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Danú of Galway Berths in Parkmore, Kinvara, After 3,300 Nautical Mile Greenland Expedition

2nd September 2022
Peter Owens, his wife Vera Quinlan and two children, Lilian and Ruairí, along with family and friends celebrate the return of Danu at Parkmore
Peter Owens, his wife Vera Quinlan and two children, Lilian and Ruairí, along with family and friends celebrate the return of Danu at Parkmore Credit: Tony Maguire

Irish yacht Danú of Galway received a musical welcome when it berthed in south Galway bay last evening after a successful scientific, sailing and mountaineering expedition to the world’s largest and deepest fjord system in Greenland.

Musicians who play regularly with Danú’s skipper, Peter Owens, in Kinvara were out at Parkmore pier as the 13m (43ft) steel ketch berthed at high tide after a 3,300 nautical mile round trip.

Local Kinvara musicians who play with Peter Owens, Danú of Galway skipper, welcoming the yacht at Parkmore pier Photo: Tony MaguireLocal Kinvara musicians who play with Peter Owens, Danú of Galway skipper, welcoming the yacht at Parkmore pier Photo: Tony Maguire

The group of independent adventurers had recorded some new mountaineering achievements in the remote Scoresby Sound fjord system on Greenland’s eastern coast.

The vessel’s crew also took daily sea and freshwater samples to assess the extent of microplastics spreading into Arctic waters and affecting marine life as part of a research project with Trinity College, Dublin’s Centre for the Environment.

Irish yacht Danú of GalwayIrish yacht Danú of Galway returns to Kinvara Photo: Tony Maguire

“Mesmerising” was how Owens, a University of Galway scientist, described the experience in the remote Greenland fjord system.

He was speaking en route in from the Aran island of Inis Mór where he and his crew, Richard Darley from Lymington in England and sailor and mountaineer Richard Church, spent Wednesday night.

Danú of Galway had left Kilrush, Co Clare, bound for Iceland and then Greenland, in late June with Owens, Darley and Paddy Griffin, also from Kinvara, on board.

They were joined on the Iceland-Greenland leg by Paul Murphy from Carran, Co Clare and Dublin mountaineer Sean Marnane.

Murphy travelled over from Clare last evening, joining Owens’s wife Vera Quinlan and two children, Lilian and Ruairí, along with family and friends.

The Owens-Quinlan family are reunited at ParkmoreThe Owens-Quinlan family are reunited at Parkmore Photo: Peter Owens

Just over two years ago, the Owens-Quinlan family had also berthed at Parkmore, after spending 14 months sailing, climbing and hiking around the Atlantic.

The Scoresby Sound expedition aimed to be self-sufficient in the Arctic, with a strict policy of “leave no trace” on the environment.

The crew experienced challenging weather during their passage north to Iceland with heavy Atlantic waves smashing one of the yacht’s windows en route, and they had to effect engine repairs in Husavik on Iceland’s north coast, which involved diving under the hull.

“We left Iceland for Turner island on the eastern coast of Greenland, and headed for the settlement of Ittoqqortoormiit where we got a rifle in case we needed it for polar bears”Owens said.

“When we sailed into Scoresby Sound, there was fog and we saw what looked like a bank of cloud ahead of us - but in fact it was pack ice,” Owens said.

Icelanders explained to the Irish crew that it was one of their most unsettled summers in 30 years.

“We spent the next few weeks in Scoresby Sound, visiting a series of remote anchorages and surveying each one around Milne land and Renland,”he said.

Owens and Sean Marnane, both experienced mountaineers, used kayaks to gain access to climbing routes.

They recorded a new route above the Skillebugt fjord anchorage on the south coast of Renland, and also reached the summit of Hermelintop, a 1172m-high peak with a commanding view of the confluence of three ice choked fjord systems.

Danú then circumnavigated Milne Land, where it encountered its last bit of concentrated ice which was “constantly cracking, forming changing and emitting big, loud bangs”, Owens recalled.

When the crew identified a weather window, they returned to the Ittoqqortoormiit settlement to leave back the rifle – which they didn’t have to use.

The crew achieved “everything we set out to do, in spite of the challenges en route “, Owens said.

Easterly winds slowed their return from Iceland, and they arrived off Inishbofin several days ago.

The fresh and sea water samples will be sent to TCD for analysis, and Owens expects results of any microplastic evidence could be available very soon.

Owens has paid tribute to his crew, family and friends for their support, and to the expedition sponsors - the Gino Watkins Arctic Club awards, the Ocean Cruising Club challenge grant and Mountaineering Ireland.

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.


At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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