Day 6 |
May 26, 2010

Underway North Of Ireland, En Route Toraigh / Tory Island

By Peter W. Damisch, General Naturalist & Cartographer

Coordinates: 55° 15’ N, 008° 13’ W

Weather: Sunny with occasional clouds across blue sky

Air Temperature: +10o C  (48o F)

Sea Temperature: +10o C  (48o F)

Pressure: 1012 Hpa

Wind: 30 Km / hour

There are several aspects of expedition cruising that I truly enjoy. On board the Prince Albert II we get to go to beautiful but remote out of the way locations that are difficult to reach by any other means. As a result, everyone has the opportunity to see wildlife, birds, geology and historical artifacts as well as to meet people – opportunities that would be difficult or impossible with any other cruising operation.

However, this also means that the Ship’s Captain, Expedition Leader, Expedition Staff and guests have to maintain a certain amount of flexibility. Today was such a day where the Expedition Team had to be quite nimble to respond to changing conditions.

We had originally intended to start operations in Port Rush and conduct a full-day tour along the coast of Northern Ireland. However, the wind and ocean wave / swell conditions made that impossible from our intended point of departure. I was up at 0600 as I felt the movement of the ship, and then went up to the Bridge to survey the conditions. However, by that time, the Captain and Expedition Leader had already been working on the issue for over an hour.

As a result we quickly, and apparently simply, switched the planned activities for today and tomorrow. It seemed smooth and almost seamless but the adjustments took a lot of work behind the scenes to make it happen. Thus we’ll still get our complete tour in Northern Ireland. It will just happen tomorrow and start from Belfast.

Of course we also pulled forward our planned visit to Toraigh / Tory Island from tomorrow to this afternoon but more on that just a little bit later.

While the ship repositioned in the morning, the Expedition Staff quickly organized to give two outstanding presentations. The first was done by Imogen, one of our onboard historians. Her discussions of Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts were just fascinating and I enjoyed every minute. She gave a comprehensive overview of not only the typical content but also the processes and techniques utilized to created such beautiful folios. Imogen also cleverly interwove a portion of British history amongst the stunning images with humor and professionalism that I quite admired and appreciated.

Rich Pagen, one of our ornithologists and biologists was our next presenter for the morning. I had the great opportunity to sit through the vast majority of his material with the exception of a brief period of time where I assisted a guest who was looking for a camera battery charger. Rich gave a comprehensive review covering many of the songbirds that inhabit the local area. He also reviewed the feeding habits and characteristics of large basking shares, which can be found in local waters. However, the most unique portions of Rich’s enjoyable performance covered invasive species to this area and their potential effect on native species. This included an insightful look at red vs. grey squirrels as well as the possible impact of hedgehogs on bird reproduction. Rich also mentioned some great efforts to reintroduce swans back into certain environments.

Just after an excellent lunch, we launched the Zodiacs from just offshore the small, very remote but lovely Toraigh (Irish) / Tory (English) Island. Amongst others, I initially helped to transport guests from ship to shore. Along the way I told the mythical story of the race of giants whose King had the ‘evil eye’, capable of destroying one’s enemies with just a glance. Well, that race of giants was said to live on Toraigh so I advised my guests to be quite careful when they stepped ashore.

In actuality, we were met at the quayside by the “King” of the island, an individual who, by unique tradition, is annually elected by the island population of about 130 people. I then helped to escort guests to the town meeting room where some of the local people put on a grand demonstration of Irish folk music. It was simply wonderful.

Afterwards the guests were given a variety of options, which included walking about on their own or with the local ‘King’ or with our geologist or with our ornithologist or biologist, simply to explore the island. Imogen and I led another group of individuals who were looking for a bit more history of the island that we discussed while viewing the lovely town and beautiful countryside.

All too soon it was time to get back to the ship. The wind was picking up a bit but nothing that we hadn’t safely dealt with many times before and the Prince Albert II started off towards our Belfast destination. Early in the evening I put on my suit and tie to attend a special reception for our Venetian Society. This is Silversea’s loyalty group of returning guests. This get-together is always a great deal of fun as I get to once again interact with a group of individuals who share with me a passion for travel and who are inquisitive, wanting to learn more about the world around them. All in all it was a simply wonderful day, just a bit different than the one we had anticipated when going to bed last night!