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Microplastic ingested by plankton may greatly impair our oceans’ natural carbon-capturing abilities, according to a new study from NUI Galway.

Marine scientists at the university’s Ryan Institute found that microscopic particles of plastic waste in the world’s oceans are interfering with the food chain that cycles CO2 from the surface to the floor, as The Irish Times reports.

The cycle involves the absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere by algae on the ocean surface via photosynthesis. This algae is a food source for zooplankton such as salps, whose faecal matter sinks to the ocean floor.

As much as half of all CO2 produced by humans over the last 200 years has been captured at the bottom of the world’s oceans in this manner, the scientists say.

However, the team have identified that when salps ingest algae along with microplastic particles, their excretions do not sink to the bottom as fast, and may be broken down closer to the surface to release more of their trapped CO2.

“It is very important to point out our study was carried out in a laboratory,” said Dr Tom Doyle of UCC, a partner in the research.

“We now need to go out into the field to further test our hypothesis by quantifying the abundance of microplastics found in salps and their faecal pellets in different areas of our oceans.”

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#NewsUpdate - The Defence Forces Review 2018, in association with the School of Political Science and Sociology will be held in NUI Galway next week, on Thursday 22 November.

The event is also been held with the Irish Centre for Human Rights, at the National University of Galway. The Review entilted Peacekeeping & Peacemaking Interventions, is open to the public and free of charge to attend (registration at 9pm) for event starting at 10am in the college's Aula Maxima. 

2018 represents the 60th Anniversary of when in 1958 Irish troops were first deployed on a UN mission since the foundation of the State as Military Observers (UNMOs) in Lebanon. It is also the 40th Anniversary of an Irish Infantry Battalion being deployed to UNIFIL in South Lebanon, where the Defence Forces maintains a significant presence.

It is therefore fitting that this years edition of the DF Review should examine a key debate for our times, namely the evolution, development and indeed relevance of Peacekeeping and Peacemaking Interventions; a debate never more focused in view of the continuing catastrophic conflict in Syria and the ripple effects of same including the ongoing refugee crisis.

For further reading on the Review (incl. previous years to download) in addition for the event's full programme click the (pdf) to include list of speakers.

Published in News Update

#MarineScience - Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have identified ‘super healing’ capabilities in limpets, as Trinity News reports.

The small molluscs, which can be found in coastal areas all around the world, were studied for a paper in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Trinity scientists found that the limpets they studied were able to sense minor damage to their shells from weathering or predator attacks, and repair them much in the way mammals heal broken bones.

Meanwhile, sea sponges recently discovered in Ireland’s deep ocean territory could hold special medicinal properties, according to The Irish Times.

Samples taken during the recent Marine Institute expedition are being tested for their effectiveness in treating cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, epilepsy and other conditions.

The relevant chemicals are produced by the sponges as part of their defences against competing marine organisms, and NUI Galway’s Dr Louise Alcock hopes to see positive results within the next year.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - This Friday 16 February is the deadline for applications to the Hardiman PhD Scholarships — and if beaches and coastal research are your passion, NUI Galway lecturer Eugene Farrell wants you to get in touch.

High achievers with an appetite for research and creativity are urged to submit their interest in the funding call which can provide a stipend of €16,000 per annum plus fees for four years.

Details on eligibility and how to apply are available from the NUI Galway website HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#MarineScience - NUI Galway will host a public seminar examining ocean acidification next Wednesday 16 September.

Ocean acidification arises as a result of the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth’s oceans, caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

One of the world-leading authorities on ocean acidification, Dr Richard Feely of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle will discuss the present and future implications of increased carbon dioxide levels on the health of our ocean ecosystems and related ocean-based economies.

The lecture will take place at 7.30pm in the Aula Maxima at NUI Galway and is free to the public. Advance registration is advised as the number of places is limited. To register click HERE.

Published in Marine Science

#deepsea – An international research team, led by scientists from NUI Galway, is currently exploring the Whittard Canyon deep-sea submarine canyon system in the North East Atlantic onboard the Marine Institute's RV Celtic Explorer.

Researchers from Ireland, the UK, the USA and Germany are using the Institute's ROV Holland I to study the diversity of deep-water animals and relate this to geology and ocean currents.

The Whittard Canyon system is at the continental margin approximately 250 miles SW of Cork, covers an area of 2000 square miles, and is home to vulnerable marine ecosystems of cold-water corals, deep-water oysters and file clams. But new research is also revealing a remarkable diversity and abundance of rare black corals, which are protected under international legislation.

"The extreme shape of submarine canyons seems to affect the water flow within them in such a way as to deliver nutrient rich waters to particular parts of the canyon system. This allows diverse ecosystems to flourish. Our research is attempting to understand these processes so that we can predict where the most vulnerable ecosystems are likely to occur and therefore ensure the environment is protected," explained Dr Martin White of NUI Galway's Ryan Institute, and the expedition's chief scientist.

According to Dr Louise Allcock, also of NUI Galway's Ryan Institute, "Black corals are particularly vulnerable to any sort of impact. They grow extremely slowly and dating studies have shown that some species live for thousands of years."

The Whittard Canyon system is huge, with meandering branches extending over an area of more than 80 by 20 miles. Mapping the system, much of which is in depths below 1500m, to detect vulnerable species is difficult. Therefore the team hopes that the new data will reveal the factors that determine which species occur where.

ROV Holland I provides a way of sampling deep-sea animals without impacting the ecosystem. The team is also providing deep-sea sponge samples to scientists searching for novel pharmaceutical compounds. If the chemists find interesting compounds such as antibacterial and other pharmaceutical properties in the sponges, they will aim to work out how to synthesize them in the laboratory. This is the first step in the production of new drugs.

The scientists are blogging about their experiences and discoveries aboard RV Celtic Explorer throughout the survey (June 6th – 21st) on the blog scientistsatsea.blogspot.ie and on twitter via the hashtag #ce14009

The research survey is carried out under the Sea Change strategy with the support of the Marine Institute, funded under the Marine Research Sub-Programme by the Irish Government.

Published in Marine Science

#boatofthe year – The NUI Galway campaign sailing Martin Breen's Galway Reflex 38 yacht has been named ICRA's Boat of the Year. The prize was presented in Kilkenny this afternoon and applauded by a wide cross section of delegates at the one day ICRA conference including leading sail makers, race organisers, Olympic race officer Jack Roy and Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) champion Damian Foxall.

The NUI campaign was picked ahead of six other boats shortlisted for the prize.

NUI Galway campaign manager Cathal Clarke said the boat's aim in 2012 was to inspire other sailors from the West Coast to undertake similar projects and for the next generation of Volvo Ocean Race sailors to get out there and get sailing.

The ICRA Judges said the student based campaign embodied the spirit of ICRA with a campaign that featured competition in many venues around the country.

Following an overall win in the 2011 Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race as 'Galway Harbour' Martin Breen's Reflex 38 was prepared for the 2012 Round Ireland by students of NUIG and raced as 'NUIGALWAY'. The students won Class 2 and were the first Irish fixed keel boat, finishing sixth overall.

They were also class 1 winners in the Pwllheli to Wicklow ISORA race in preparation for June's Round Ireland race.

The boat is raced by a separate inshore crew and in 2012 they competed in the 2012 ICRA Nationals in Howth, Cork Week and Calves Week. In 2013 they will plan to race at the ICRA Nationals in Fenit and also in the Sovereigns Cup in Kinsale.

The NUI Galway Round Ireland crew were Ben Scallan (helm), Eoghan McGregor (helm), Joan Mulloy (trimmer), Mark Armstrong (trimmer), Cathal Clarke (trimmer), Back row (left to right) Eoin Breen (bowman), Conor Kinsella (Mainsail trimmer), David Fitzgerald, (bowman), Louis Mulloy (bowman) and Ruaidhri De Faoite (mainsail trimmer).

One of the main aims of NUI campaign was to promote the home-grown sailing talent in Galway. Boat skipper, Cathal Clarke said: "The vision of this project is to prove the wealth of sailing talent here on the west coast and to encourage the next generation of Volvo Ocean Race sailors to get out there and get sailing. We aim to inspire other sailors from the region to undertake such projects in the future."

 

 

Published in ICRA

#DIVING - The Sub-Aqua Club at NUI Galway and the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology welcomes diving expert Edward Bourke to the NUI Galway campus on 18 October to give a talk on historical wreck diving in Ireland.

The talk will take a look at some of the exploits of wreck and salvage dives in Ireland over the years, exploring the nation of the Irish coast as a hotbed of pioneering subaquatic activity, driven mostly by the recovery of shipborne cannons - not only because of their expense, but also to prevent their falling into the hands of insurgents.

Bourke will give his talk at the Siobhán McKenna Theatre in the Arts Millennium Building at 7pm on Thursday 10 October. The evening will be of interest to local historians and divers alike. And as much of the activity was on the west coast, there is some local maritime interest, too.

Edward Bourke is a microbiologist, maritime historian and diver with Viking Sub Aqua in Dublin for 30 years and has dived in Australia, South Africa, Spain, Croatia, France and UK as well as Ireland. He has published three volumes on Shipwrecks of the Irish Coast, cataloguing some 6,000 wrecks in Irish waters, as well as a book of Irish shipwreck photos and a volume on the wreck of the Tayleur at Lambay Island. A scientist with Diageo, Bourke's most recent publication is a history of Guinness.

Published in Diving

#VOLVO OCEAN RACE - It has been revealed that a new coastal radar system developed at NUI Galway was instrumental to the success of the PUMA team in the in-port races at the recent Volvo Ocean Race finale.

The radar system, which measures currents and waves throughout Galway Bay on the hour, is run by Dr Mike Hartnett’s research group in the newly launched Ryan Institute at NUI Galway.

The sophisticated system is normally used for advanced marine research, but PUMA Ocean Racing performance coach Robert Hopkins Jr contacted the researchers to see if their radar data could be used by his crew to get the edge on the CAMPER team, with which they were tied on points.

Maps of the currents in the bay over the past month were made available to PUMA and Dr Hartnett advised team on their sailing strategy for the important race.

PUMA went on to win in great style and win the series by a one-point margin. The win also marked PUMA’s first trip to the top of the podium for an in-port race in this round of the Volvo Ocean Race.

PUMA finished on the podium in nine of the 10 in-port races, collecting 45 total points to win the overall In-Port Race Series. 

Hopkins was delighted with the result. “Currents in Galway Bay were a big factor in the in-port race, where tides, wind and river outflow make it all very complicated," he said. "To prepare for the race, we looked for surface current patterns in hundreds hours of data from the NUI Galway radar, took on-the-water readings before the start, and data from Mar Mostro’s own Doppler velocity log supplied by Nortek AS. It worked and we won the race.”

The NUI Galway radar data will soon be available online to the public, hopefully helping local sailors to improve their performance.

Dr Hartnett acknowledged the assistance provided by two local businessmen in enabling this advanced technology.

“The Spiddal radar site is sending its data back to the computers at NUI Galway via the broadband service of An Crúiscín Lán, thanks to the permission of owner John Foy.

"Similarly, Liam Twomey, general manager of the National Aquarium of Ireland, Salthill, provided access to their broadband to courier the Mutton Island radar data back to NUI Galway.”

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#roundireland – The countdown has begun for Sunday's Round Ireland Yacht Race where NUI Galway is supporting the first ever university-backed entry into the 700-mile  race. Ten NUI Galway students and graduates will be on the start line in Wicklow this Sunday at 12 noon.

The race is a non-stop circumnavigation of Ireland by sea and will take anything from anything from four to six days. The NUI Galway crew is one of the youngest teams to ever compete in the event. Sailing together in the NUI Galway sailing club over the past few years has built up the trust and camaraderie which they will rely on during the race. The team have loaned a 38-ft racing yacht for the race.

The past few months have been very busy for the NUI Galway crew says skipper Cathal Clarke: "We have been following a tough training plan, attending safety courses and getting professional coaching. We recently competed in our first offshore race as a crew across the Irish Sea from Wales to Wicklow and were very happy with a second place result. The aims of this campaign are high, with a lot of experienced sailors on board; we will certainly be looking for good results."

Pat Morgan, Vice-President for the Student Experience at NUI Galway, said: "The determination and drive of this crew is to be admired, especially given that they are one of the youngest crews to participate in the race. They have worked very hard and displayed incredible determination and dedication over recent months in their preparation for the race. The University actively promotes leadership and team building skills and is delighted to support this crew to further develop these attributes as they compete in the Round Ireland Race. We wish them every success."

Published in Round Ireland
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