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Irish Yacht Danú Reaches Iceland on Passage to Greenland's Scoresby Sound

18th July 2022
Irish adventurers Paddy Griffin, Peter Owens and Richard Darley of Danú, bound for Greenland
Irish adventurers Paddy Griffin, Peter Owens and Richard Darley of Danú, bound for Greenland Credit: Paddy Griffin

An Irish yacht on a scientific, sailing and mountaineering expedition to the Arctic has reached Iceland en route to the world’s largest and deepest fjord system, Scoresby Sound in east Greenland.

The group of independent adventurers on board the 13m (43ft) steel ketch Danú is led by NUI Galway scientist and mountaineer Peter Owens.

The crew aim to research the extent of microplastics in northern waters, while also exploring the remote Arctic region.

The Scoresby Sound fjord area is currently inaccessible due to ice conditions, but the crew are receiving regularly updates from Iceland, which they reached several days ago.

Irish yacht Danú, which is bound for Greenland, berthed in Husavik, IcelandIrish yacht Danú, which is bound for Greenland, berthed in Husavik, Iceland Photo: Paddy Griffin

The crew of Owens and Paddy Griffin, both from Kinvara, Co Galway, and English sailor Richard Darley, experienced challenging weather during their passage north to Iceland from Kilrush, Co Clare.

Heavy Atlantic waves smashed one of the yacht’s windows en route, and they had to effect temporary repairs.

“The wind changed out of nowhere, went up to gale force in seconds and a flailing rope took out the “doghouse” window in front of the steering position,” Owens said.

“The seas also ripped away one of our solar panels,” he said.

“Conditions were so heavy during the seven-and-a-half-day passage that we were rarely out of gales, and landed in Djuvipogur in Iceland in a force nine gale with four-metre seas,” Owens said.

The yacht berthed in Husavik on the north coast of Iceland, where several other vessels have been taking refuge. The crew have been working on engine repairs and will await favourable ice conditions before setting off for Greenland.

Owens said that Icelanders told him it was one of their most unsettled summers in 30 years.

The crew of Danú are gathering samples of salt and fresh water sources, which they are filtering to test for microplastic evidence in a scientific collaboration with Trinity College, Dublin’s Centre for the Environment.

“There is not much data for microplastic presence in Arctic waters, and we hope to improve global knowledge of this when the information is analysed,” Owens explained.

Joining the yacht in Iceland are Paul Murphy from Carran, Co Clare and Dublin mountaineer Sean Marnane.

Marnane aims to climb with Owens in Milne Land and Renland, a peninsula in eastern Greenland, around the remote Scoresby Sound landscape- extending over almost 300 km from northeast Greenland national park.

Owens, expedition leader is a mountaineer sailor with many years of experience. He and his wife Vera Quinlan and two children Lilian and Ruairí spent 14 months sailing, climbing and hiking around the Atlantic several years ago.

The Scoresby Sound expedition aims to be self-sufficient in the Arctic, with a strict policy of “leave no trace” on the environment. It has received funding from the Ocean Cruising Club and the Arctic Club in Britain.

Published in Marine Science, Cruising
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.


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  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
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(Ref: Marine Institute)

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