We are certainly enjoying the luck of the Irish on this voyage. Another day basking in beautiful sunshine on the golden-green west coast of Ireland.
The Aran Islands are exposed to the open Atlantic Ocean on the west side, meaning that the marine habitats are flushed with cold, oxygenated, nutrient-rich oceanic waters by the tides on a twice daily basis. This gave the undersea team high hopes for a life-filled, underwater exploration, and they were certainly not disappointed. The sea floor was covered in dense stands of Laminaria pinnatifida kelp, which hid a treasure trove of life. Large boulders were covered in red algae, colourful anemones, cup corals, tunicates, and sponges. The area was abundant with diverse forms and colors. Add to that the crawling diversity of sea stars, the searching tube feet of sea urchins, and the creepy crawly legs of sea spiders and sheep’s head crabs, and the divers weren’t ready to come up at the end of their dive. But the ship was ready to reposition after guests enjoyed an exploration of the ‘Seven Churches’ (guests were warned that there are not, in fact, seven churches) and Dún Aonghasa (Fort of Aengus) on Inishmore.
Inisheer was equally as pleasant for our landing in the afternoon. We came ashore on a hot, white sand beach with beautiful teal blue water. We could have been in the Caribbean, but the scenery was a slight giveaway. Traditional rock walls divide the island into a patchwork of small paddies. Islanders excavated the rock to create space for soil to grow crops. The most sensible thing to do with the rocks was to build walls, and different families had various styles of wall. Once cleared, the land was filled with seaweed and sand. After a few years, the mixture became soil to grow crops for humans and livestock. The top of the island is marked with a pair of castles, one from the 15th century and the second from the 18th century.
Afternoon activities included hikes of various paces, watching the world from the beach, and visiting local establishments. A few lucked out when a local passed by with his tractor-trailer and offered a ride around the approximately two miles of roads on the island. We felt very welcomed in the town and left with warmth in our hearts and on our cheeks.