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#loophead – Former RTE newsreader and lighthouse enthusiast, Anne Doyle was in West Clare today where she joined Councillor John Crowe, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, in launching Loop Head Lighthouse's 2015 tourist season.

The historic landmark commenced its 5th year of operations when it reopened to the public on 03 April last. Clare County Council, which manages Loop Head Lighthouse in conjunction with the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL), says the facility will remain open daily (10am-6pm) until 4th October 2015.

Anne Doyle has been captivated by lighthouses since her childhood in Ferns, County Wexford, where she grew up observing the sweeping lights of the Tuskar Rock Lighthouse.

"Ireland's lighthouses hold so much history and are located in some of Western Europe's most scenic settings. Loop Head is no exception and the location of the lighthouse on the tip of the majestic Loop Head Peninsula and at the mouth of the Shannon Estuary makes it extra special," said Ms. Doyle.

Commenting on the launch of the 2015 visitor season, Councillor John Crowe said: "The 19th century West Clare landmark will be looking to capitalise on its designation as a Signature Discovery Point on the Wild Atlantic Way and further promote the economic development of the Loop Head Peninsula."

"Visitor numbers at the lighthouse have continued grow year on year since it was first opened to the public in 2011. During this time the lighthouse has delivered a major boost to economic activity in the wider area and I am confident it will further build on this in the months and years ahead," he added.

Loop Head Lighthouse is steeped in history and rich in maritime heritage with its origins dating back to the 1670s. The existing tower style lighthouse was constructed in 1854 and was operated and maintained by a keeper who lived within the lighthouse compound. Taoiseach Enda Kenny's grandfather was a keeper at the lighthouse. James John McGinley took up duty at the Lighthouse as Principal Keeper on 16th January 1933. He spent 1 year and 10 months at Loop Head. He was transferred from the station in October 1934.

Located to the rear of the lighthouse is an Éire sign etched into the headland, which was used to alert passing Allied aircrews that they were passing over neutral Ireland during World War Two.

In January 1991, the lighthouse was converted to automatic operation, and today is in the care of an attendant and is also monitored by the CIL.

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#loophead – The historic Loop Head Lighthouse reopens to the public this Friday. The 19th century West Clare landmark will be looking to capitalise on its designation as a Signature Discovery Point on the Wild Atlantic Way by exceeding the 20,368 visitors it recorded during its six-month opening period during 2014.

Clare County Council, which manages Loop Head Lighthouse in conjunction with the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL), says the facility will remain open daily (10am-6pm) until 4th October 2015.

"2014, which was the lighthouse's fourth year of operation as a visitor attraction, saw visitor figures buoyed by the development of new services at Shannon Airport, favourable weather conditions and the launch of the Wild Atlantic Way," said Gerard Dollard, Director of Services, Tourism & Community, Clare County Council.

"We are confident that its status as one of Clare's most popular visitor attractions as well as a Signature Discovery Point on the Wild Atlantic Way will garner further interest from domestic and international visitors alike. Over its five years of operation the lighthouse project has been a major boost to economic activity in the wider area and we would hope to further build on this" added Mr. Dollard.

61% of the total visitor figure for 2014 was represented by Irish visitors, with North America, the United Kingdom and Germany each accounting for 8% of the overall figure. Italian and French visitors meanwhile, represented just over 5% of the total figure.

Loop Head Lighthouse, located at the mouth of the Shannon Estuary, has origins dating back to the 1670s. The existing tower style lighthouse was constructed in 1854 and was operated and maintained by a keeper who lived within the lighthouse compound.

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The Commissioners of Irish Lights are seeking feedback from users on the visual and radar detection performance of new buoys in varying states of weather and sea state on the Irish East Coast. 

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the 'Spar' buoys performance comparison trials will commence on the Bennet Bank and West Blackwater stations. The trial is to determine the visible and radar conspicuity performance of the spar structures in comparison to the profile of the existing conventionally shaped buoys. The full notice to mariners is available to download below as a pdf file. 

Spar type buoys of the same light and daymark display as the existing buoys will be established in close proximity to the Bennet Bank and West Blackwater stations. The Spar Buoys will be positioned 300 metres to the north of the Bennet Bank Buoy and 300 metres to the east of the West Blackwater Buoy. 

Mariners are advised to maintain a safe distance from these buoys during the trial period which is expected to last approximately twelve months.

Observation forms are available on the CIL website here and completed forms can be returned by email to the Trial Assessment Team at [email protected]

Radio Navigation Warnings will be issued when the trial commences.

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#cil –The General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) of the UK and Ireland have announced a £13M seven-year contract to PDG Helicopters for the provision of helicopter services to cover all three Authorities according to the PDG website here.

The provision of one helicopter supplier across the GLAs will deliver significant cost savings of around £7.9M to the General Lighthouse Fund, which pays for the safety critical work of the GLAs to provide a reliable, efficient and cost-effective Maritime Aids to Navigation service around the coast of UK and Ireland.

Until now each Authority has contracted its own helicopter service provider and co-ordinated its own activities. The decision to award a single tri-GLA contract for helicopter services is a first for the participating Authorities, who established a cross-GLA project team to manage the procurement process.

Helicopters have been contracted by the GLAs since the 1970's for the transportation of personnel to remote and difficult-to-access sites and for specialised operations to transport materials to and from their support vessels and lighthouses.

PDG Helicopters is one of the UK and Ireland's leading helicopter providers. PDG operates an extensive fleet of modern aircraft and will deploy two Eurocopter EC 135 aircraft to fulfill the contract requirements. Headquartered in Scotland PDG has operating bases across the United Kingdom and Ireland from which it flies over 11,000 hours a year supporting a wide range of onshore and offshore markets. The new seven year contract, with an extension option for up to a further three years, will commence in December 2015 allowing existing contracts to complete and for a period of training and familiarisation.

The projected flying hours across the GLAs will be around 1,000 per annum - the number of flying hours has reduced over recent years - in part achieved through the improved engineering of remote lights giving greater reliability and reduced maintenance burden created by the ongoing work to introduce solar power and LED lights but also through more effective and collaborative planning across the GLAs.

Deployment of the helicopter will be co-ordinated by the three lighthouse authorities, working in collaboration. The GLAs will consult on PDG Helicopters work plans and align the helicopter services in the most efficient and effective manner to meet their operational requirements. However, by the very nature of the safety critical work of the GLAs, an agreed contingency procedure will be put in place to allow the Authorities to deal with any immediate or short-notice high priority tasking.

Captain Ian McNaught, Deputy Master of Trinity House said "This single contract demonstrates the GLAs willingness to adapt and change working practices collaboratively in order to develop best practice and reduce operating costs. It makes a positive contribution to the achievement of real cost reduction whilst continuing to deliver the essential network of aids to navigation the GLAs provide to the maritime community in the UK and Ireland. A potential saving of £7.9M is something the GLAs are extremely pleased to report to its stakeholders."

Mike Bullock, Chief Executive of the Northern Lighthouse Board said "Helicopters provide an essential capability for the GLAs as they allow both personnel and material to be delivered to difficult to access sites in remote and often hostile environments. With safety considerations at the forefront of the procurement process, we have looked very closely at the type and capability of helicopter to ensure we provide a reliable and safe means of access to and from our sites."

Yvonne Shields, Chief Executive of the Commissioners of Irish Lights said "We are pleased to be working with PDG Helicopters. Over recent years the EC 135 has already proved its capabilities by carrying out operations for two of the GLAs under separate contracts and PDG Helicopters, through its subsidiary Irish Helicopters, has successfully worked with the Commissioners of Irish Lights since the 1970's so we are aware of the service they provide and we look forward to continue working with them under the new contract."

At the contract signing Jerry Francis, Chief Executive of PDG Helicopters said "We are delighted to be awarded the GLA Helicopter Service Contract and are proud to be supporting them in the delivery of their statutory duty for the safety of the mariner. In working closely with clients to deliver a truly bespoke helicopter service and by responding quickly to our clients needs we continue to build on our reputation and commitment to safety. The award of this contract is a natural progression from working exclusively with the Commissioners of Irish Lights and we look forward to extending this vital service across the entire United Kingdom and Ireland."

Published in Lighthouses

#lighthouse – In 1514, Henry VIII granted the Corporation of Trinity House a royal charter establishing it as an authority in maritime matters within his kingdom. Later its remit was expanded to include responsibility for the provision and maintenance of aids to navigation. 500 years later the organization is still responsible for the operation of lighthouses around England, Wales and the Channel Islands. Though automated now, these lighthouses are maintained in all their unique and idiosyncratic splendour, proving popular architectural landmarks with locals and visitors alike.

To celebrate Trinity House's quincentenary, this beautiful photographic book features the best photography from the Corporation's own archive, much of which has never been seen by the public before. The fascinating images seek to show some of the unusual diversity of the ancient, complex and somewhat misunderstood institution, with accompanying passages to describe what happened during those five eventful centuries.

This photographic account of these iconic structures dotted around the most vulnerable stretches of coastline is to be treasured by anyone who finds the haunting beam of a lighthouse at sea an immensely comforting sight, as well as walkers and families for whom a lighthouse on the landscape is a completely irresistible draw.

Neil Jones is the Records Manager for Trinity House. Responsible for marshalling the Corporation's history, archives and artefacts, he uses these often unique resources to create exhibitions and publications that highlight this fascinating history and helps others further their interests in lighthouses, navigation, genealogy and British maritime history.

Paul Ridgway's association with Trinity House goes back four decades. During this time he has contributed to, or edited, Trinity House publications including its celebrated journal Flash. For nearly a quarter of a century he edited the Bulletin of the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Services (IALA).

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#loophead – One of Clare's newest and most popular tourism attractions, Loop Head Lighthouse has recorded an increase in visitor numbers this summer compared to 2013.

New figures show that the expansion of services at Shannon Airport and the designation of the West Clare tourism landmark as one of the discovery points along the route of the Wild Atlantic Way is having a positive impact on visitor numbers.

Figures released today by Clare County Council, which manages the facility in conjunction with the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL), reveal that 7,732 people have visited the 19th century lighthouse since it was opened for the summer period in late April, representing a 4% increase on the same period in 2013.

The local authority says 57% of the total visitor figure was represented by domestic visitors, with North America, Germany and the United Kingdom accounting for 10%, 9% and 6% of the overall figure respectively. Italian and French visitors meanwhile, represent just over 5% of the total figure.

Martin Gleeson, Supervisor at Loop Head Lighthouse commented: "This is fantastic news for the Lighthouse and the wider Loop Head Peninsula when you consider we are only now entering the peak tourism season. The launch of the Wild Atlantic Way, the development of new services at Shannon Airport, and the upgrading of visitor facilities at the lighthouse have been significant contributory factors to the growth in visitors. There is a noticeable increase in visitors from Germany and North America with the French and Italian markets also appearing particularly strong."

"The success of the Loop Head Lighthouse visitor project is indicative of the wider Peninsula's increasing popularity as a sustainable, visitor destination," added Kathy Lordan, Tourism & Community, Clare County Council.

Ms. Lordan continued: "The Council maintains a positive working relationship with local communities and indeed, Loop Head Tourism in developing, managing and showcasing the wonderful tourism assets on offer at the Peninsula from Loophead Lighthouse to the Bridges of Ross to Kilkee Bay. I am sure the marketing of the Peninsula and continued investment in the local tourism infrastructure that numbers visiting the area will show further increases during the remainder of the summer season and in future years."

Loop Head Lighthouse, located at the mouth of the Shannon Estuary, is steeped in history and rich in maritime heritage with its origins dating back to the 1670s. The existing tower style lighthouse was constructed in 1854 and was operated and maintained by a keeper who lived within the lighthouse compound.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's grandfather was a keeper at the lighthouse. James John McGinley took up duty at the Lighthouse as Principal Keeper on 16th January 1933. He spent 1 year and 10 months at Loop Head. He was transferred from the station in October 1934. In January 1991, the lighthouse was converted to automatic operation, and today is in the care of an attendant and is also monitored by the CIL.

Loop Head Lighthouse will remain open daily (10am-6pm) until the end of September. Admission, which includes the exhibition and guided tour of the site, is Adults (€5), Children (€2) and Family Passes for up to 2 adults + 3 children (€12). Visit www.loophead.ie or www.clare.ie for more information on Loop Head Lighthouse and the Loop Head Peninsula.

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#irishlights – The Nautical Institute, the international representative body for maritime professionals with 6,500 members worldwide, has elected Captain Robert McCabe, Director of Operations and Navigational Services for the Commissioners of Irish Lights as President of the Nautical Institute at its AGM in Sydney, Australia on 17th June 2014.

Congratulating Robert on his appointment, Yvonne Shields, Chief Executive of CIL commented on the importance of the Nautical Institute, who are dedicated to ensuring high standards of professionalism and competence across the shipping industry. "Safety and Service are watchwords for both the Nautical Institute and CIL and it is a great opportunity for Ireland and for CIL to have Robert McCabe at the helm of such a key international body which has the potential to influence this vital global industry during a period of great change and opportunity. I am delighted that Robert has been honoured with this two year term and CIL are committed to supporting him to the fullest extent possible throughout".

Reflecting on the global nature of the marine industry Captain Robert McCabe commented, "it was interesting in Australia to see the authorities there implementing many of the same strategies adopted by CIL such as Real and Virtual AIS AtoN, modern light sources, and e-Navigation. I know my time as NI President will benefit both CIL and NI. Safe and efficient marine transport is vital to Ireland's economy and to our coastal environment. High standards ashore and afloat are common issues for the NI and for CIL".

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#lighthouse – The Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) have unveiled a new light emitting diode (LED) light at Ardnakinna lighthouse on Bere Island, Co. Cork on Wednesday 18th June 2014. This sectored light marks the western entrance to Castletownbere. The white sector of the light indicates the safe approach to Bere Island Sound and the approach to Castletownbere Harbour which is the largest whitefish port in Ireland.

Ardnakinna Lighthouse is located in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the Beara Peninsula and a favourite among those who visit, is the Ardnakinna Lighthouse Loop Walk. This project, while upgrading Ardnakinna Lighthouse, will also provide reliable and low maintenance operational needs for the next 20 years, achieving an annual reduction in operation costs of approximately 24% for CIL.

Mr Eoghan Lehane, Operations & Property Manager of CIL commented "the exhibition of this new light marks another stage in the modernisation of many of our stations as part of a multi-year Capital programme. While providing improved reliability for mariners, the use of modern low powered LED lights offers cost effective solutions that allow the removal of diesel generation equipment with consequent environmental benefits and maintenance savings".

The exhibition of this new light marks a significant milestone within CIL's major Capital Refurbishment Project currently being carried out at the lighthouse. The project includes replacing the mains-powered 1500W lamp with a new low power flashing LED light source in the existing lens. The light range will be reduced from 17n miles White, 14n miles Red to 14n miles White, 9n miles Red and exhibited in the hours of darkness only but will keep the same flashing character.

The Mains-fail Standby Diesel Generator will be removed and standby power will be provided by duplicated 24V batteries and chargers which will reduce maintenance requirements at the station as well as the need for fuel delivery. The installation of the LED light-source removes the need to change lamps and reduces power requirements to the station resulting in lower electricity costs.
The upgrading of Ardnakinna lighthouse demonstrates CIL's commitment to the economic and sustainable delivery of aids to navigation services around the coast of Ireland while keeping our mariners safe.

Published in Lighthouses

The Loop Head Lighthouse in West Clare will reopen to the public this Saturday (April 19th 2014), Clare County Council has announced.

The Local Authority, which manages the facility in conjunction with the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL), says the historic lighthouse will remain open daily (10am-6pm) until the end of September.

The popular tourist attraction, which is one of two "Signature Discovery Points" in County Clare along the route of the recently launched Wild Atlantic Way, attracted 19,000 visitors during the six-month opening period in 2013. The figure represents an increase of 2,000 on the same period in 2012.

According to Mayor of Clare Cllr. Joe Arkins: "Loop Head Lighthouse has proven to be one of the tourism success stories for County Clare in recent years and has helped to strengthen the profile, both nationally and internationally, of the wider Loop Head Peninsula and what it has to offer as a tourism destination."

"I want to pay tribute to Clare County Council for its ongoing work to develop the lighthouse, particularly through the provision of a new interpretative space and exhibition which has added greatly to the overall visitor experience. I warmly welcome any efforts made to help County Clare maintain and grow a competitive advantage in tourism terms," he added.

Siobhan Garvey, Marketing and Development Officer for West Clare stated: "The public opening of Loop Head Lighthouse will provide a significant boost to the local tourism sector and the economy, which has benefited greatly since the attraction was first opened to the public in 2012. The fact that the attraction is opening on a 7-days-a-week basis from this Easter Bank Holiday Weekend is particularly timely as the Lighthouse is one of two local Discovery Points along the Wild Atlantic Way."

Loop Head Lighthouse, located at the mouth of the Shannon Estuary, is steeped in history and rich in maritime heritage with its origins dating back to the 1670s. The existing tower style lighthouse was constructed in 1854 and was operated and maintained by a keeper who lived within the lighthouse compound. In January 1991, the lighthouse was converted to automatic operation, and today is in the care of an attendant and is also monitored by the CIL.

Admission to Loop Head Lighthouse, which includes the exhibition and guided tour of the site, is Adults (€5), Children (€2) and Family Passes for up to 2 adults + 3 children (€12). Visit www.loophead.ie or www.clare.ie for more information on Loop Head Lighthouse and the Loop Head Peninsula.

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#lighthouses – A London maritime institution with strong Irish connections stretching back over 500 years is opening its doors to the public to celebrate an important maritime birthday next month.  In 1514 a young King Henry VIII granted a Royal Charter to a fraternity of mariners called the Guild of the Holy Trinity "so that they might regulate the pilotage of ships in the King's streams" and the month of May marks the 500th anniversary of this milestone event in British maritime history. Included in the celebrations at Trinity House, home to the Corporation and the working office of the General Lighthouse Authority, is a unique Open Day Invitation to the general public to discover the treasures and artefacts preserved and on display within its five elegant rooms and access areas from 10am - 3pm on Saturday, 17th May. There is no need to contact the House - interested day-visitors can arrive and wander about the House at their leisure and receive information from expert guides stationed throughout.

Enthusiasts unable to make this date can schedule a visit from 10am - 3pm on Saturday 20th September (only) as part of the city-wide Open House London promotion created by Open-City (www.open-city.org.uk) and staged on the 20th and 21st of the month providing rare public access to 800 other exceptional buildings in London.

Trinity House is located on Tower Hill overlooking the historic Tower of London and the picturesque Trinity Square Gardens containing a memorial to merchant navy heroes of two World Wars and the Falklands War. It is available for private hire on an exclusive use basis and throughout the year is a popular venue for prestigious corporate and social occasions and is licensed for weddings and civil service ceremonies (please visit www.trinityhouse.co.uk/events for more details).

Built in 1794, the history of the House is omnipresent and throughout the building, valuable paintings and antiques bear out the nation's remarkable nautical heritage. One of its more recent acquisitions is the brass bell from the Royal Yacht Britannia which was decommissioned in 1997.

Trinity House's connection with seamarks and lighthouses dates from Elizabeth I and the Seamarks Act of 1566 which granted powers to set up "so many beacons, marks and signs for the sea whereby the dangers may be avoided and escaped and ships the better come into their ports without peril." The first lighthouse was built during the reign of James I by Trinity House at Lowestoft in 1609, and the next 200 years saw a proliferation of light house building around the coast.

In its 200 year history, the building of Trinity House has welcomed royalty, prime ministers and Lords of the Admiralty and is today managed by Deputy Master, Captain Ian McNaught. Reflecting the on-going patronage of the Crown, the current Master of the Corporation is HRH The Princess Royal, filling a role held in former centuries by, amongst others, the diarist Samuel Pepys, the Duke of Wellington, William Pitt the Younger and, more recently, The Duke of Edinburgh.

About Trinity House

Trinity House is the working office of the General Lighthouse Authority (GLA) for England and Wales with responsibility for nearly 600 Aids to Navigation from traditional aids such as lighthouses, buoys and beacons to the latest satellite navigation technology. In addition, it inspects over 10,000 local Aids to Navigation provided by port and harbour authorities and those positioned on offshore structures. The venue at Tower Hill pays a rent to the Corporation for its use which ensures, as in all other aspects of the two organisations' finances, that the accounts of the Corporation and the General Lighthouse Authority are entirely separate and without crossover.

Incorporated by Royal Charter in 1514, the Corporation is also a major maritime charity, wholly funded by its endowments. The Corporation spends around £4m each year on its charitable activities including welfare of mariners, education and training, and the promotion of safety at sea. It is also a Deep Sea Pilotage Authority. 

Published in Lighthouses
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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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