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Displaying items by tag: History

A group of sea urchins which died together on the seafloor almost 350 million years ago have been found in fossilised form at Hook Head, Co Wexford, by a team of scientists.

"Experts from University of Galway’s school of natural scientists led the team which recorded the fine, described as “one of the most important in Irish palaeontology in recent times”.

Sea urchins, or echinoids, are a group of marine animals, related to starfish, the scientists explain.

They have globular plated bodies covered by numerous defensive spines, which fall away after the urchin dies.

The scientists say that over 200 complete fossil echinoids are preserved in exquisite detail on a limestone surface, in an area of just one square metre.

Detailed view of fossil sea urchins, with their spines still attached, preserved on limestone surface at Hook Head, Wexford (2 Euro coin for scale). Image courtesy of the Royal Irish AcademyDetailed view of fossil sea urchins, with their spines still attached, preserved on limestone surface at Hook Head, Wexford (2 Euro coin for scale). Photo: courtesy of the Royal Irish Academy

“All of the Hook Head specimens have their spines still attached, and they apparently died together on the seafloor almost 350 million years ago - a dramatic moment now frozen in time on the rock surface on the coast of south-east Ireland,” they say.

“The limestone layer containing the fossil urchins was in danger of being lost to coastal erosion, so the scientific team mounted a rescue operation to save it,” they state.

Lead author in the study, palaeontologist Dr Nidia Álvarez-Armada, said she initially discovered the fossil sea urchins on a rocky coastal outcrop when surveying the geology of Hook Head peninsula for her undergraduate Bachelor of Science thesis at University of Galway.

“ When I first noticed the echinoids on the limestone surface, I was completely astonished by both the sheer number of fossil specimens present and also their exceptional preservation,” she said.

“The significance of the find was instantly apparent, and I immediately began mapping and recording the shape, size and position of each individual urchin on the rock surface,” she said.

“ This work took several weeks to complete, but it was important to carefully document the fossil find in as much detail as possible.”

As the Hook Head is protected under law, approval for the recovery was granted by several State agencies and the local landowner.

 Rescue and recovery of the limestone slab containing the fossil sea urchins at Hook Head, Wexford. Credit: Dr Sarah Gatley, Geological Survey Ireland Rescue and recovery of the limestone slab containing the fossil sea urchins at Hook Head, Wexford. Photos: Dr Sarah Gatley, Geological Survey Ireland

Following successful removal, the team said it “immediately entrusted the fossil-bearing slab to the National Museum of Ireland for conservation and further study”.

The discovery and recovery of the hundreds of fossil sea urchins were recently reported in the Irish Journal of Earth Sciences, published by the Royal Irish Academy.

The Hook Head fossil find is said to have the potential to reveal important information about the nature of seafloor communities during the Carboniferous - a time period that occurred “long before dinosaurs ever walked on land, when the marine realm was very different to today”.

University of Galway school of natural scientists expert Dr John Murray, who co-authored the paper and supervised the original project, said that is “quite exceptional to find Carboniferous fossil sea urchins so perfectly preserved and in such large numbers like this”.

“In life, these particular echinoids had very flexible plated bodies, covered with many spines, which usually disarticulated and dispersed rapidly after death, leaving little trace of them behind,” he said.

“ The Hook Head urchins must have been buried quite quickly after they died, with little or no post-mortem disturbance; however, it remains unclear why they congregated in such large numbers at this location on that ancient seafloor,” he said.

“The significance of this discovery was such that all of the members of the rescue team willingly volunteered their time and expertise to travel to Hook Head to help salvage the fossil-bearing slab,”Dr Murray added.

“We consciously chose to leave this important fossil find in the care of the National Museum of Ireland immediately - I guess it was our way of giving this piece of priceless geoheritage back to the people of Ireland,” he said.

The full study in The Irish Journal of Earth Sciences can be read here

Published in Marine Science
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This month the Oireachtas Library has been displaying an 1807 pamphlet by Reverend William Liddiard (1773–1841), calling for the establishment of an organised lifeboat service along the Irish coast.

Rev Liddiard was writing in response to the sinking of two ships in Dublin Bay — the Rochdale and the Prince of Wales — which saw the loss of almost 400 lives in one night:

“I have seized the moment when the feelings of the nation are afloat, and before they can possibly be thought to have subsided, of recommending a more general establishment of the Life-boat; a plan, which affords in some degree a balm for the despondency of the moment, promising as it does to prevent a recurrence of misfortunes similar to those, which have lately gloomed our shores.”

As special collections librarian Kate McCarthy writes, it is clear from the pamphlet that Rev Liddiard was impressed with the work to develop a dedicated lifeboat service at Bamburgh Castle on the north-east coast of England.

And he was particularly keen to use the then recently constructed Martello towers as dedicated lifeboat stations in Ireland.

“However,” McCarthy adds, “it was not until 1824 that the National Institution for the Preservation of Lives and Property from Shipwreck was established for Britain and Ireland (now the Royal National Lifeboat Institution). But the sinking of the Rochdale and Prince of Wales added to a growing campaign for the development of a safe pier at the small village of Dunleary (now Dun Laoghaire).”

The Oireachtas website has more on Rev Liddiard’s pamphlet HERE.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A routine inspection of a frozen seafood shop near Alicante in Spain has revealed a trove of ancient Roman artefacts, as the Guardian reports.

Objects including a number of ceramic amphoras — receptacles for carrying oil and other liquids — had been taken from the water by the owner’s son on fishing trips in the Mediterranean and used to decorate the shop in Santa Pola, it has emerged.

The items were confiscated by the authorities and examined by experts at the local Museum of the Sea, who say they likely come from shipwrecks off the eastern Spanish coast and could date back nearly 2,000 years.

The Guardian has more on the story HERE.

Published in News Update

Royal St George Yacht Club members are invited to join Peter Pearson as he takes a journey back in time with an engaging talk about the history of the Dun Laoghaire Waterfront club.

Peter is a native of Dun Laoghaire and has had a long association with the town and harbour, producing well-known local history books such as Dun Laoghaire: Kingstown and The Forty Foot: A Monument to Sea Bathing.

The special online talk will be hosted on the Zoom platform this Thursday evening 18 June from 7.30pm. Club members can register via the link on the Facebook post HERE.

Published in RStGYC

Shared stories of folklore and the history of spiritual sites around Lough Erne will be the subject of a public meeting at Waterways Ireland HQ in Enniskillen later this month.

Hosted by Waterways Ireland in partnership with the Lough Erne Landscape Partnership, the community outreach event encourages locals around the Fermanagh waterway to drop in and share their stories and folk tales, as well as memorabilia and photographs, that only they would have.

Doors will be open from 1pm to 8pm on Monday 27 January, with the Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis at Queen’s University Belfast on hand to record these oral histories and more for posterity.

The project will also inform the development of the Lough Erne Spiritual Trail, an initiative of Waterways Ireland and the Lough Erne Landscape Partnership.

Eleven significant spiritual and/or ecclesiastical sites have been selected, including Devenish Island, White Island (North), Davy’s Island, Inishmacsaint, Caldragh (Boa Island), Cleenish, St. Ronan’s Aghalurcher, Galloon, Killadeas, Derryvullen and Tievealough.

Published in Inland Waterways

In what will be a permanent reminder, EchoLive writes, are the Cork’s dockers and docking industry which is being sought as part of the area’s regeneration.

Councillor Thomas Gould has asked Cork City Council to invite submissions from the public on how the history of the trade, which has disappeared since the final rationalisation of the Port of Cork, can be remembered as part of plans to expand the city centre into brownfield sites along the quays.

The last 100 dockers in the city collected their redundancy packages in February 2009. Some had worked in the trade for almost 50 years.

A recent play on the subject of the dockers by Marion Wyatt ran to rave reviews in Cork over the summer and a second run finished this month.

For more click here. 

Published in Port of Cork
Tagged under

Following the success of last year’s inaugural maritime conference at UCC, the School of History is to hold the second annual Irish Maritime History Conference next weekend, October 16/17, exploring Ireland’s rich sea-going past and culture. Topics will include piracy, naval warfare, smuggling, fishing communities, shipwrecks, boat building and World War One on the Irish Sea.

There is a strong line-up of speakers from around the country and overseas, making for what should be a most interesting event.

Sessions will be from 1-3 pm on Friday, October 16, another from 3-7 pm and a full day on Saturday from 9-6 pm. Admission is free and no registration is required. Based on last year,.

Published in Ports & Shipping
Tagged under

#CoastalNotes - The history of Strangford Lough stretching back some 10,000 years is the subject of a 'spiritual motorcycle journey' by local writer Peter Moore, as the News Letter reports.

Moore, a motorbike enthusiast and archaeology graduate, hopes his new book, Valhalla and Fjörd, will inspire others to "further explore the area and enjoy the stories" relating to the "wonderful history in and around" the scenic lough.

“At the start of this journey I was unaware of just how much history there was to uncover around Strangford Lough and the fascinating stories of those that lived here over the past 10,000 years," he says of his project, which he hopes to be the first in a series of books.

Moore's journey took him on his restored Triumph motorcycle via old monastic sites, ruined abbeys and churches and other unmarked settlements around the shores of the Co Down inlet, which takes its name from the Norse for 'strong ford' after its powerful tidal currents.

The News Letter has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes

#GalwayBay - The discovery of deer antlers and horse bones dating back some 1,500 years at a beach on Galway Bay may reveal much about early Christian society in the region.

According to The Irish Times, the important find was made by Brian O'Carra and Mike Williams at an inter-tidal zone west of Galway city, and indicate a possible pagan ritual custom.

O'Carra and Williams have also been studying the remains of a 'drowned' forest west of Spiddal that flourished before the sea level rose a millennium ago, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

But this latest find suggests that "significant environmental changes" began 500 years before then, as the "still water conditions" that preserved the bones and antlers mark a stark difference to the "high energy" coastal environment of today.

Elsewhere, a find of a more morbid kind has prompted a Garda investigation after the discovery of a human skull on Sutton's Burrow Beach on Sunday 30 November.

As RTÉ News reports, it's believed that the skull had been in the sea for some time. The Dublin city morgue is conducting further examinations.

Published in Galway Harbour
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#BelfastLough - The Carrickfergus Times has unearthed a dramatic rescue story from Belfast Lough's long maritime heritage.

As the Larne Times reported 61 years ago, Jack Smith has set off in his new motorboat from Belfast headed to Coleraine when its engine broke down in the middle of the lough, stranding the vessel in rough conditions.

Lacking today's modern gadgets to signal for help, all that Smith could do was wave with his white handkerchief and hope that someone on shore would recognise his plight.

Did anyone come to his aid? The Carrickfergus Times has the rest of the story HERE.

Published in Belfast Lough
Tagged under
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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

©Afloat 2020

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