Tearaght Island Rocks — Ireland's Westernmost Guardians


You’re looking at the westernmost part of Ireland, the Tiaracht Rocks off the small and inhospitable Tearaght Island, also known as An Tiaracht as Gaeilge, 12.5km west of the Irish coast. From here, it’s open ocean all the way to Canada. If you look carefully, you can just see Newfoundland on the horizon.

I’m kidding. You can’t. But this is a newfound picture. It only recently made its debut in the gallery, but dates back to a shoot that took place in 2014. (Now you know why I’ve been quiet all summer: I’ve been revisiting my back catalog.)

I visited the Inishtearaght Lighthouse with Irish Lights, as part of a damage assessment exercise following the brutal storms of the 2013-14 winter.

Inishtearaght Stormy


There are two things you need to know about the helipad at Inis Tearaght lighthouse:

  1. It is the most difficult landing on Earth. I might be exaggerating, but if I am it is only by a very small margin. It is notoriously fiendish due to the ferocious updraft that the shape of the island creates in certain conditions. In 2011, I was on board a helicopter that had to abort its landing. It simply couldn’t battle through the upward blast to set down. Even if the updraft is relatively benign, allowing for a landing, it still has a mean trick up its sleeve. It vanishes a few feet above the helipad, leaving still air. If the pilot gauges it wrong, the helicopter will suddenly drop on to the deck, resulting in a landing that is only just the right side of a crash. At least, that’s what it feels like.

  2. The helipad gives you a fabulous view over the Tiaracht Rocks. Provided you don’t tell your wife until after you’ve done it, you can place your tripod right up to the edge of the (incredibly sturdy) wire safety mesh that runs around the helipad. The fact that this is a 15-second exposure and the rocks are pinsharp tells you just how stable the safety mesh is. (Canon 6D, 24mm f/1.4 at  f/5.6, for those of you who love that sort of thing.) And to be clear, the mesh is almost 6ft (180cm) wide and at no point was I really near the edge myself. (Just in case my wife reads this issue of the dispatch.)

Precarious camera position

I love the resulting photograph of the stoic rocks that I took from the helipad. For me, the tonalities are very evocative of an unforgiving Atlantic environment. And the contrast between the sharp, detailed rocks amidst the ethereal swirl of the water is enthralling. It suggests the rocks are immutable amidst the ever-changing sea. Yet the opposite is true. The sea will rage on until the end of Earth. The rocks will have long worn away by then.

It’s only now, upon reflection, that this image has made its way out of the hidden catalog and into the gallery. As I’ve grown as a photographer, so too has my appreciation of photographs I once skipped past. I’m very glad I found this picture again. I hope you enjoy it as well.

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  • Peter Cox

    Thanks Mark! Much appreciated :)

  • Mark Segal

    Superb photos and great initiative Peter – this is one of the things photography is all about – bringing us imagery of things most of us will never see in person. Bravo.

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