Spring is in full swing in Wicklow, although we’ve had some dodgy and disappointing weather, but April showers have brought May flowers in abundance. The landscape is lush and beautiful from the mountains down to the sea.
The landscape of the foothills and coastal plain of Wicklow as seen from Kilmurray, above the town of Newtown Mount Kennedy this weekend.
Wicklow has a huge amount of trees, as you’ll notice from the photo, and the hedgerows combined with the hills and myriad valleys combine to create a jungle-like atmosphere as you drive on some of the narrower roads. The road pictured is not one of these roads, being about twice as wide as some of them.
The rain and sun of late April and early May have fed the blooms which in turn have brought out the spring butterflies. For the duration of May you will spot the beautiful little Orange-Tip butterfly on the roads and lanes all around Wicklow. The female looks like a smallish white butterfly, and easily confused with a number of species, but the male is unmistakeable due to the orange wing-tips that give this butterfly its name.
A male Orange-tip can't be mistaken for anything else.
However, although it’s extremely easy to spot Orange-tips in flight, it’s very difficult to spot them when they’re perched, as the undersides of their wings are brilliantly camouflaged.
This male hides carefully in plain sight - but the female looks identical when her wings are folded.
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.
How a Freak Wave works: on rare occasions during a storm a fast-moving current will travel against storm winds. The waves will already be high, but in some cases the wind-resistance will cause the water to buckle against the force of the wave and rise up to terrific heights, a genuine wall of water. Behind the huge wave is an equally large trough which can cause even the largest vessels to roll violently, particularly if struck sideways.
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.