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Tom MacSweeney’s Seascapes


There are different opinions about when the word ‘SEASCAPES’ was first introduced to regular use. One historical record states that it was in 1790. Another puts that date as 1804. Either way, it is generally agreed that the term was modelled for maritime application from the word ‘landscape.’ In 2001 the Marine Institute, in conjunction with the Welsh Government’s environemtal organisation, to assist in spatial planning, that a seascpaes could be defined in context of being a combination of adjacent land, coastline and sea within an area defined by a mix of land-sea inter-visibility and coastal landscape character assessment, with major headlands forming division points between one seascape area and the next. It was published in a “Guide to best practice in seascape assessment.” I rather liked the word and chose it to name the maritime radio programme I introduced to RTE Radio 1 in 1989. After I left RTE, the programme continued but ended this March and is no more. I have replaced it with MARITIME IRELAND, which is broadcast monthly as a Podcast on the major Podcast services and on Community Radio Stations around Ireland. On the website I am now introducing perspectives I see in my maritime reportage.


Three years ago there were reports of seahorses being seen at Youghal Beach and Lough Hyne in County Cork, but it has not proved possible to find anyone who can actually prove that they saw them. The Atlas of ‘Mammals in Ireland,’ which lists a vast number of species, does not have a record of seahorses, a strange, small, often described as “mythical” species, with the head of a horse, a tail and males that have a pouch which is said to carry eggs of the female partner until birth. Between 40 and 60 species of seahorse are reported around the world, but little is known about wild seahorses in Irish waters.

Dave Wall National Biodiversity Data Centre

Two species – the short-snouted Seahorse and the Spiny Seahorse – were listed as ‘data deficient’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List survey in 2017. Dave Wall is Citizen Science Officer for the National Biodiversity Data Centre. He would be very interested to hear from anyone who can provide actual evidence of a seahorse in Irish waters. “I am regularly asked about seahorses,” he told me. “I’ve never actually seen a live one, nor has evidence of one been produced to me. I would be pleased to see actual evidence of this creature in Irish waters.”


                        HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO INSHORE LIFEBOATS Introduced in 1963, the RNLI Inshore lifeboats have saved 30,778 lives in s 60 years.  “Before I came to work for the RNLI I would have thought that Inshore meant that these lifeboats were on inland lakes and yes they are there too, at our four inland stations, but they are all around our coastline too.,” says Niamh Stephenson, RNLI Public Affairs Manager in Ireland. “They enable volunteer crews to carry out their work closer to shore, in areas inaccessible to other lifeboats in the fleet. Designed to be quick and manoeuvrable, inshore lifeboats can operate in shallower water, near cliffs and rocks meaning crews can get as close as possible to those in trouble. The current generation of B class lifeboat is called the Atlantic 85 – named after the Atlantic College in Wales where these rigid inflatable lifeboats (RIBs) were first developed. 85 represents the length – nearly 8.5m and the lifeboat is both day and night capable and can operate in weather up to a Beaufort Force 7. The introduction of the first rigid inflatable lifeboat (RIB) – the Atlantic 21 – into the RNLI fleet back in 1972 revolutionised lifesaving at sea. When it comes to responding to a lifesaving task, the Atlantic 85 lifeboat is one of the fastest in the fleet; with a top speed of 35 knots. “The smallest lifeboat, the D class saves more lives than any other class of lifeboat,” says Niamh. “With a top speed of 25 knots, the lifeboat can operate in both day and night with an endurance of 3 hours at sea. You will often see a D-class lifeboat at stations alongside an All-Weather lifeboats and I often think Summer is their chance to shine, as call-outs increase and a lot of activity is carried out close to shore. “

Tom MacSweeney

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