Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lightship Kittiwake revisited

News in from David Parks (who runs a fascinating fine art and collectibles blog here ) that the Lightship Kittiwake has been acquired by the Dublin Port Company from Harry Crosbie.
Built in 1959, the Kittiwake was the second last lightship to serve in Irish waters. It was sold to developer Mr. Crosbie by the Commissioner of Irish Lights in 2007. Mr Crosbie had well-publicised plans to raise the ship onto the North Wall Quay near the point (sic) where she has been moored near the O2 and convert it into a cafe / restaurant but these plans were scuppered when the Dublin Dockland Development Authority refused permission for the scheme last year. Apparently the DDDA had no objection to the cafe / restaurant part of the scheme but felt the ship should remain on the Liffey rather than be hoisted on dry land.
It will be interesting to see now what lies in store for the Kittiwake.
Original pics here

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Kish Bank

Okay, the main reason for taking the ferry was to get a decent photo of the Kish Bank light. (Last time, taken from Howth Head, it was, erm, somewhat distant!)
I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get a little bit closer - I went Irish Ferries and, as you can see below, the bloody Stena Line ferry had a much closer view. Ah, don't worry, I thought, maybe we'll go a bit nearer on the way back. However, coming back it was rainy and misty and just as far away (bottom photo)

 On second thoughts, as the light is built on a sand bank, I'm kind of glad we didn't get too close! It was built in 1965 after being guarded for many many years by lightships. The engineering feat involved, which I don't fully understand, is apparently quite legendary.

The Three Amigos

 North Bull, North Bank and Poolbeg standing guard over the mouth of the Liffey above at sunrise and below at sunset.

Some Dublin ports buoys and beacons

 I suppose this is the bay equivalent of street architecture. Presumably nautical types understand their significance.

The Baily revisited

 Again, the last time, I took photos from the landward side. This time, the ferry afforded a different if somewhat distant perspective. Jutting out into Dublin Bay, this is the helicopter base for Rockabill and Kish. Built 1884, though a light has been buring on Howth Head since the 1600s.

North Bull revisited

 Located just across the mouth of the river from Poolbeg. There is a kind of half-submerged breakwater from the light to the shore (seen best in bottom photo) Last time I took photos from Poolbeg
 This little baby was built in 1880

Poolbeg revisited

 You're able to walk along the breakwater right up to this iconic Dublin light (as I did in 2007) but the ferry journey gives it an interesting perspective as the guardian of the city.
 Built in 1820 after a mammoth feat of engineering to build the breakwater, it is a popular destination for afternoon strollers.

Friday, August 31, 2012

North Bank revisited

 Conversely, you get a great view from the ferry of this one - better than my previous attempts from the south bank. Built in 1882, it also has a bell, though I've no idea if its operational.

North Wall Quay revisited

A day trip to Holyhead aboard Irish Ferries. Probably not as good a photo as the last time I photographed it from across the river This time it seems lost amid the hustle and bustle of the port area, taken from the same side of the Liffey. Built in 1904 though apparently there was a light here since 1820.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Why didn't I buy this book earlier?

John Eagle's second book, Ireland's Lighthouses, a Photo Essay, dropped through my hall door earlier this week. I had just come back from holidaying in south west Cork and had seen his magnficent collection of photographs of Ireland's lighthouses in the coffee shop at Mizen Head. I had previously bought "An Eagle's View of Irish Lighthouses," read it from cover to cover, then gave it to my sister-in-law as a birthday present.
There were two things that disappointed me about his new book. Firstly, the photographs are so stunning that it makes my own puny efforts seem hardly worth the while. John combines a love of lighthouses with a love of photography to great effect and the fact that he often has access to helicopters makes this a book for me to aspire to.
The second disappointing thing was that I had not bought the book earlier, for he gives good clear directions on how to find each light. If I had owned it while trying to find a road to the Ballynacourty light, for example, I wouldn't have had to content myself with a distant shot over the brow of a hill. Or I'd have known to go through Crookhaven last week to photo the Crookhaven Light, rather than wandering around Rock Island trying one laneway after the next until the family told me to give it up.
John is probably the foremost expert on Ireland's lighthouses, outside of former keepers and CIL employees. The knowledge he has accumulated is awe-inspiring and the book is a beautiful, full-colour work of art, both informative and artistic. The one thing that puzzles me, possibly, is his criteria for selecting lights. Why is Mitchell's Spitbank included, but not Moville or Dundalk? Muglins but not North Wall? The Metal Man but not Baltimore Beacon?
But these are small quibbles. I urge anyone interested in Irish lighthouses, or indeed looking for a gift, to buy this book. Click on photo in sidebar for details - and while you're there, check out his lighthouse postcards and lighthouse tours too.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Outside The Lighthouse Bar in Allihies. Big picture of the Bull Rock lighthouse outside and lots of nautical paraphernalia inside. Sadly, with a lot of driving still to do, I was not permitted to sample the Murphy's for research purposes.


Like Copper Point this started out life as an unlit beacon , only becoming lit in 1965, 115 years after construction. It is located on the western end of Bere Island which guards Castletownbere.
 There is a ferry in Castletownbere that brings you to Bere Island and then you have a hike to get to the lighthouse. Looking at the map and with two somewhat non-lighthousey people in tow, I figured you might be able to get a view of it from the mainland. Accordingly we drove west out of Castletownbere (make sure you have your castletownbearings right!) for about 2kms until we saw what looked like the entrance to a castle to the left. We took the road past and to the left of the castle and continued down this fairly narrow load until suddenly we got the view above. Maybe we'd have got even better had we continued but as I was being humoured, I decided not to push it.
The photo above is actually taken from very near the end of the Sheeps Head peninsular further south.

Foreland Lifebuoy

 This is Foreland Lifebuoy. It's supposed to be in Belfast Lough not outside the Mizen Head Visitors Centre. Could find nothing about it in the Centre nor on Google afterwards. Don't know when it was built or why it is here. Hope it's not too confusing for Cork sailors.

Roancarrig (1 and 2)

 Roancarrig lies on a small island in the middle of Bantry Bay roughly opposite Adrigole on the Beara peninsular. The first two shots were taken on a misty day from a spot on the Beara peninsular about 2 kms west of Adrigole - there's a garden furniture place which affords good views. John Eagle says the view is better from higher up. The land behind is the Sheeps Head peninsular to the south. The bottom shot is taken from Finn McCool's seat on the Sheeps Head peninsular with the Beara peninsular behind.
The lighthouse was established on 1st August 1847 at the request of the Castletownbere harbour service though the Lighthouse Directory says it was made inactive this year. The new light, which can be seen in the top two pictures to the right of the main structure, went into service on 30th April 2012.
"Roancarrig is the first of a new generation of Irish Lighthouses. The Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) have designed a stainless steel tower with LED Light and 12 x 50W Solar Panels to replace the extensive Masonry Tower, Dwellings, Diesel Generators, and 100 Volt, 1,500 Watt filament lamp of the previous station." says the Commissioner for Irish Lights

Latitude 51°39.180' North

Longitude 9°44.820' West

Sheeps Head

 51°32.591'N 009°50.923'W. This is the relatively modern (1968) Sheeps Head lighthouse lying at the very tip of the peninsular of the same name. It was built in 1968 to help guide oil tankers to Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay to the north.
The Lighthouse Directory is somewhat misleading about how to get there. It says "No road access, although the top of the slope above the lighthouse can be reached by a substantial hike (32 km (20 mi) roundtrip from Kilcohane) on the Sheep's Head Way, a trail that circles the peninsula." Well you can walk the 20 miles if you like but the road goes to within 2 kilometers of the lighthouse. At the end of the narrow and windy (both senses of the word) road is a coffee shop and toilets. From there you head across the rock and scrub, following the yellow markers, to the light. Probably not best attempted in runners as the path is wet and muddy in places. There's a small bit of scrambling to be done but nothing too strenuous.
 Eventually you come to the helicopter landing area and there are steps descending to the lighthouse. Curiously enough, the notoriously windy Sheeps Head became totally calm as we descended the steps, probably because we were sheltered by the cliff. A man who was coming up the steps said he'd just seen a school of dolphins in the sea but we saw nothing. I reckon he was lying.

Bull Rock and Calf Rock (barely)

 Can you see them? Can you? Can you? These photos were taken from Mizen Head Lighthouse two promontaries down from the Beara peninsular and its offshore islands. The island above is Bull Island - you can see the light sticking up. The one below is Calf Rock. The lighthouse there was destroyed by a great storm in 1881 and was replaced by one on Bull Island. Cow Island lies next to Bull Island. The 'mainland' seen in the bottom two pictures is in fact Dursey Island.
 To get a good-ish view of both Bull and Calf Island lights, you need to drive to the end of the Beara peninsular, catch the cable-car to Dursey Island, and walk 4 miles to the other end of the island. Then reverse your steps. Didn't have time to do it this trip but hope to do it someday.
Incidentally, it is a scientific fact that on the first morning of May every year, the Fastnet Rock visits the islands off Dursey, has an early breakfast and then returns to its lonely outpost.

Mizen Head (revisited)

 A much better day than our last visit in 2004. The lights themselves are pretty unspectacular and the building, due to its position on a cliff, is not a tower structure but still, this is one of the great lighthouses and one of only two in Ireland (the other being Hook Head) to have a Visitors Centre.
 To find it, simply go to Goleen and follow the signs to Mizen Head. There's a lovely panoramic view of Barley Cove en route. There's a coffee shop, a large parking area and a souvenir shop. You buy a ticket and go through to an information centre. Then there's a 10 minute walk down a good path and across the brand new 2009 bridge that crosses over to Cloghnane Island on which the Visitors Centre is located. Most fascinating for me was the huge list of wrecks around the coast.
 On the 28 April 1905 the Board of Trade gave sanction for the erection of a lighthouse and fog signal at Mizen Head but at the Lighthouse Conference held in April 1906 it was agreed that a fog signal only was necessary at Mizen Head and that the new station should be put in the care of the Principal Keepers of Fastnet Lighthouse.

On 18 October 1907 sanction was given for the erection of a reinforced concrete bridge to give access to the Island, to be built by Messrs Thorne and Sons, of Westminster to a design by Noel Ridley at a cost of £1,272.
The SS Trada was wrecked at Mizen Head on 22 December 1908. Sixty three lives were saved by the resident engineer and workmen at the site. At the enquiry held on 26 January 1909 the Master of the vessel blamed the disaster on the lack of a fog signal at Mizen Head.
On 3 May 1909 the fog signal was established and Keepers' dwellings were built. The Fog Signal was an explosive charge fired at intervals. In July 1914 the dwellings were whitewashed so as to act as a better daymark.
There was an armed raid on Mizen Head on 21 May 1920 and practically all the explosives were taken. As no protection was offered to the station by the Government the Board withdrew explosive fog signals from all stations around the coast. The fog signal was re-established on 29 February 1924. On 1st June 1934 the character of the fog signal was changed from 2 shots every 7½ minutes to 2 shots every 5 minute with a brilliant flash accompanying the fog signal when sounded by night. This flash was discontinued during World War Two and re-introduced in 1949. The explosive type fog signal was finally withdrawn in 1969.
A Radiobeacon (the first in Ireland) was installed and put into operation on 1 January 1931, at a cost of £10,017. In more recent times utilisation of radio direction finders by mariners has been to a great extent superceded by more modern technology. For this reason, the Commissioners discontinued their Medium Frequency Radiobeacon service on 1st February 1999.
In May 1931 Mizen Head was taken out of the care of the Principal Keeper of Fastnet and a Principal Keeper of Mizen Head was appointed, with two Assistant Keepers, one of whom also did duty at Crookhaven.
A light white occulting light with the character Oc W 4 secs was established at Mizen Head on 1st October 1959. On 10th October 1968 the range of the light was increased to 16 nautical miles.
 The new bridge
Looking back from the lighthouse.

The Fastnet Light (1 and 2)

 Ireland's most famous lighthouse 6 kms off the Cork coast, known as the Teardrop as it was the last glimpse of Ireland that emigrants had on their way to Amerikay. Karykraft in Schull Harbour do weekly trips to the Fastnet (twice weekly in August) so this was an opportunity too good to be missed. And, although it got fairly foggy, it was still a truly memorable experience, so excuse my snaphappiness.


 The original lighthouse on this most inhospitable of islands was a cast iron tower, a sister light to Calf Island. Built in 1854, it stood proudly until 1881 when Calf Island light was swept away in a terrible storm. They then decided that the Fastnet might share the same fate, so the present light made of Cornish granite was erected in 1904 and most of the old light dismantled. The stump of the original light can clearly be seen in all the pictures except the second one.

 The new light took four years to construct and the task was completed with no loss of life or serious injury, a remarkable feat in those days. It is Ireland's tallest lighthouse and is the turning point of the biennial Fastnet Yacht race which starts and ends in southern England. The 1979 Fastnet race is still remembered for the appalling loss of life suffered.
 The light has a range of 28 miles. We were staying on a hill above Kilcrohane on the Sheeps Head peninsular, which is the second peninsular up from the Fastnet and we could clearly see the light flashing every five seconds across Dunmanus Bay, the Mizen Penisular and 6kms of ocean.
 The Mizen Head Visitors Centre has a great display on the construction and history of this light.
Stump of the original lighthouse, now the oil house.