Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Adventure Continues

The Adventure Continues…
By Christie O’Toole
Well, the month of June has been a very busy one for us interns!  On the first weekend in June myself and Esmee had the day off and decided there would be no better way to spend it than on a hike we had been hoping to do for a while.  During a chat in the tourist office next to Sea Synergy on one of our first days in Waterville, we had been told about a beautiful hike around Lough Currane which was supposed to offer excellent views of the lake and surrounding countryside….we were not disappointed!  We had an early lunch and set off from our house at 12:30pm to begin our hike.
After attempting a few wrong paths we found the road we were looking for and began our walk along the lakeside.  Lough Currane is absolutely beautiful, surrounded by hills and separated from the sea by a thin spit of land where Waterville sits.  Our 25km hike took us on small country roads, logging paths through the woods, joining part of the Kerry Way and following sheep trails through the grassy hills and mountains where we were afforded spectacular views of this gorgeous part of Kerry.  As we walked we had a great time chatting but also enjoyed the chirping birds, gurgling streams and baas of a few disgruntled sheep.  We had the wilderness to ourselves and only met a few people towards the end of our hike, it was very peaceful!  We were lucky with the weather and the sun shone on us all day but, in true Irish style, the heavens opened and thoroughly drenched us in the final 10 minute stretch back to the house leaving us dripping.  Nonetheless we were happy, excited by our day and delighted to have seen more of the beautiful area we’re living in.  We made some homemade pizza, put our feet up and watched a well-earned movie with Cian and Sinead when they returned from their day at Sea Synergy.
We’re lucky to be living in a place as beautiful as the west coast of Ireland and to have had weather that is allowing us to get out in nature as much as possible.  In mid-June Cian, Esmee and I did a loop walk around Sneem, again getting to enjoy walking through the woods, hiking up hills, a quick picnic by the roadside and only a few scattered showers.  We did, however, have an ulterior motive for choosing Sneem as the location for our hike….we had heard about Strawberryfields Pancake Cottage and felt we HAD to make a trip to try their pancakes.  Delicious chocolatey pancakes with marshmallows and fresh strawberries was exactly what was needed to refuel following our hike before we headed off to do some more exploring, this time in search of Coral Beach, one of 2 beaches in Ireland made of maerl, a corraline red algae.  Finding the beach was an adventure in itself as we wound our way down tiny roads, walked numerous trails and let out our inner mountain goat to scramble over hills and climb rocky outcrops but we made it!  It was beautiful, even more so after the fun we had getting there and a lovely place to sit and enjoy the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks.
Helen and Heather, our new interns, arrived in time for the next escapade; the Summer Solstice Walk from Caherdaniel to Waterville.  51 of us in total took part in the walk and, though we had figured it would be beautiful, we were still blown away by the scenery as we walked in Daniel O’Connell’s footsteps.  Our excellent guides filled us in on the history the places we passed along the way and we were treated to some beautiful traditional singing at the halfway point. It was an evening to remember and a great opportunity for Cian and I to get to know Helen and Heather as we walked.  As sad as it was to say goodbye to Esmee and Sinead who have become our good friends, we can tell that we’ll make a great team this summer!

Finally, our most recent excursion involved a trip to Loher Fort for Heather and I.  The drive to the fort is very picturesque and the fort itself is really lovely, a sight to behold.  I always love looking at the skill of the builders of the past and wonder how they managed to construct something that would be admired hundreds of years in the future.
So, my first 6 weeks in Waterville have been busy and very exciting!  Outside of exploring my surroundings I’ve been travelling to schools around Kerry to do Seashore Safaris with the kids, carrying out seal surveys, making lesson plans for upcoming camps and so much more….the summer is going brilliantly, I can’t wait for what’s in store next!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

A Day On The Skellig Ring
By Cian McGuinness

What a stunning day it was today! Out of bed and the sun was shining, it was my first day off – though it never really feels like work here. I had checked the weather and we were set for rain by four pm but the weather always seems to lie in Waterville. So Darcy (my motorbike) and I set off to the Skellig Ring to catch the fleeting sun. I never feel alone when riding my bike. The immersive nature of being constantly exposed to the elements enables a deepening of connection with one’s surroundings. Turning the key, cranking the engine, I took off for the day around the Skellig coast ready to take in the sights and be bounced about on the uneven roads. 

In the fresh cool breeze, only getting a little lost, I found the coast with its slow, windy roads and waving hellos from passing cars and motorcycles – something I find very endearing about the area. Soon the island perched upon a glittering ocean came into view. The durable old red sandstone peaks of Skellig Michael, rising 218m above sea level, are inspiring to see even from the mainland.

Soon after appeared a small bay filled with stacking waves on what appeared a calm day. Astonished by the volume of the ocean I pulled over, kicked down my side, and took a seat on one of the perfectly placed picnic tables. Nearby, an artist was sat painting the scene while a family danced around some rock pools to escape the splashing waves. Taking in the view, there was no distraction - everyone focused on their surroundings. A small boreen caught my eye, casually marked 80km/h even with tufts of grass centering it - I was tempted to explore. Hopping back on my bike I followed this bumpy road past an old farmhouse. The aged building spoke of the salty ocean air by its peppered paint work, fallen bricks, and bleached grasses crawling up its side. Like this, there are places you may catch a glimpse of while passing that look to be forgotten by time. Shells of brick, homes to our ancestors, places and stories still speaking today to the fleets of visitors eager to listen. Being here, amongst the history of the land, I felt proud to be Irish and proud of our will to survive in such remote and beautiful areas.
I carried onto Valentia Island visiting Bray Head and onwards towards the Tetrapod fossil. Being a student of geology, the tetrapod footprints were one of the first paleontology items we learned about! Totally nerding out, I took myself on a mini field trip to visit the footprints of one of our earliest ancestors. A steep pebble path lead to a small outcrop sectioned off by a row stainless posts and cable, presumably to preserve the trace fossil from being worn by our footsteps. The footprints, pressed into the 350-million-year-old stone, rest on the ocean's edge just as the animal would have crawled from the sea during the Cambrian era. Nearby is Valentia Lighthouse which, having used much of the station data in climatology assignments and lectures, I was equally excited to visit! The lighthouse, modestly perched at the end of the causeway, is surrounded by tall protecting walls footed exposed rock meeting the throwing ocean. Climbing back up from the sea level I carried along the Valentia ring as rhododendrons, though an alien invasive plant, framed the roads in green and purple. Then, back over the long bridge to Portmagee, I continued home along the ring towards Cahersiveen.

Entering Waterville I passed a string of about 20 bikes, presumably doing the Ring of Kerry before the Killarney Bike festival over the weekend. I waved to a few of them but no response, all riding Harleys and BMWs maybe they weren’t too impressed with my little Darcy, a 400cc Honda. Still though, what they have to enjoy for a few days I have a whole summer to explore. 

Monday, 3 July 2017

New Interns first impressions!

First Impressions
By: Heather Sieger and Helen Waghorne! My name is Heather, and I am from Austin, Texas. I just finished my second year at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, studying human ecology with a focus on environmental science and conservation. I am particularly passionate about marine conservation, ocean litter prevention and clean-up, and marine education. Sea Synergy connects these interests and works toward educating others about threats our ocean faces.
I love to travel and am excited to be in Ireland for the first time. Before arriving at Sea Synergy, I visited Dublin, Galway, Doolin, and Dingle. I have enjoyed learning about Ireland and the Irish culture. Although I’ve only been at Sea Synergy for a week, I’ve enjoyed the beautiful landscape and kind people. We have had some lovely sunny days as well as windy rainy days, but each one has been enjoyable nonetheless. The vibrant green mountains and never-ending ocean views are astonishing, and I feel incredibly lucky to spend the next seven weeks here.
Last week the other interns and I went on a spectacular evening walk from Caherdaniel to Waterville organized by the Community Centre. We learned the history of the area, enjoyed Irish singing, and met great people. I have also done two seal surveys this week and loved watching the seals lay out on the rocky island and swim around. I’ve enjoyed learning about the marine life on the coast of Ireland and noticing the striking similarities to marine life in Maine. I’m looking forward to swimming and snorkeling on warm days, Sea Camp, and meeting the people who come into the centre to learn about the Wild Atlantic Way.
I love working with children, exploring new places, learning new things, snorkeling and diving, and knitting. I am so excited for the opportunities and experiences this summer holds and can’t wait to explore alongside Lucy, Christie, Cian, and Helen.

Dive 5 (Santa Rosa Sea Spider Still).pngHello! I’m Helen and I’m currently studying for an Integrated Masters in Marine Biology at the University of Southampton. I was born in Yorkshire but spent the majority of my life in Singapore where I’ve been diving since I was young. I love the marine world and Sea Synergy’s focus on education and conservation is exactly what made me want to spend my summer here, as well as wanting to explore more about the marine life in Ireland and colder waters.
I am really looking forward to when the summer Sea Camps start in a few weeks, since the chance to work with groups of different people and share my passion for the underwater world and everything in it is exactly what I want to do. Especially working with children who are so much fun to work with. I also can’t wait to do some snorkelling and diving or to visit the Skelligs and see a real puffin for the first time.
Being in Waterville has been amazing, not only is it great to be so close to the ocean and the beach considering I’ve been living in a city with no beach but I love being in a small town where it is nice and quiet. At first it was a little disconcerting waking up to birds instead of car horns but now that I’ve gotten used to it, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to go back to a noisy city. It was great going for a morning swim with Christie, Cian and Esmee before opening Sea Synergy even if it was a little freezing, and I hope that we’ll get a chance to do it again.

Fingers crossed I’ll have a summer full of excitement and have a wonderful time teaching, sharing and learning more.