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Ilen Voyage Promotes Transatlantic Learning Links for School Kids in Ireland & Greenland

1st September 2019
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Leaving Greenland…..Ilen under Paddy Barry’s command seen recently heading eastward through Prinz Christian Sund, the awesomely steep but very convenient passage inside Greenland’s most southerly headland of Cape Farewell. The colours leaching from some of those cliffside rocks suggest that this rugged environment might hold impressive reserves of valuable minerals, making it one very desirable piece of real estate………..if it were for sale. Leaving Greenland…..Ilen under Paddy Barry’s command seen recently heading eastward through Prinz Christian Sund, the awesomely steep but very convenient passage inside Greenland’s most southerly headland of Cape Farewell. The colours leaching from some of those cliffside rocks suggest that this rugged environment might hold impressive reserves of valuable minerals, making it one very desirable piece of real estate………..if it were for sale.

There’ll be opportunities in Limerick and Greenland for young people to learn more of what the two Transatlantic voyages – outward and return - of the 56ft traditional ketch Ilen have discovered and explained, with schools now resumed after the summer break writes W M Nixon.

Several schools in the Limerick area and around Nuuk in Greenland were following the Salmons Wake voyage project, and three in particular – Thomond National School and Thomond Community College in Limerick, and Ukaliusaq Skole in Nuuk – were actively engaged in the exchange of information and personal interest by several means of communication, in addition to creating voyage-related material and artefacts.

limerick students2 The process develops – pupils at Thomond National School with a model of the traditional Limerick Salmon Cot and letters about to be posted to Greenland

limerick students on ilen3Students from Thomond Community College aboard Ilen in the dock in Limerick before she departed on her Transatlantic voyage towards Greenland.
Supported by a Creative Ireland – Made in Limerick Grant 2018-2019, this international inter-linking was organised by Deirdre Power, Limerick Arts Co-Ordinator and Ilen Project Facilitator, and both she and artist Chelsea Canavan, the Education & Outreach Assistant at Limerick’s renowned Hunt Museum, were already in Nuuk to greet Ilen when the ketch arrived from Ireland under command of Ilen Project Director Gary Mac Mahon for the outward voyage.

nuuk newspaper4 1Welcome to Greenland, welcome to Nuuk – the local news outlet made much of Ilen’s arrival
All were busy in Nuuk explaining aspects of the project, meeting the schools, being welcomed by the locals news outlets, making presentations and introducing the students and teachers to the real star of the show, the restored Ilen herself, which was conspicuous in Nuul harbour thanks to her traditional appearance amongst mostly very modern working craft.

nuuk students5School pupils in Greenland working on their Salmons Wake response
salmon map6 Students of Ukaliusaq School at the Katuaq Cultural Centre in Nuuk with their map of the Salmons Wake, a map which is now on display at the Watch House Cross Library in Limerick

As to the beneficial effect this was having on the students taking part, Bernie O'Driscoll the STEM Co-Ordinator at Thomond Community College in Limerick summed it up for those in Ilen’s home port:

“Both the students and teachers involved in this captivating Salmons Wake Project have thoroughly enjoyed learning about the traditional boat building techniques used in Limerick and lamenting the unfortunate decline of the Salmon in these parts over the years. It’s been an exciting and invaluable learning experience for all involved, and we look forward to continuing the relationship established with Hanne Pederson (Teacher) and the students at Ukaliusaq Skole in Nuuk, Greenland for future years to come.”

On the Greenland side, Hanne Pedersen, a teacher with Ukaliusaq School at Nuuk, summed it up:
“My students are 14 years old, turning 15. Their main language is Greenlandic and some Danish. We are interested in the Salmons’ Wake project and follow the Ilen voyage, and participating with the Limerick students has been great!”

A sculptural representation, literally of the bare bones of a traditional Limerick salmon fishing cot, is now on display in the Old Town in Nuuk, while at the harbour during their time there, Ilen’s crew entertained other seafarers and maritime workers who were keen to see their ship, particularly the local salmon fishermen.

limerick salmon cot nuuk7A sculpture of the bare bones of a traditional Limerick salmon cot is now on display in the Old Town in Nuuk.
natuk j lyberth8Natuk J Lyberth, a student at Ukaliusaq School, in the Archives Section of the Greenland National Museum in Nuuk wearing the distinctive Salmons Wake logo
tie exchange9The ultimate link…..Gary Mac Mahon, Deirdre Power and Natuk Lyberth aboard Ilen in Nuuk for a presentation of the Thomond Community College neck-tie.
liam salmonfisher mike10With Ilen in Nuuk are (left to right) Liam O’Donoghue of the Ilen Project, a Greenland salmon fisherman, and Mike Grimes, a member of one of Limerick’s longest-established salmon-fishing families
Having done so much while she was in Greenland, Ilen is now approaching Ireland and well on her way to her Autumn location in Kinsale under the command of Paddy Barry. He brought the ship through Prinz Christian Sund at the south end of Greenland, and was then poised to take advantage of a favourable developing weather pattern for the homeward passage, a matter of experienced judgment and assessment of information, for at this time of the year the always difficult-to-predict Atlantic can be in a particularly volatile mood.
The Autumn period in Kinsale for a month and more will be used by Ilen under the command of James Lyons (who is on the homeward crew) for courses with the Sailing Into Wellness programme, as well as teaching sailing to trainees with the Ilen Boat-building Project, with Ilen eventually returning to Limerick in October. For now, this brief vid gives an idea of some of the favourable weather enjoyed by Ilen on the return voyage:

Meanwhile, co-ordinator Deirdre Power is deservedly pleased with the way this very unusual concept has developed in practice, and she concludes:
“The schools, and more importantly the students, take ownership of the project, which I think is very important. The participation and collaboration may be manifested in a simple gesture, such one student from 
a community in Nuuk, Greenland writing a ‘real’ letter to another student living across the North Atlantic in Limerick city, Ireland.
This is something that would never happen without this other broader spectrum. I believe the process is the most exciting element, the tangible connection between the schools, through the both the programme and respective cultures, in a way that something such as social media cannot transcend. And the tangible presence of Ilen – first in Limerick and then in Nuuk – gives it an extra and deeply-felt meaning. It remains a wonderful experience for all involved at every level”.

Published in Ilen
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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The Ilen is the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships.

Designed by Limerick man Conor O’Brien and built in Baltimore in 1926, she was delivered by Munster men to the Falkland Islands where she served valiantly for seventy years, enduring and enjoying the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties.

Returned now to Ireland and given a new breath of life, Ilen may be described as the last of Ireland’s timber-built ocean-going sailing ships, yet at a mere 56ft, it is capable of visiting most of the small harbours of Ireland.

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