Displaying items by tag: Island Nation
It seems to me that, without dedicated volunteers, there would be a lot of work not done in the marine sphere, so I like when possible, to highlight what dedicated people are doing. Publicity can help them to raise funding they need by drawing public attention to what they ae doing and achieving support. So in the current edition of THIS ISLAND NATION, the Whale and Dolphin Group takes us on an aerial survey over the Kerry coast as they survey whales in Irish waters.
Minke Whale Pictured Off Seven Heads Photo by Oisin Macsweeney
Years ago we would never have thought that whales would be seen off Ireland, but it has happened and this Summer when sailing along the West Cork coastline off the Seven Heads two minke whales came within a few hundred yards of my Sigma 33, Scribbler II. My 11-year-old grandson, Oisin, was quickest to fetch a camera from the saloon and get a picture. The excitement of seeing whales so close was huge for him, his younger brother of 9 years, Rowan, even their experienced seafarer father, Cormac and myself. The sight of whales, which followed on dolphins playing around the boat for a while, was a reminder of how the sea has many aspects and that protecting it and its inhabitants is a responsibility on all of us. Later in the week’s cruise, for which we were blessed with one of the best weeks of the season, the sight of plastic debris floating along and sea grass despoiling the lovely village environs of Courtmacsherry, was another reminder – of how humans are damaging the marine environment.
Also in the programme this week we hear about the plans by Waterways Ireland for the years ahead and the valuable marine reserve asset which Bull Island in Dublin Bay is for the capital city. What is impressive about what is happening there, in my view, is the joint community and public authority efforts to protect it, about which Dublin Council tells us, outlining what combined, joint effort at this level through communities can achieve.
And I hope you’ll get a smile from the tale which Valentia Island native, Dick Robinson, tells us about going to school every day to the mainland, journeying across the bay on the island ferries and how there was learning, not only at school but also aboard and what it taught youngsters about the benefits, believe it or not, of storms hitting the island.
“We were invited into schools in the North Wall and while all the children had grandparents who were dockers, not one of them knew what a docker was, because all of that tradition is gone….”
Amidst the current controversy over where Dublin Port and Dun Laoghaire Harbour will dump what they intend to dredge up in their plans to provide deeper access channels for the larger cruise ships which they both covet and which business they are fighting for, that comment, made to me on the edge of Dublin Bay by a man dedicated to preserving the maritime traditions of the port, should give cause for thought about where all the commercial development has taken the communities which once bounded in Dublin Port and lived from the jobs it provided.
Alan Martin of the Dublin Dock Workers’ Preservation Society was speaking to me, as we sat on the edge of Dublin Bay, for the current edition of my maritime programme, THIS ISLAND NATION. We could hear the sound of seagulls wheeling in the sky, the rumble of noise emanating from the docks, ships passed in and out, as we talked and he had a reality check for me. He told me that 40,000 jobs have gone from the capital’s port since the time when dock labour sustained viable communities.
“Why do the people of Dublin seem to know so little about the place of the docks in the history of Liffeyside and how their role was once the heart-and-soul of Dublin Port, its shipping and its commerce?”
There are many voluntary organisations doing great work in the marine sphere, without whom much of the maritime culture, history and tradition would be lost. The Dublin Port and Dock Workers’ Preservation Society, set up to preserve the history of Dublin Port, is definitely one such. The interview Alan Martin gave me is revealing. They have encountered many obstacles in their self-imposed task.
He surprised me with his revelations about the extent of the maritime-associated jobs that have been lost and the port-side communities which have suffered in the drive towards modernity. He made strong points about how Dublin’s marine traditions can be preserved and turned into a modern, vibrant, beneficial culture for the benefit of the city.
This offers a bridge from the past to the future, effectively a conveyance of pride in past experience to benefit modern life. Other port communities could, with benefit, replicate the commitment of the Dublin Dock Workers’ Preservation Society.
It was an interview I enjoyed doing and I think you will enjoy listening to. I am fortunate to work as a marine journalist and to meet exceptional people in the ports and maritime communities. So it is good to report in this programme, a positive attitude amongst young people in coastal areas, many of whom are joining the lifeboat service. Also featured in this edition of the programme is the delight of a coastal town when it gets a new lifeboat, as I found in Youghal in East Cork.
And there is always something interesting and unusual about the sea to report, such as the 467 million years old sea scorpion found in a river in Iowa in the USA.
Listen to the programme by clicking at the top of the page
Every sailor knows the importance of the weather forecast ….
We watch forecasts on television, listen to them on radio, check the Met Eireann forecasts, look at the weather maps in the newspapers… At sea we check the Coast Guard’s coastal radio station forecasts – all part of good, safe, seamanship …
But how many people know that the world’s first weather reporter was an Irishman, from Cork and that, 141 years after his tragic death at the age of 40 in the frozen wastes of Siberia during a failed Arctic exploration, United States Naval records still list him as under arrest at the time of his death. His family descendants allege this is an insulting slur on his memory and, for over a century have fought a battle with the US Government to remove what they say is a ‘stain on his memory.’
It is a battle which the latest member of the family has taken to the Pentagon and found the US Navy didn’t particularly like what was doing when she rang got the phone number of the Secretary of the Navy and rang his office!
Over my years in journalism, unusual stories have been brought to me. This one ranks at the highest level, because Jerome Collins was a man whose Arctic exploration experience puts him close to the life story of the legendary Tom Crean as an explorer. But he is not as well-known and to achieve that is the self-imposed task of his Great, Great Grandniece from Minnesota, Amy Nossum, who I first came into contact with on Emails, then phone calls and finally met when she made her first visit to Ireland during the Summer to see where Jerome Collins is buried, in the old Curraghkippane cemetery, high over Cork City on the northern bank of the River Lee. After his body was found in Siberia, it was brought all the way back to Cork and is regarded as the longest funeral in the world.
The story of Jerome Collins, an engineer born in Cork on October 17, 1841 who supervised the construction of the city’s North Gate Bridge in 1864, is the subject of my AFLOAT Podcast this week, which you can hear here.
Amy Nossum is a determined lady, who tells me how she telephoned the Pentagon and, since she returned home to Minnesota, continues her long-running battle with t the United States Navy.
As I say, an extraordinary maritime story.
#arklow legend – We are fortunate in this country to have people who are dedicated to the marine sphere and who give freely and willingly of their time and efforts in pursuit of their belief that maritime matters really should matter to the national community.
Jimmy Tyrell from Arklow is such a man. I have known and respected him through his work for the lifeboats for many years.
The RNLI has a proud history of over 190 years and the port of Arklow in County Wicklow, a town founded by the Vikings in the 9th century, lays claim to being the first lifeboat station established in Ireland, back in 1826. Jimmy Tyrrell has led lifeboat operations there for 46 years. His family is legendary in maritime matters.
Twenty-seven years ago Jimmy made a decision. The RNLI named its different classes of boat designs after rivers, but had never used the name of an Irish river. Jimmy was determined to change that and being a determined man, he achieved his goal. So when the new Shannon Class was born, the most modern vessel in the RNLI fleet and the first into Ireland arrived at the Lough Swilly Station at Buncrana in County Donegal, Jimmy was there to see it.
It was a great day for Jimmy, well-deserved and he describes his feeling as he saw the boat arrive on this edition of THIS ISLAND NATION.
When Jimmy retired from RNLI duties in Arklow another member of that great maritime family stood up to take over from him and continue the family association, John Tyrrell, who is now Lifeboat Operations Manager there.
The new Shannon lifeboat at Lough Swilly cost €2.4m and was designed by a Derry man who works for the RNLI at its Poole headquarters. It uses twin waterjets instead of propellers, giving it more manoeuvrability and the ability to operate in shallow waters. The man who designed it is Peter Eyre and he was once saved by the lifeboat service when he got into difficulty on the water, the story of which he tells also on the current edition of THIS ISLAND NATION.
When the RNLI describes a boat as "all-weather..." they mean it, the service always responds to calls for help, even in the worst of sea conditions, so the crews deserve the best boats. The Shannon has a top speed of 25 knots, a range of 250 nautical miles and a unique hull to minimise slamming of the boat in heavy seas, with shock-absorbing seats to protect the crew from impact when powering through the waves. The Lough Swilly lifeboat has been largely funded through a legacy from Derek Jim Bullivant of Bewdley, Worcestershire, in the UK who died in September of 2011.and is named Derek Bullivant. Coxswain, Mark Bennett, commands it and was welcomed by a huge crowd when he and his crew brought the boat from Poole to Buncrana. He tells us how it was an emotional day for him.
This edition of Ireland's niche maritime programme also has an interesting story about supermarket advertising which can mislead purchasers into thinking they are buying Irish bass when it is illegal to catch them for commercial purposes in Irish waters, where such fishing is banned. So why are the public misled by advertising which says "Irish produced bass" when they come from fish farms abroad?
David Stanton, the Fine Gael TD for Cork East interested – and somewhat pleasantly surprised me – by making an issue of the lack of Government and State attention to the marine sphere. It's not often, I put to him, that a politician is heard to draw attention to maritime matters. He has a good point -that there is no single, central point in the State system, no 'one-stop-shop,' where all maritime enquiries can be dealt with, so anyone proposing a project can be sent from one section of the State services to another so many times they could meet themselves coming back. He is worth listening to and I'll be looking forward to hearing how the self-imposed mission he has declared, to highlight maritime affairs at Government level, gets on.
The island communities join the programme with a regular report, in which we hear why €60,000 a year, not a huge sum of money, is vital to education on the islands.
A lot then, about maritime matters which you can hear THIS ISLAND NATION by clicking on the programme icon above
Your comments are welcome below.
#islandnation – DAH DIT, DAH DIT...The distance which Morse Code could travel was highlighted to me at Valentia Coastal Radio Station when the centenary of its operation was marked writes Tom MacSweeney.
John Draper now in charge of the station recorded for THIS ISLAND NATION the story of Paddy Burke who was on duty watch in Valentia in October of 1942 during World War Two when at 0500 hours he picked up a very weak message in Morse Code, so weak, so faint that he turned off all the machinery making noise in the station at the time in order to hear it and to track it down, which he did. It came from a Second Officer named Smith of the SS GH Jones which had been torpedoed. He was one of 40 crewmen aboard a lifeboat 250 miles South West of the Azores, about 1,250 nautical miles away from Valentia, but Paddy Burke had heard them. He alerted the Royal Navy in London and a destroyer was despatched to rescue them which it did. The Second Officer's hand was so badly injured that it was becoming gangrenous but he had kept sending the message.
Thirty years later a man arrived at the station who introduced himself as the Second Officer who had made that fateful contact with Valentia. Now Capt.Smith he met Paddy Burke who had heard his call for help and they recalled that moment when a Radio Officer on the Kerry island performed his duty to the highest humanitarian and professional standards.
"Paddy is deceased but that story is part of the history of Valentia," John Draper said "and it underlines the professionalism and dedication to duty always shown by the operators at Valentia."
Walking along the corridors of the station and seeing the photographs of rescues they have been involved in and the thanks sent to them by those whom they helped is to realise how vital this station is to safety at sea.
I was pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation to the commemoration as I would have questioned in recent years the attempts by Coast Guard management to close it and Malin Head and to centralise the operations of both stations in Dublin.
You can hear more by listening to THIS ISLAND NATION podcast above.
Your comments are welcome, either below or to: [email protected]
#woodenboat – Marine Minister Simon Coveney is confident that wooden boat building in Ireland is going to be revived writes Tom MacSweeney.
Traditional skills have been lost and there are fears that they will disappear forever, but the Minister sounds a confident note about preserving them on the current edition of my maritime programme, THIS ISLAND NATION.
"This project is going to reinvigorate wooden boat building in Ireland again. It is going to open a new chapter for us," he says. "Hopefully multiple ports around the country will be able to build projects like this in the future. We still have great skill sets of wooden boat building available to us in Ireland which we must not lose. It is projects like this that will keep them alive and encourage a new young generation."
I recorded Mr.Coveney at Liam Hegarty's boatyard at Oldcourt near Skibbereen where the Ilen, the last traditional sailing boat of its kind, is being restored. It is the boat which the legendary Conor O'Brien had built for the Falkland Islanders who so admired his previous vessel, Saoirse, when he sailed it into those islands during his round-the-world voyage in 1923-25. Liam Hegarty's yard at Oldcourt on a bend of the road from Skibbereen to Baltimore in West Cork is one of the few remaining that specialises in wooden boat building.
The Falklanders asked O'Brien, the first Irishman to sail a round-the-world voyage to emulate the boat on which he arrived in Port Stanley. He did as they asked, having the Ilen built in Baltimore, where Saoirse was also constructed. With two Cape Clear Islanders as crew, he sailed it to the Falklands in 1926 where it worked for 70 years until Limerickman, Gary McMahon, had it brought back to Ireland in 1997:
I was the only reporter on the quayside in Dublin when it was landed there from the deck of a cargo ship, looking every bit her age of 71 years at the time. So it was a great feeling to stand on her deck in Liam Hegarty's boatshed where the restoration work has been carried out, in conjunction with the AK Ilen boat building school, initiated by Gary McMahon, the driving force of the project Such a change from the condition in which I had seen her in the Dublin docks 18 years ago.
Gary McMahon, Liam Hegarty and Minister Coveney tell the story on the programme. Gary and Liam are both confident that Ilen will be back in the water, sailing once again. She may provide opportunities for effective sail training. Several sources have provided restoration funding. More is needed for a project which, as the Minister said, can restore Ireland's resource of traditional skills.
Also on the programme you can hear the story of a submarine which sank not once, but twice, which will make you wonder whether superstition about changing the names of boats is correct. And did you know that the Dubs beat the Kingdom ... Not in football, but fishing...?
You can hear more by listening to THIS ISLAND NATION above.
#vor – As the Volvo Ocean Race organisers release the investigation report into the Team Vestas Wind shipwreck in the Indian Ocean, Irish sailor Brian Carlin who was the yacht's Onboard Reporter describes dramatically on the current edition of THIS ISLAND NATION just what happened and how he survived.
"It wasn't what I signed up for in the round-the-world race. We only managed to get 15,000 miles before that night, but it has been character-building. I have learned a lot from it," he says in the interview as he describes how he was hurled forward into a bulkhead :
"I was thrown several metres, banged my head off the forward bulkhead and was stunned. I thought at first that we had hit either a floating container or a whale, but it was a chain of reefs in the Indian Ocean. I got up on deck and saw that we were in serious trouble. It was night time, dark, but there was white water crashing everywhere around the boat and we were lodged on a rock. We stayed six or seven hours on the boat. The Skipper wanted to keep us together which was the right decision, but it was tough going, we were thrown back and forth and the yacht took a heavy battering and it was all in the darkness, the only lights being the personal ones we had. It was a frightening experience to survive and the darkness made it even more so. About half-three in the morning that became too dangerous. There was about six feet to what looked like a safe piece of rock. We deployed the liferafts where we could get some protection for them on the side away from the rocks, but we had to get onto that piece of rock first to be safe. One crew member went across there first, with a rope tied around him and then the rest of us got onto it.
We clung onto that rock until daylight came up and then it was amazing to see that we were in a lagoon area which itself looked beautiful and was in the middle of the ocean."
Were you frightened at any stage that you might not survive, that you could die, I asked him?
"I was. There were two very bad moments. Initially I was a bit shocked. When we were waiting on the boat for daylight, I was afraid that it might overturn on us and we would be trapped. When we were getting off the boat onto the rock I really didn't want to leave it because you were going into the water to try to swim towards rocks which were being battered by waves and it looked like you could be battered too. But that piece of rock was the only place to be safe. The boat was no place to survive. I didn't want to do it, but I had to."
That night in the darkness they did not see sharks, but the following morning when daylight came up, they saw five or six within a hundred metres of the boat.
• Tune into Ireland's niche radio programme above and hear Brian's first-hand account of his experience and the advice he gives to all sailors to take careful notice of the safety recommendations from the RNLI
Also on the programme, the RNLI explains why the organisation is excited about the arrival of the first Shannon Class lifeboat to Lough Swilly and, continuing the explanation of nautical terms for landlubbers, the programme explains why sailors use 'port' and 'starboard' instead of 'left' and 'right'.
#irishsailing – There are just 17,000 registered leisure sailors in Ireland at present. There has been a decline in sailing, the level of activity has weakened, clubs are losing membership and several marinas have space available for the first time.
The only official participation figure available is for those 17,000 members of clubs registered with the Irish Sailing Association. There are many more sailors who own boats and use them outside of the club structures, so the actual participation levels could be two or three times that number. But there is no doubt about the decline in activity in the sport. The effects of the economic recession, people having less disposable income, loss of jobs, emigration, have all had their effects.
Brian Craig, one of the Directors of the ISA discusses the challenges facing the sport in a frank and direct interview on the current edition of THIS ISLAND NATION, the niche maritime radio programme, which you can hear here. The interview ranges across the still-present perception of the sport as 'elitist' and the methods needed to change this and to increase involvement in the sport.
"There is still a strong core foundation to the sport," Brian Craig says in the interview which discusses the Strategic Plan the Association has drawn up and which has been considered at meetings of ISA members around the country.
The plan will be put before the ISA annual general meeting in Portlaoise on March 28 for adoption.
GOVERNMENT THINKS THERE IS AN IRISH LANDBRIDGE!
"We are a funny country. We are surrounded by water. We have a Government that thinks there is a landbridge somewhere, but they don't know where it is."
That was the comment of former seafarer Tom O'Mahony when he spoke to the programme at the annual Remembrance Ceremony for those lost at sea in the town of Youghal on the East Cork coastline. It is a coastal town with a great schooner tradition and memories of seafarers who ranged from the River Blackwater onto the world's oceans in various types of vessels. It is also where the programme is compiled, edited, recorded and transmitted every Monday fortnight at 6.30 p.m. and later each fortnight on Near FM in Dublin, Dundalk FM, Dublin South FM and Raidio Corca Baiscinn in County Clare as well as on this website.
Tom O'Mahony said there was a lack of maritime awareness at Government level and recalled the closure of Irish Shipping and the manner in which ships and crews were stranded overseas and men later left without pensions. "And that was company in which seafarers had gone to sea in ships that would not now pass maritime safety requirements."
The RNLI describes a very courageous disabled sailor on the programme in contrast to the decision of the Paralympics Committee to discard sailing from its programme.
NO PLACE FOR BEING POSH OR A FIGUREHEAD
Also discussed on THIS ISLAND NATION is the use of nautical descriptions in everyday language, such as 'posh,' being a 'figurehead' and 'flogging a dead horse."
"I finish on a sad note, that it looks like we have lost ten of our citizens to drowning in the first month of this year, the majority of which appear to be through self-harm."
John, who formerly served with the Irish Navy and is a qualified diver, a tough discipline in which to qualify for underwater work, is also a sailor and a man I have known and respected for many years for his dedicated commitment to water safety. He has driven forward the need to wear lifejackets on boats, for fishermen and other aspects of safety on the water. And his work, leading that of Irish Water Safety, has had an effect. There is now, for example, much more wearing of lifejackets during yacht racing. I have noticed this over recent years and insist upon it on my own boat and, of course, lifejackets should be worn aboard boats of all kinds.
Referring to the drownings during January this year, of which I had not been aware until he revealed the information, John Leech added:
"To help reduce these drownings we need people to complete the HSE Safe Talk of Assist Course, which I have completed myself and recommend highly. Essentially it is a First Aid Course in suicide prevention."
During his report he also said that the Bulgarian Government has made water safety mandatory in their schools, "whilst Ireland has it on the Curriculum, regrettably not enough schools are teaching it."
Among the other facts he revealed:
• Drowning claims the lives of 372,000 people globally each year and is among the ten leading causes of death for children and young people.
• Over half of all drowning deaths are among those aged under 25 years
There are several other surprising facts about drowning and water safety which he discusses in his report which you can hear here.
John Leech IWS CEO
EU RECOGNISES CRUISE SHIP INDUSTRY
"The industry has not got the recognition from the EU which it should, even though it has been around for 25 years," Capt. Michael McCarthy tells me on the programme when he talks about the cruise ship industry and says that recognition appears to, at last, be coming with the scheduling of a conference in Brussels on March 5 and 6.
"This has been sought by all cruise organisations. It will bring together those involved - shipping lines, ports, national and local tourism interests. There is a huge amount of potential in jobs and supplying the industry. Most of the cruise ships which are being constructed and 30 are due in the next four or five years, including mega ships, are being built at four shipyards in Europe. Then there is the tourism sector, ports, logistics, a multi-billion Euro potential, so it is time the EU recognised this," says Capt. McCarthy who is Cork Port's Commercial Manager.
He also speaks about Cork Port's cruise berth facilities at Cobh which are being extended: "To stay at the forefront, we have expanded as the industry has developed."
Capt. McCarthy, Cork Port's Commercial Manager
Work has started on putting in new bollards at the Cobh cruise ship berth at a cost over €1.4m. Cork is the only port in Ireland which can dock the last four generations of cruise ships, any of the new ships built since 2008/2009, any ships over 300-metres cannot berth in any other port in Ireland, he says in the interview which can be heard here.
#sealinks – In the current debate which has surfaced about the future of Aer Lingus, it is good to hear the realisation in all quarters, from politicians to business, economic and media commentators that Ireland is an 'island nation'. While the importance of air links is being highlighted, those same people could extend their thinking to the maritime links which keep this country alive in a way in which no air linkage can do.
This is emphasised in the leading story in the current edition of my radio programme, THIS ISLAND NATION which you can hear on this website, where I interview the first lady to become President of the Irish Institute of Master Mariners, the professional body for Shipmasters. Sea-going has been a male-dominated profession but Capt. Sinead Reen who lives in Crosshaven, Co.Cork, has done a lot to break that mould. She was also the first woman to qualify as a Deck Officer in Ireland and has served at sea on several types of vessels, including super tankers and cruise ships.
She describes in the interview how she chose a career at sea and, at a time when the Naval Service would not admit women, joined the Merchant Navy: "We are not seen by the general public because we are at sea, carrying the goods, the supplies, the imports, the exports, which this nation needs across the world's seaways. Without ships and seafarers this nation would find it difficult to exist." She discusses life at sea for a woman in a male environment aboardship and speaks of the great opportunities for employment at sea for both women and men. Her election underlines the opportunities of a career at sea for women in what has been a male-dominated profession.
It is an interview worth listening to, as is that about the commemorations planned in the Cork Harbour town of Cobh for the centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania in May.
Hendrik Verway, Chairman of Cobh Tourism, outlines the details of the commemorative plans. Cobh, where survivors of the Lusitania sinking by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915, were landed as well as the bodies of those who were killed in the tragedy, is planning ceremonies on the seafront at Cobh and a sail past by boats on the evening of May 7, with the vessels displaying a single white light to remember those who were killed. Two cruise ships will be in Cobh on the day. One of them, the Cunard's Queen Victoria, will be on a commemorative voyage and on Thursday afternoon, May 7, will sound her ship's whistle at the time at which the torpedo hit the Lusitania, to start a ceremony on the Cobh seafront . A quayside ceremony will start as the whistle sounds and which will conclude at 2.30 p.m., marking the time when the Lusitania sank beneath the waves. 1,198 passengers and crew died. Survivors were landed at Cobh, to where bodies of the dead were also brought and 169 buried. There were 764 survivors. Only 289 bodies were recovered. 169 are buried in the Old Cemetery in Cobh, 149 in three mass graves and 20 in individual plots. Amongst the commemorative events will be a series of lectures and an exhibition of photographs taken in Cobh, then called Queenstown, in the aftermath of the landing there of survivors and bodies by rescue vessels. Many of these photos have not been on public display before and have been digitised for exhibition from original glass plates photographed at the time, through the co-operation of the National Museum. It is also planned to re-enact the funeral of victims to the Old Cemetery in Cobh.
And in another interview on the programme, Paul Bourke of Inland Fisheries Ireland tells me that, for anglers, it has been a good year for the catching of specimen fish.
#islandnation – "There is a deep-rooted interest in the sea amongst Irish people. Seeing history through the prism of the sea, bringing together the coastal communities and the public generally will raise interest in the relationship of Ireland to the sea," says Dr.John Borgonovo, Professsor of History at University College, Cork, in this edition of the fortnightly THIS ISLAND NATION radio programme.
The programme is presented by maritime journalist, Tom MacSweeney, and will also hear well-known Galway sailor, John Killeen, talk about the need and importance for the public service to serve the maritime community in the development of marine facilties throughout the coastal regions.
There will also be a report from the first time-ever holding of the International Lifesaving Conference in Ireland, which will be held in Dublin, maritime news from Ireland and overseas and music of the sea.