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After a long break due to COVID, recreational diving is back on Dublin Bay and divers were out over the past two weekends at Dalkey Island and other popular bay sites.

A class of open water students got back into the water after a long break for a snorkel.

Local boat bives are also now fully operational in Dublin Bay again with regular departures to favourite dive sites around Scotmans Bay, Dalkey Island and the Muglins Beacon.

The Ocean Divers 'Ocean Enterprise' RIB takes divers out into Dublin Bay from Dun LaoghaireThe Ocean Divers 'Ocean Enterprise' RIB takes divers out into Dublin Bay from Dun Laoghaire

Ocean divers, a dive firm that operates from Dun Laoghaire Harbour, says on social media, it is now running snorkel and boat trips over the next couple of weeks as the 2021 season reopens.

Published in Diving
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Mullingar's Dave McGowan, known for his recent achievements in the sport of freediving, takes his place on the podium once more. Last week, at the Aida International Blue Ocean Freedivers Pool Competition in Dahab, Egypt, McGowan took the Male Honours in both disciplines that he participated in and also took the overall gold.

Dave McGowan prepares for a freediveDave McGowan prepares for a freedive

Day one of the competition did not necessarily go to plan, with a malfunctioning dive computer contributing to McGowan overshooting his target, coming very close to losing consciousness on the surface and ultimately receiving a red card and disqualifying his dive of 162m, which took approximately 2minutes and 45 seconds. McGowan was quoted saying, "This dive of 162m was huge for me, I had built up to a distance of 135m in training and was confident that I could do 10-15m more on the day of the competition but certainly not almost 30m extra. I had been relying on the computer to give me a good idea of when I could surface and when it didn't work it had me questioning the distance that I had already covered, trying to work this kind of thing out at the end of such a long swim on one breath is not an easy thing. The mind becomes foggy and basic tasks rely on an element of the subconscious to get you through it. I essentially got it wrong and ended up swimming almost another complete length of the pool. I was surprised to be told that I had covered 160m+ when in my head I had barely made 135m." Unfortunately, at the end of the dive, McGowan was not able to complete the 'Surface Protocol', which signals to the judges that he is ok and was subsequently shown a red card.

Dave McGowan celebrates his win in the pool in EgyptDave McGowan celebrates his win in the pool in Egypt

McGowan returned on Day 2 determined to set the record straight. He completed his dive of 150m (equivalent to 6 lengths of a standard 25m pool) in the DYNb discipline (distance swam in pool on one breath using freediving fins) in a time of 2minutes and 35 seconds. This time he made a clean surface protocol, receiving a white card from the judges, legitimising his performance and confirming this dive as his 4th Irish National Record. "I wasn't really nervous leading into day one of this competition as I had approached my training in a conservative way and knew what I was capable of, however, arriving here on day 2 after what had happened on the first day I was feeling the nerves creep into the pit of my stomach. This sport is so psychological, it takes such mental strength, you really need to be able to control your thoughts and feelings and at times like these, in the moments before a record dive you have to be able to focus and get rid of any thoughts of negativity or doubts in your abilities. I feel like I handled it quite well and managed to complete what I had set as an upper limit for myself. I would have walked away satisfied with my performance and also with the record in anything above 132m, so to have been able to do 150m I really am over the moon – it was a difficult dive for me and for sure it will be difficult for anyone to beat in the future."

Day 3 saw McGowan return to finish off the competition with a 'fun' dive in the DNF or 'No-fins' discipline, (distance swam underwater on one breath in a style similar to the breast-stroke). In both depth and pool, this discipline is usually considered the most pure, and most original of all of the freediving disciplines, it is graceful to watch and more-so with the right training and technique, enjoyable to compete in. McGowan's swim of 116m in 2mins 19 secs places him 3rd of all time in the Irish rankings for this discipline.

Published in Diving
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“We’ll always give our best, treat every incident as if it is one of our own.... and try our utmost to get a missing family member back to their loved one.....”

The words of Lieut Stephen Stack, head of the Naval Service diving unit, speaking about what keeps his colleague “motivated and driven to succeed”.

Last year, Sub-Lieut Tahlia Britton from Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal, became the first female to qualify for the Naval Service diving unit. A former champion surfer, she studied podiatry at NUI Galway but always wanted to join the military.

Sub-Lieut Tahlia Britton enters the water from off a Navy RIB Sub-Lieut Tahlia Britton enters the water from off a Navy RIB Photo: Davy Jones/Óglaigh na hÉireann

She has described the mental and physical challenges of being a Navy diver in an interview recorded for RTÉ Seascapes, the full version of which is on a Wavelengths podcast this week (below).

Search and recovery is just one aspect of the work of Navy divers, which is, as Stack says “not glamorous...”

Navy divers in training at Haulbowline Photo: Davy Jones/Óglaigh na hÉireannNavy divers in training at Haulbowline Photo: Davy Jones/Óglaigh na hÉireann

One of the team’s recent challenging operations was the three-week-long search after the 12-metre steel-hulled boat, Alize, fishing out of Duncannon, Co Wexford, went down some 6½ miles off Hook Head, Co Wexford just over a year ago on January 4th, 2020.

A briefing before a diveA briefing for a dive team at Haulbowline Naval base Photo: Davy Jones/Óglaigh na hÉireann

Joe Sinnott (65) from Kilmore Quay was recovered off Duncannon by the Irish Coast Guard Waterford-based Rescue 117 helicopter.

The body of skipper Willie Whelan (41), recently married and from Fethard-on-Sea, was located by the Hook Sub Aqua Club, and it was taken from the wreck of the new vessel by the Naval Service diving team.

“It was in very deep water, it was very complex, the weather wasn’t great, “Lieut Stack said, describing it as technically the most challenging operation he had been involved in recently.

He has paid tribute to the Garda Water Unit and the voluntary search and recovery groups that the Navy divers also work with in their aid to civil power role.

You can hear a taste of the aptitude test which aspiring Navy divers have to undergo at the Naval Service base at Haulbowline, along with interviews with Stack and Britton – including what she might sing underwater - below

Published in Wavelength Podcast
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Norwegian divers have discovered a 300-year-old shipwreck of an Irish sailing ship on the sea bottom outside Mandal in Southern Norway.

The Irish ship, named "The Providentz", sunk in November 1720.

It is reported by the Norwegian NRK journalist, Siv Kristin Sællmann, that all crew members were saved, but the ship was left at the sea bottom. Divers and archaeologists are astonished by how well-preserved the ship and its possessions are.

The ship and most of the possessions will be left on the sea bottom for divers to explore freely.

Click here for a link to the article (text in Norwegian) but you can view more photos and a video of the wreck on the NRK TV website.

Published in Historic Boats
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Dublin Bay diver Rory Golden will join the 2021 Titanic Survey Expedition starting in May going back to the wreck after a gap of 16 years, and taking part in a “sea bed” breaking scientific expedition.

Golden has over 44 years of dive experience and played key roles in Titanic expeditions and dives in 2000 and 2005.

Citizen explorers, known as Mission Specialists, will work hand-in-hand with Golden and other scientific, archaeological, and oceanographic experts throughout the expedition.

“I will never forget the first time I saw the Titanic. We were travelling along the flat ocean floor towards the ship and we came upon a wall of mud,” recalls Rory Golden. “We were at the forward section, near the bow, and we slowly rose up a steel wall that was covered in rivets and rusticles. Eventually we ascended over the top and there she was. It was a rush of emotion. She is massive and awe-inspiring. You are excited, amazed, and, at the same time, you feel a deep sadness for all those lost. It is unlike anything else I have experienced in over 40 years of diving. In the five short years between my dives to the Titanic the changes were dramatic. I’m anxious to bear witness to the deep ocean’s impact on this historic sight,” says Golden.

The bow of the Titantic Photo: Rory GoldenThe bow of the Titanic Photo: Rory Golden

Rory is highly regarded in the dive and Titanic communities. As a member of the Explorers Club and Vice Chair of the Great Britain and Ireland Chapter, he has been an active explorer, diver, and researcher dedicated to the preservation of Titanic history. We are proud and excited to welcome him to our expeditionary team for the 2021 Titanic Survey Expedition,” says Stockton Rush, President, OceanGate Expeditions. “His knowledge and previous documentation of this revered shipwreck will help us navigate the features of the wreck site and assess how quickly the wreck is decaying,” continues Rush.

Six missions scheduled for Summer 2021 will mark the inaugural expedition of a multi-year effort to preserve Titanic history for future generations and document the rate of decay of the important site. Using an array of high-resolution 4K cameras, a laser scanner, and sonar equipment, OceanGate Expeditions’ team will create a fully explorable photorealistic virtual 3-D model of the site.

Each participating citizen scientist will embark on 8-days at sea as a Mission Specialist crewmember and make one untethered 8 to 10-hour submersible dive as part of a 5-person team (sub pilot, subject matter expert, three mission specialists).

Each submersible dive team will spend several hours exploring the renowned Titanic wreck-site. The Summer 2021 Expedition schedule runs late-May through mid-July.

Published in Diving
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Irish deep-sea diver Rory Golden is providing expertise to a new expedition to the Titanic which aims to recover the Marconi radio from the wreck, The Sunday Times reports.

The wireless Marconi telegraph was instrumental in saving more than 705 passengers from freezing Atlantic waters when the ship sank after striking an iceberg off Newfoundland in April 1912 with the loss of almost 1500 lives.

As Afloat reported previously, the ambitious project to retrieve the most famous marine radio in the world from 2.5 miles down in the Atlantic has finally secured legal approval.

The new expedition planned by RMS Titanic Inc, the salvor-in-possession, will be led by Dr David Gallo and French former naval officer Paul Henri Nargeolet.

Dublin-based Golden, who was the first Irish diver to visit the wreck site in almost 4,000 metres of water, has been engaged as a consultant to the company which has recovered over 5,500 artefacts in eight previous expeditions.

The former managing director of Virgin Records Ireland was dive safety operations manager for the Operation Titanic 2000 project which recovered 800 items - including the main ship’s wheel which he spotted. He returned in 2005 for a second dive, which was recorded in a BBC documentary.

In March 2013 he was a member of the team sponsored by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos which salvaged five Apollo F-1 rocket engines from 4200 metres in the North Atlantic, including one from Apollo 11 which launched a man to the moon in 1969.

Golden’s participation is one of several Irish connections to the new diving expedition which is expected to cost at least 10 million US dollars.

A Mayo community’s support for the new venture also helped to secure recently approved US Admiralty Court permission for it.

A letter to the US Admiralty Court from Addergoole Titanic Society director Toss Gibbons, secretary Mary Rowland and public relations officer Frank Gibbons urged that it would “give its blessing” to RMS Titanic Inc to undertake the expedition. The society remembers 11 of the ship’s fatalities from the Mayo village of Laherdane and surrounding area.

“We spent a lot of time in Ireland, in Belfast and with the folks in Addergoole to put a plan together which would satisfy the court,” RMS Titanic Inc president Bretton Hunchak said.

The recovery of the Marconi telegraph is crucial to understanding “the story of all of the survivors”, Hunchak explained.

The Marconi Telegraph room as seen from the top of the Titanic Photo: Rory GoldenThe Marconi Telegraph room as seen from the top of the Titanic Photo: Rory Golden

“Ultimately, the Marconi radio system remains an unsung hero, responsible for countless generations of families that exist only because the radio cried out on behalf of their ancestors,” he said.

“ For that reason, we must recover this incredible piece of history, to rescue the radio that saved 705 lives from being taken from the world that fateful night."

The hatch to the Marconi Room Photo: Rory GoldenThe hatch to the Marconi Room Photo: Rory Golden

Hunchak said the original plan for the expedition was within a weather window between June and August of this year, and that might still take place.

“Obviously, with the Covid-19 pandemic, we have questions now and will make a decision on timing very shortly,” he said.

“The Marconi telegraph is recognisable, from our underwater photography, but if we recover it there will be considerable conservation required before we can take it around the world as part of our exhibition of artefacts,” he said.

Golden said the project was “fraught with a lot of unknown and known variables, such as the condition of the roof area, the wreck itself, currents, visibility” and other factors, but has “a very good chance of succeeding”.

The wreck of the Titanic was discovered by Dr Robert Ballard and Jean Louis Michel in a joint US/ French expedition on September 1st, 1985, some 963 miles northeast of New York and 453 miles southeast of the Newfoundland coastline.

More on the Sunday Times report here

Published in Titanic
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Divers of the Naval Service which form an elite unit in the force is operating at less than a quarter of its intended capacity as a result of the Defence Force’s retention crisis.

Naval Service Diving Section according to The Irish Times, is the only dive team in Ireland capable of carrying out deep sea operations. It has a wide variety of roles but its most prominent function is carrying out search and recovery operations for missing persons.

It carries out an average of 15 missing person searches every year, some of which last for up to two weeks at a time.

The diving section has an establishment strength of 27 divers but is operating with just six as a result of highly trained personnel leaving for the private sector. Moreover, the problem is compounded by a lack of replacements coming through.

The diving section has not been at full strength since before the reorganisation of the Defence Forces in 2012 which was marked by significant cuts to resources and a new manpower limit of 9,500.

Click here for further reading on the story. 

Published in Navy

Last Sunday, Wexford Sub Aqua Club, presented the Kilmore Quay branch of the RNLI, with a cheque for €1,000. The presentation was done just before the crew went out for their scheduled morning training exercise.

This money was raised by members and friends of the club at their annual Christmas Swim.

This year’s swim was noticeable due to the temperature of the water, which swimmers commented on as being the coldest since the club started to do the event.

Swim organiser, Ivan Donoghue said that “it was so cold, that while swimmers walked to the waters edge, the sand was cracking under their feet. We braved the water for a few minutes, but the members of all the RNLI face such conditions on every call they go on. We thank everyone who took part, those who sponsored the swimmers and the Kilmore Quay RNLI for being there to protect the people who use the waters around the Saltee Islands” 

The club’s next event is on Sunday April 22nd at 10.30am. It is a 5 mile fun run/walk around the scenic Kilmore Quay village and registration is at our clubhouse overlooking the Saltee islands. €10 entry for adults.

The club are currently in the process of teaching our five new members how to dive.

Published in Diving
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RTÉ News reports that an investigation has begun into the death of an Irish boy in a boating incident in the United States last week.

Harry O’Connor, 8, died on Saturday (29 July) three days after he was involved in a boat capsize in the Cape Cod Canal near Boston.

According to TheJournal.ie, the boy — who was on a day trip with his parents — was trapped under the capsized vessel for more than 20 minutes.

O’Connor had moved to Boston with his family from Clonmel and also had ties to Duleek in Co Meath, where his funeral will take place this Thursday (3 August).

In other news, a post-mortem was set to take place yesterday (Monday 31 July) after a 57-year-old man died in a diving accident off Donegal last Friday (28 July)

John Alwright’s oxygen mask was dislodged after he was swept into a cave by an underwater current, as Independent.ie reportss Independent.ie reports.

Despite the best efforts of his diving companions, Alwright was unresponsive when he came to the surface.

Published in News Update
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#Rescue116 - More than 100 divers have joined a major search since early this morning (Saturday 22 April) for Paul Ormsby and Ciaran Smith, the two Irish Coast Guard crew members still missing after the Rescue 116 tragedy over a month ago.

According to The Irish Times, an exclusion zone around the wreck site at Black Rock off Co Mayo has been lifted for the search, thought to be the largest ever co-ordinated dive in the history of the State.

Naval Service and Garda divers are joined by specialists in sub-sea search and recovery in combing the sea bed of at the western and south-western parts of the island, following the completion of a ‘360-degree’ terrain survey by the Army and Garda crime scene examiners.

The Irish Times has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastguard
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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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