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Hybrid Car Carriers, Whales, Sea-Sickness & Preserving Island Life

9th November 2012
Hybrid Car Carriers, Whales, Sea-Sickness & Preserving Island Life

#maritimenews – The world's first hybrid car carrier, whale trouble in Baltimore, is it safe to live near the water, 'heave ho' the stomach, preserving island life read more in THIS ISLAND NATION ....


SEASICKNESS, mal de mer, is without doubt the curse of sea-going and has, at some time, had an effect on most sailors, myself included. Away back in 1897 Thomas W.Knox, writing in 'How to Travel,' advised: "Many persons will tell you that it is an excellent thing to be seasick as you are so much better afterwards.." And in 1912 the Scientific American magazine reported: "Perhaps no malady to which mankind is subject is productive of so much real suffering, with so low a percentage of mortality as the affliction known as seasickness," while Milton Berle, the first major American television star, summed up his suffering: "I had mal de mer aboard a yacht. If somebody had killed me I would have made him my sole heir!"

So why are people susceptible to this dreaded problem which has found no answer from the doctors, philosophers and writers who have discussed it for centuries?

The results of a survey of the 223 crews who took part in the last edition of the Global Challenge, the ''wrong-way-round-the world-sailing-race,' as it is known because it goes against the prevailing winds, are interesting. It focussed on the penultimate leg of the race across the Atlantic from Boston to La Rochelle in France. I have raced across the Atlantic myself, which can throw up (definitely!) a lot of challenges to one's stomach! Two-thirds of those sailing experienced seasickness. Factors influencing those affected included age – those older than 24 were less susceptible - and gender, more women than men were seasick.

Eighty-four per cent were able to carry out their duties but 16% were so incapacitated that they couldn't. Recovery time varied, the worst cases taking five days. The survey was carried out by Yachting World magazine. It also showed, as old sailors knew best when they worked the square-rigged tall ships, rigged to sail downwind, that point of sailing is most comfortable. An old sailor advised me when I began sailing: "The wind is best coming from behind you!"


I live near the water, at Monkstown in Cork Harbour and it has always seemed to me that there is a particular pleasure in being able to do so, to walk along the riverside, to look at boats, at wildlife along the shore. Humankind has always settled habitation near water, for good reasons - transport, the availability of water itself, the food source it provides, but in the wake of 'Superstorm Sandy,' it is interesting to see that public debate has arisen in the USA about why people want to live so close to water.

I recall the words of former President and avid sailor, John F.Kennedy: "We are tied to the sea and when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch, we are going back from whence we came."

"Humans have an affinity for water. It is in the genetic makeup of a species first nurtured in the watery womb. In America, it is clear that we find comfort where water flows over the earth," the American media is reporting. "But in these days of collapsed houses, flooded subway tunnels and washed-out roads in Superstorm Sandy's wake why do we build alongside water and crave its attractions because it has a dangerous side, whether it is Sandy; or Katrina that wiped away much of New Orleans; or rivers overflowing their banks in New York. The joy of living near the water is counterbalanced by the devastation it can bring."

"Water surrounding some of our cities is starting to be a liability," said Daniel Stokols, the Professor at the School of Social Ecology in the University of California-Irvine.



There are several locations around the coast where the skeletons of whales are preserved and have provided a beneficial, local economic support through tourist interest. But in West Cork the saga of the fin whale which stranded at Baltimore Harbour in the summer amidst a lot of publicity has ended in disagreement with the towing of the whale carcass to open water between Cape Clear and the Fasnet Rock and sinking it with 3 tonnes of weight attached.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group says this ended "any chance of salvaging the skeleton, which we feel is a shame as it could have been a wonderful community resource that would have benefitted local tourism, as well as being a fantastic educational and conservation amenity ".

The IWDG is not happy with what it describes as "a well-orchestrated but ill- informed group across the Bay" that won the "shouting match" and convinced local Cork Co. County representatives to have it removed from the Carthy Islands area, in Roaringwater Bay and towed out to sea. "Some of the arguments for this course of action bordered on the bizarre, but it seems the lobbyists conclusion was that this whale represented a 'toxic' timebomb. Statements made without any evidence ... The reality is that there was no evidence that this carcass was toxic".


Watching the development of the salvage work at the wreck of the cruise ship Costa Concordia and the court hearing involving its Captain Francesco Schettino, I wondered what he must be feeling when his lawyer asked the media scrum around the Italian courthouse to give some thought to this. The lawyer said the media and the public should have "some human feeling for the Captain" after the stress of the last ten months since the vessel sank in January. "He has a family too and he is suffering, give him at least some human consideration. He has feelings too," the lawyer said. Not many people feel much sympathy for the Captain and the families of those who died are still seeking answers about the sinking. A multinational team of more than 450 specialists has almost completed the stabilisation of the 950-foot long vessel off Giglio Island in Italy anchoring it to the rocky sea shore with four massive cables looped beneath its belly. It will take a year to complete the salvage.

Captain, Francesco Schettino, has accepted blame for causing the disaster in which 32 people died, but says others should share responsibility. The company has denied any responsibility and blamed him solely for the course he took when the Italian cruise ship crashed into rocks. While pre-trial hearings have finished it seems that it will not be until the Spring that a full trial will start.


The world's first hybrid car carrier has been built by Japanese Mitsubishi Heavy Industries at its Kobe shipyard for OSK Lines and named the Emerald Ace. No association with Ireland in that name! Electricity is generated by a solar power system while the vessel is underway and stored in lithium-generated batteries which provide power so that diesel generators can be shut down in port when zero emissions are generated.


We all live on an island, though a lot of people still don't seem to realise that, but look in from next Monday, November 12, at "AR AN OILEÁN", a four-part documentary series on RTE, exploring what it means to live on islands. Made by Loosehorse productions the series and explores island living in the context of dwindling populations. Despite the difficulties, island people and new residents are determined that they will not go the way of the Blaskets and other islands which became depopulated.

The story is told by islanders like Niamh Ní Dhrisceoil, a young teacher in her twenties who commutes every week from Cape Clear to Ballincollig near Cork City where she teaches and Steve Wing, English-born manager of the world famous Bird Observatory on Cape Clear (both pictured below). They are joined by neighbours and friends who opened their lives to the cameras for a year and by islanders on Inishmaan in the Aran Islands, to show why they believe there is a sustainable way of life on the islands for generations to come.



Email your comments on maritime matters to : [email protected]

Follow Tom for more maritime news and comment on Twitter: @TomMacSweeney

Published in Island Nation Team

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