The Roaring

Waves crash against the islands in Roaringwater Bay

Waves crash against the islands in Roaringwater Bay

In our early days here I read in a couple of places that Roaringwater Bay got its name from the Roaringwater River, which in turn derived its name from the sound of the water tumbling over the rocks as it neared the sea. Now, I know better. The water in this huge bay, with its multiple islands and rocks, does roar. Not all the time, of course – you could live beside it for weeks, even months and never hear it.

The view past Castle Island, after a storm

The view past Castle Island, after a storm

But after a storm, when the wind has died down, the rain has stopped, and all is calm we fling open the doors to enjoy once more the bright sunshine and balmy air. That’s when it stops us in our tracks: a constant roar, like a distant jet engine, or a working factory just out of sight. The first time we heard it we were viewing a house on a hill about a mile inland and came around to the side facing the sea – and there it was. It took us a while to figure out what we were hearing: it sounded like some kind of foundry or industrial equipment. (Aha! So that’s why they want to sell this place!) It gradually dawned on us that there was nothing like that in this isolated spot and that what we were hearing was coming from much further away – from the sea, in fact.

Is there a prevailing wind here?

Is there a prevailing wind here?

Once back home we got out the spotting scope and could clearly see the waves crashing against the islands. In the aftermath of the storm the water was still turbulent, with giant waves pounding against the rocky shores and breaking right over the rocky islets. The cliffs at the western end of Cape Clear were covered in sheets of salt spray. We have a clear view of the Fastnet Rock (more about this in a future post) and in particularly wild conditions we can see waves breaking over it, reaching up to the trunk of the enormous lighthouse.

Near Ahakista: The calm after the storm

Near Ahakista: The calm after the storm

Our recent storms have been, as we say in West Cork, mighty. A particularly vicious series of gale, storm and hurricane force winds (9, 10, 11 and 12 on the Beaufort Scale) has wreaked havoc along the coast. Yesterday we went to Ahakista on the Sheep’s Head. The damage there has been recorded by Amanda – click here to see her photos and account. We had a respite from the winds today – a perfect opportunity to listen to the roaring water.

Earth Winds. Jan 05, 2014

Earth Winds. Jan 05, 2014

Tonight we are expecting another onslaught, like the one on St. Stephen’s night that Robert reported on in his last post. I have discovered the Earth Winds Map – one of the coolest sites on the internet. Updated every three hours, it shows how the winds are flowing around the earth. This screen capture shows the Atlantic storm that is heading for us and packing winds of 109km per hour. That’s classified as “Violent Storm” and just a few km/h short of a hurricane. Met Ireland has issued a warning, especially for areas affected  by high tides, of storm surges and potential flooding. We will hunker down and keep our fingers crossed for ourselves and our neighbours here in West Cork. And when it’s all over, we will listen for the roaring of the waters.

Remembering

Air India Disaster Memorial site, Ahakista, Sheep's Head, West Cork

Air India Disaster Memorial site, Ahakista, Sheep’s Head, West Cork

On the 23rd of June, 1985, Air India flight 182, en route from Montreal to New Delhi, exploded in mid-air off the coast of West Cork. All souls on board were lost – 329 children, women and men, of whom 268 were Canadians. The bomb originated in Vancouver and was the work of Sikh extremists. The perpetrators have never been convicted, leaving the families of the victims, almost 30 years later, with no sense of justice and closure.

L1080257The Air India bombing is very much a living story still in Canada and especially in Vancouver, where the chief suspects live and where the trials of those suspects were held – trials that went horribly awry and which resulted in acquittals. I have seen heartbreaking interviews with family members – people who lost parents, brothers, sisters, children – speaking of their long search for the truth and their despair at the incompetence of the prosecution process. In one moving piece, a son said (I paraphrase from memory), “We have been let down by the government of Canada. We have been let down by the government of India. The only people who have never let us down are the people of West Cork in Ireland.”

Many West Cork people were involved in recovering the bodies and collecting what washed up on shore. They were intensely affected by the plight of the families and by their wish for a memorial – a place of focus where they could gather to remember their dear ones. The people of Cork purchased a site at Ahakista, on the rugged and remote Sheep’s Head Peninsula, and built that memorial. Every year on June 23rd they host a remembrance ceremony. It is a place of unearthly beauty and the memorial is heart-rending in its design. Oriented towards the wild coast, a large sundial marks the moment when the plane went down. Around the dial are these words:

L1080258Time flies

Suns rise

And shadows fall

Let it pass by

Love reigns forever

Over all.

Today, on a grey and mizzling day, Robert and I travelled here to remember those we have loved and lost, ensuring that Ahakista will remain for us an enduring place of peace and memory.

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