Achill Island


Achill Island Field Report 14: Odds and Ends: Curragh pens, anchor stock recording, and snorkeling Dooagh pier, 12-15 July 2006

The forecast is calling for heavy seas for this week, precluding any diving, so over the next few days we are working on several alternative tasks. One ongoing objective is to continue recording the curragh pens at Dooagh pier. We would like to finish an overall plan depicting all 20 pens, the coastline, and pier itself.

Achill Island Field Report 16: Two Shipwrecks Under Two Lighthouses, 17-18 July 2006

Our final team member has arrived. Dr. Sam Turner is the Director of Archaeology for LAMP (Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program) and also the President of IMH (Institute for Maritime History), two of the institutions sponsoring this research project. He flew in from Florida last night to work with us for our final two weeks on Achill.

Achill Island Field Report 15: First dive on the Jenny shipwreck, 16 July 2006

The Norwegian sailing bark Jenny was lost at Achill Beg Island on route to Hamburg, Germany from Morant Bay, Jamaica, on 13 January 1894. She had a cargo of logwood and a crew of ten men, all of whom survived the wrecking.

Achill Island Field Report 13: Arrival of Norine and Mapping the Westport Quay Wreck, 9-11 July 2006

Another crewmember has arrived on the 9th of July. Norine Carroll is a volunteer who I have worked with on a number of shipwreck projects since 1997. She currently works in the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., and has agreed to come for two weeks to work with us. Norine is an archaeological conservator, which means her specialty is the treatment and stabilization of artifacts, and she is also an accomplished diver and archaeologist as well. Norine has worked on a wide variety of shipwrecks in Turkey, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Texas, and elsewhere. Norine was also one of the first participants in the original St. Augustine Shipwreck Survey, a project in Florida that led to the formation of LAMP, one of the research institutes sponsoring the Achill Island Maritime Archaeology Project.

Achill Island Field Report 12: Mapping Curragh Pens at Dooagh Pier, 7-9 July 2006

As in other colonial settings, indigenous and vernacular watercraft, notably the skin-clad curragh and wooden-planked yawl, played a central role in long-standing maritime lifeways and practices on Achill. Curraghs are the famed skin or canvas boats used for centuries along the western seaboard of Ireland. Curragh designs vary from island to island and coast to coast. In 1936 an Achill curragh from the village of Keel was recorded by the British maritime historian James Hornell.

Achill Island Field Report 11: Recording the Anchor of the Sceptre, 3-4 July 2006

Last year we discovered that an anchor had been raised from the seafloor around Saddle Head by some Achill fishermen in the late 1960s. We successfully tracked it down and got a look at it, but didn’t have time to fully record it. This is one of our objectives this year.

Achill Island Field Report 10: Recording the Steering Assembly on the Successful Trawler Wreck, 2-3 July 2006

Last year we spend a significant amount of time recording the wreckage of the Successful, a late 19th/early 20th century fishing trawler (see Field Report 4). It is a very complex shipwreck, and we were unable to fully document it in one field season. The fact that we can only work on the wreck at low tide makes this task even more challenging. This year, we have re-visited the wreck and cleared it of a year’s growth of kelp and seaweed, in order to continue its documentation.

Achill Island Field Report 9: Arrival of Kevin and Lecture in Westport, 28-29 June 2006

On the 28th I’m driving to Westport to pick up Kevin Cullen, an archaeology graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is Irish-born, but emigrated to America when he was young, and it has been eight years since he’s been back to Ireland. He is also a diver, and will be participating in the project through the end of July.

Achill Island Field Report 8: Archaeological Tour of Clare Island, 25 June 2006

A few days ago, my landlady Sheila McNamara brought to my attention an announcement in the Mayo News about a free archaeological tour of Clare Island being hosted by the Clew Bay Archaeological Trail ( This trail, which encompasses 21 archaeological sites including megalithic tombs, Bronze Age cooking sites and promontory forts, medieval churches, and a 16th century tower house, was set up to introduce visitors to the rich archaeological heritage of the southern portion of Clew Bay. It stretches 35 km from Westport through Murrisk (west of Westport on the southern shore of Clew Bay), further west to Louisburgh, and then (via ferry) to Clare Island.

Achill Island Field Report 7: St. John’s Eve: Bonfire Night, 23 June 2006

After another low tide recording the Successful wreck at Achill Sound, I am looking forward to participating in a traditional Irish event, St. John’s Eve, also known as Bonfire Night. School kids and adults alike can’t hide their excitement over the upcoming conflagration. At various locations throughout Achill, and over the entire country, massive piles of refuse are collected and, around midnight, will be set alight in a series of huge bonfires.

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