Well, the winter of 2012 has so far been remarkably balmy in Wicklow, although the landscape has been battered by fierce storm winds for three days. However, it’s not frosty and the plants are all acting as though they think it’s spring already. According to Irish tradition, and the usual behaviour of the wildlife, spring begins on St. Brigid’s Day, which falls on February 1, which is not too long from now. However, as everyone knows, true spring (astronomical spring) begins with the Vernal Equinox in March. But Ireland is an island and weather does what it likes, especially when riding on the warm Gulf Stream which emanates from the Caribbean. Many summer flowers are still happily flowering in gardens, and since December the wild Primroses have been above ground, and they are now already flowering. Primroses can withstand being covered in a layer of snow, but they are very much a spring flower, and here is one I photographed this afternoon!
In the early hours of this morning a large cargo ship carrying hundreds of tonnes of limestone sank after breaking in half between the Wicklow and Welsh coasts of the Irish Sea. Unfortunately many of the crew are still missing, although some were successfully rescued (and rumours are circulating that William, Duke of Cambridge, son of the Prince of Wales, was actually flying the Welsh-based helicopter that successfully recovered some survivors).
What makes this sinking so unusual is that the peculiar weather conditions overnight seem to have conspired to produce a gigantic freak wave that struck the vessel, causing it to break in half. Up until very recently these gigantic waves were considered myths or merely fantastic tales. However, a few years ago they were positively proven to exist and one was scientifically recorded. They can reach 30 metres (97 ft 6 inches) in height and this one must have been as large to have sunk such a large vessel. These waves can break long ships due to their peculiar shape: the part of the wave that crashes against the ship at velocity is not the most problematic, but instead it is the huge trough behind the wave producing a see-saw effect as the wave strikes and passes the ship.
Such weather conditions are extremely rare in the comparatively safe waters off the Wicklow coast, but as in all cases it is not a good idea to put to sea in a storm, although most large vessels can handle even the roughest conditions, which is why tragedies of this nature are extremely rare off the Irish coast in modern times.