Can you believe that there were a few spectator boats out at midnight at the Fastnet Rock in over 25 knots of wind? remarked Green Dragon skipper Ian Walker yesterday as the fleet reached across the Irish Sea on course for Land s End and the English Channel. Hundreds of spectators had defied the changing weather conditions on Saturday to line the shoreline. Provisional figures suggest that the event will have attracted more than 600,000 spectators during the Galway Volvo festival fortnight.

Once again, there were more than 100 boats, ribs, even windsurfers and several currachs afloat for the farewell, with shelter from the force seven conditions provided by the Naval Service flagship, LE Eithne. A cup final atmosphere was how Walker described it.

Addressing the crews before their departure, President Mary McAleese said their extraordinary skill and resilience had inspired all of us . She paid tribute to the organisers, to the hundreds of volunteers and to the people of Galway who took this ocean race to their hearts .

The Chinese ambassador to Ireland Liu Biwei spoke of his enthusiasm for the Irish-Chinese twinning, and the fleet was blessed by Canon Maureen Ryan, Pastor Tim Cummings and Fr Dick Lyng.

Commentator Daithí Ó Sé was anxious to correct any impression that the Galway populace had turned out specially for the nocturnal fleet arrival two weeks earlier. That was just the crowd for first Sunday morning Mass, he quipped.

A cheerful crew of 14 local schoolchildren escorted the seven skippers to their vessels, and threatening showers held off until most of the fleet had slipped from pontoons in the docks. They left the lock gates just in time for a fly-past by the Air Corps.

Can you believe it the boats go, the rain comes, one Spanish supporter of Telefonica Black exclaimed.

Even as the course was set for the teardrop of Ireland off west Cork, spectators were recalling that it was only weeks away from the 30th anniversary of the Fastnet yacht race which claimed 15 lives.

The 1,250 nautical mile leg to Marstrand in Sweden pursues a coastal route, with main challenges being busy shipping lanes in the English channel, tidal gates, shallows and sandbanks in the North Sea. The route involves a loop off the Hook of Holland in deference to the Dutch entry Delta Lloyd and first boats are expected in Sweden by the middle of this week.

I think I want to move to Ireland, US Puma skipper Kenny Read recorded from the boat yesterday. It is always sunny (at least when we were there). The golf is amazing. The people couldn t be nicer.

You can get a pint of beer just about anywhere you turn and all we did was win races when we were there. And people wanted us to sign autographs and take photos with them all hours of the day. Hmmmm. What s not to like about all of that?

Delta Lloyd s media crewman, Sander Pluijm, said: Galway understands the Volvo Ocean Race. They took it and squeezed the best out of it. The city lived and breathed the race for two weeks in a row. . . If you asked me, all stopovers should be like this one.

There is no guarantee that the round-world event will return to the west of Ireland, although plans are already being made to ensure it does.

Volvo Ocean Race chief executive and former round-the- world sailor Knut Frostad has said there will be fewer ports of call, a cap on competitor spending and greater emphasis on renewable energy in three years time.

Galway and Belfast are among more than 80 ports bidding for stopover status, and Mr Frostad said he could not say which if any of the bids would be successful. Bidders have to support a race entry and the organisers want to encourage larger fleets, with more young sailors and more women it is 20 years since Ireland s Angela Farrell crewed on the Tracy Edwards-skippered Maiden.

"Monsters with sails" fill Irish waters

THEY ARE known as the "sunfish" and as the "monster with sails" in Irish, and our northwest waters are "teeming" with them. writes LORNA SIGGINS, Irish Times Marine Correspondent

Scientists working off the Co Donegal coast have tagged a record 50 basking sharks in three days this week.

"Astounding" is how Dr Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group described the numbers, which reflect a fraction of the potential basking shark population in these waters.

"I would normally expect to be lucky if we tagged 50 in a whole year," he said.

The basking shark was hunted off the south and west coasts until 20 years ago. Fishermen nicknamed it the "sunfish" due to its habit of swimming just below the surface.

"It was also known as liop an dá - unwieldy beast with two fins - or more generally liabhán mór, signifying a great leviathan," Dr Berrow said.

"The most evocative Irish name for it is liabhán chor gréine - the great fish of the sun."

Dr Berrow and National Parks and Wildlife Service conservation ranger Emmett Johnston set out earlier this week to tag the shark off Donegal, as part of a project funded by the Heritage Council.

"In two hours last Monday we tagged 23 sharks, and we found 19 the following day - four of which had been tagged the day before," Dr Berrow said.

By Wednesday of this week they had attached their 50th tag, using colourcoded devices fixed with a modified telescopic pole.

Four colours are used to denote the coastal locations of Donegal, Kerry, Cork and "other areas".

Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and Crossing the Line Films have also funded two satellite tags, which last four months and which the researchers use for specific tracking.

Dr Berrow said recent studies in Britain using satellite data have raised questions about whether basking sharks hibernate in winter. The British results record long-distance movements between Cornwall and Scotland, with one shark travelling 1,878km (1,167 miles) in 77 days across the Celtic Sea and up the western seaboard of Ireland, he said.

"A basking shark tagged in the Isle of Man in 2007 went to Newfoundland, a distance of 9,589km [5,958 miles] in 82 days, which was the first evidence of a transatlantic movement," Dr Berrow said.

Increased marine productivity, which may be linked to climate change, could be one of several reasons for greater numbers of the shark in these waters, he added.

Basking sharks were a by-catch in drift nets for salmon, now outlawed, he said.

The fish were hunted for oil until the mid-1970s off the west coast and Dr Berrow noted that the street lights of Galway and Waterford were lit with basking shark oil in 1742.

"The best-documented basking shark fishery was off Achill Island, Co Mayo. Between 1950 and 1964, 9,000 sharks were killed, with a record 1,808 killed in 1952 alone," Dr Berrow said. The fishery closed in 1975, but Norwegian vessels continued to catch the shark commercially off Co Waterford until 1986, when an estimated 2,000 were killed.

Basking sharks are protected in Britain and Northern Ireland but not in the Republic.

The EU recently placed a moratorium on fishing for the sharks in these waters.

Any sightings of the basking shark or of tagged sharks should be conveyed to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

Further information on the project is available from

Surfer (56) killed off Inis Oírr

A Dublin man who died in a surfing accident off the Aran island of Inis Oírr at the weekend has been named as David Deering (56), a father of two, from Mount Merrion.

Mr Deering was an experienced surfer and it is believed he hit his head in a fall from the surfboard off the southwest of Inis Oírr last Saturday evening. He was pulled ashore and his son administered first aid.

The crew of the Irish Coast Guard Sikorsky helicopter from Shannon also assisted, but Mr Deering could not be revived. His body was flown to Limerick Regional Hospital.

Mr Deering was a keen sports enthusiast, who coached many pupils at Willow Park and Blackrock College schools. He was also director of a company which ran summer courses for children in soccer and rugby.

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