September 28, 2006

By the Sea

I've been to the beach on Doorus (near Kinvarra, Co. Galway) several times but I never noticed the statue and shrine in the field behind the beach carpark until last Saturday morning.


Posted by Monasette at 10:28 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2006

Final Resting Place

The Court Tomb on Clare Island sits at the edge of a pond high on Knocknaveen and looking out towards Knockmore and the sea. And on the other side, through a V in the hill, the tomb points towards Croagh Patrick - the monument that dominates all of Clew Bay.

Posted by Monasette at 11:30 PM | Comments (1)

September 19, 2006

Casting the First Stone

It's been a rough week for the Pope - he's managed to rile Jews by reminding them that the Crucifixion was a scandal for the Jews [and as a member of the Hitler Youth, he should know] and before that, he gets into a spot of bother with Muslims by quoting one of his predecessors who was fiercely critical of Islam. To be fair to the Pontiff, he was only trying to make the point that spreading religion through violence was wrong - it's not as if he was expecting the Spanish Inquisition …oh. Give him another week and even the Buddhists will have declared jihad.

Picture is of Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo (on a day when there were very few Mayo men or women out and about in their own county). This is the view from the Sheefrey Hills, looking across at the traditional Pilgrim's Route to The Reek. The plaque in Aghagower, a village half way along the route, claims an unbroken line of Christianity from 441 to the present day. There's no proof St. Patrick ever visited Co. Mayo, let alone Croagh Patrick. However, signal fires have probably burned on the mountain's peak since the beginning of history, where today, the small church on the mountain's peak shines like a beacon across the west.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:56 PM | Comments (4)

A Sign of Things to Come

Better looking than Serge Gainsbourg and probably a better singer too, this fine chap was unperturbed when we all gathered round to admire him and take some pictures. I suggested to the ladies on the walk to give him a kiss to see if there was a prince lurking underneath - you don't want to hear the response.

There was a veritable plague of frogs on the hills this weekend (ok, more like a smattering), but a sign of something nonetheless. If I see a bunch of locusts, the Pope is definitely going to have to stop.

Next year's model - juvenile frog (though not as juvenile as chasing someone with it).

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Posted by Monasette at 11:32 PM | Comments (1)

September 14, 2006

Hound of the Sea

Shipwreck on Clare Island, Co. Mayo. In the background, swathed in dawn cloud, is Croagh Patrick. Photo taken September 10, 2006.

Michael Viney describes the Clare Island Survey of 1910-1911 as

the world’s first major inventory of nature in a single location…over three years, more than one hundred scientists were deployed there, from Ireland, Britain, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.¹

The survey was organized and led by an Ulster-born naturalist, Robert Lloyd Praeger. He described the result thus

Of a total of 5269 animals observed – ranging from mammals to microscopic rhizopods² – no less than 1253 species were found to be hitherto unknown in Ireland, of which 343 were unrecorded also from Great Britain , and 109 new to science. Of the 3219 plants collected, from phanerogams to diatoms, 585 were new to Ireland, 55 new to the British Isles and 11 new to science.³

There was another species out and about on the island last weekend – Galway Walkers on a weekend trip. Given that, of the 30+ walkers that travelled over for the weekend, there were only three gentlemen [ok, 2 gentlemen and me], any fellow heading to the island next weekend for the Singles Weekend should hope for a similar ratio of men vs. women. But I digress.

Not all of the species discovered by Praeger and his team were actually on the island – many of them were dredged up by a Royal Navy Fisheries Protection vessel. After the War of Independence, that ship, called the Muirchu – named after Cuchulainn’s hound, became Ireland’s first Coastal Defence vessel. It wasn’t an entirely successful one, as this excerpt from a Dail debate on naval procurement from 1947 shows:-

The Muirchu was regarded as a joke in this country because the trawlers that were plundering our coastal waters and the fishing banks were able to escape because of the slowness of that particular vessel… We are to have six corvettes to defend our island. Well, now, that is amusing. When the war was on we had no corvette at all. We had only the Muirchu steaming around, slowly, being laughed at by every aeroplane that flew overhead and being sneered at by every submarine that stuck its periscope over the water.

That last speaker was a little harsh, since the Muirchu did manage to sink a U-Boat during World War I. And it’s early career as a Fisheries Protection vessel was hampered by the fact that it was unclear what Ireland’s territorial boundaries were, as discussed in this 1930 Dail debate :-

Last week, we had a case in point, in which we did not even know whether the islands off our own coast are our property or not. It is not fair to the Board; it is not fair to the Dáil; it is not fair to the country, and last, but not least, it is not fair to the captain or to the crew of the Muirchu, because they have done their duty, as far as I know, conscientiously. They have arrested trawlers; they have brought them into port. Their duties ended there, but when the court was held and fines were imposed in certain cases, they could not be collected. In the other cases when it was attempted to impose a fine the defendant snapped his fingers and said “That particular part of the world where I was arrested does not belong to the Free State at all,” and the Free State has to take it lying down.

But it was another military action earlier in the war that garnered its fame, aimed not at the Germans but at Irishmen. In April 1916, the ship steamed up the Liffey and shelled the Four Courts, in an effort to dislodge Irish rebels taking part in the Easter Rising. Back then, the Muirchu was known by its Royal Navy name – the Helga.

Clare Island is not a place that one would naturally associate with naval protection, since it was home to Ireland’s most famous pirate, Grace O’Malley [or Granuaile]. Grace was an equal-opportunities pirate – she robbed from the Irish and English alike; harrying the moneyed inhabitants of the West coast without prejudice. The Muirchu was sold on in 1947 and sank off the Saltees in the same year (with no casualties). Boats still make the 3 kilometre journey from Roonagh Pier (just west of Louisburgh in Mayo) to the small quay on the island, which is still guarded today by the castle of Grace O’Malley.

¹ Ireland – A Smithsonian History; pp 10-11
² amoeba or other slimy little thingies
³ The Way that I Went; pp 186-187
 Back then, it wasn’t Spanish trawlers that were seen as the chief plunderers of Irish waters – it was the French, as another excerpt from the 1947 Dail debate shows:-

The Minister said that we have three corvettes. I should like to see more money being spent under this subhead, because the failure of our Navy in the past, the Muirchu, to deal with the depredations of foreign trawlers has been forcibly brought home to us. These French trawlers came to within a few hundred yards of our coast, raiding the finest fishing beds along the west coast and behaving as if the place belonged to them.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 24-105mm@24mm, ISO=50, aperture=f11, speed=1/2 sec. tripod

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Posted by Monasette at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2006

Last Gasp

Some weeks ago, a tuna was discovered splashing about in a tidal pool near Maree, Oranmore. Unfortunately for the fish, he was discovered by a fisherman.

It may have been that the tuna was chasing a shoal of mackeral close to shore. Tonight, the mackeral are swarming around Galway harbour, and the locals are out in force, reeling in dozens of the shiny critters. Alas, I'd already had my tea when I noticed the crowd from my kitchen window.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 24-105mm@24mm, ISO=3200, aperture=f4.5, speed=1/20 sec.

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Posted by Monasette at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2006

The Tide is High

Spanish Arch, Galway at 8.25 Sunday evening.

The city survived the high tide on Sunday night, and the sandbags lining the doorways of houses and business around Spanish Arch weren't tested after all.

I've added a slideshow here - it's a bunch of before and after pictures of places around Spanish Arch, Wolfe Tone bridge and the Claddagh (the Flickr version is here). A large crowd had gathered to watch the proceedings last night, but in the brilliant afternoon sunshine this afternoon, you'd never know the water had been so high. As you can see, the water had backed up to the bridge, effectively pushing the river backwards. It was just as well that there was no onshore breeze or rainfall - in full flood, the river Corrib puts 57,000 gallons over the weir upstream every second. The Fire Brigade were busy - the water was so high that drains in nearby streets were backing up. Again, the lack of rainfall meant that, in the main, drains didn't flood (the high water level would have prevented street water from draining into the Bay). I wonder what the owners of the new apartments and offices at Wolfe Tone Bridge felt last night as the water rose - the charm of a waterfront property might have faded as the water inched closer to the sandbags.

Geeky details :- the slideshows uses one of Photoshop's default (Flash) templates _ I haven't fully figures out how to customize it, so no captions. The slideshow is on a continuous loop - just click Back on your browser when you get fed up looking at them.

The photographs were all taken with the Canon 5D and a 24-105mm lens. The light was fading fast, and the last few photos (i.e. the grainiest one) were shot using the ISO expansion function (which gives an effective ISO of 3200). Most of the shots were taken at f4 and the shutter speed varied between 1/30 and 1/15 of a second. I decided against using a tripod, partly because I wanted to use a shutter speed fast enough to freeze movement, and partly because I didn't realize how dark it would get by 9pm.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:07 PM | Comments (2)

September 08, 2006

Partial Eclipse

It's been a busy time for astrologers. First, Pluto gets demoted as a planet (bet they didn't see that coming). Tonight, a partial eclipse of the moon (the dark shading on the top of the moon in the picture above)followed by abnormally high tides at the weekend. A harbinger of doom, maybe ? Well, the Progressive Democrat leader announced that she was stepping down as leader as soon as a replacement could be found. Since she's also Minister of Health, and the health service is pretty much a shambles, maybe it's not entirely bad news.

The high tide will be bad news if we get poor weather; otherwise there shouldn't be a problem. However, if we get heavy rain or high winds, expect flooding in Salthill - Mother Nature's way of reminding us all that it wasn't that long ago since that part of Galway was salt marsh, and that it wouldn't take much to turn it back into one.

Posted by Monasette at 12:16 AM | Comments (5)

September 04, 2006

High Point of the Day

A year ago, when we last climbed Ben Baun in the Twelve Bens, the day was a scorcher, we all ran out of water and the horseflies ate us without salt. Yesterday, the overcast day was the perfect temperature for walking, and the mysterious horsefly shortage continued, so nary a bite from horsefly or midge.

Our route started on a small lay-by on the R344 - we strode up the ridge towards Knockpasheemore, but avoided the rocky peak. We walked along the ridge , past Lurevagh and up to the summit of Ben Baun (Binn Bhan). At 725 metres, it’s the tallest of the Twelve Bens. We didn't linger long at the summit, continuing down to Maumina and back down the gentle slope into the Gleninagh river valley. Though curtains of rain drifted occasionally through the Lough Inagh valley (formed between the Twelve Bens and the Maumturks and, for me, one of the most beautiful valleys in Connacht), we escaped most of it. Better still, as we approached the summit of Ben Baun, the swath of cloud ahead of us lifted briefly, allowing us a few minutes to admire the view.

I've mentioned the mysterious, though welcome, lack of tormenting insects before. I encountered a rather unexpected creature while walking near Lugrevagh. I happened to be in front when I saw some sheep on the side of the ridge, and they were staring intently at another, smaller creature. At first, I thought it was a lamb on it's side. When I got closer, I realised it was a badger, snuffling about in the long grass. I pulled my camera from my rucksack and clicked a few shots, but the noise of the group sent the badger scampering down the hill (click here for a really rubbish shot of the badger. I'm only posting it because none of the group believed my story. Not only did none of them notice the badger, but none of them noticed me scampering down the hill after it trying to get a shot. I'm glad they do headcounts every so often). It was early afternoon, and the nearest cover of any sort was well over three kilometres away (in the woodlands around Lough Inagh). I've never encountered a badger 'in the wild' before (apart from braking to avoid them while driving at night).

In the valley lies a row of stones - six quartz boulders that, in comparison to the boggy land about them, almost glow in the soft autumn light. Their orientation is North North East to South South West, about eight and a half metres in length, with what looks like a gate way between the two central stones. The 'Archaeological Survey of Galway, Volume I ' offers only a rough guide to the age of the row - sometime in the Bronze Age (I.e. 2500 - 500 BC). Whenever it was built, the site was probably the only dry spot in the valley. The stone row is on a small hill - there are two such hillocks that appear to be glacial debris formed millions of years ago as the ice sheets melted and set the mountains free. The two hillocks form a rough line with the valley and Ben Baun, so maybe the other hillock also once had a stone row. To my uneducated eye, the row seems to mimic the natural architecture that surrounds and shelters it - the ridge of peaks of the Twelve Bens stretching from Knockpasheemore, Ben Baun, Maumina, Benncollaghduff and Bencorrbeg.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:14 PM | Comments (2)