Having joined the HIGHWAVE project as a post-doc in October 2019 I unfortunately missed the group field trip that year. Therefore, two weeks ago, on Thursday 20th August, I took my first drive to Connemara and met Arnaud, the project engineer, at the basecamp just outside Rossaveel. We spoke about the coming two days and what we had planned. We planned to spend the rest of Thursday on the mainland and Friday on Inis Meáin.

Arnaud first acquainted me with Basecamp, made up of the workshop and various containers in different states of development. The workshop is extremely well equipped; it clearly needs to be for Arnaud to make such fast progress on our data communications infrastructure. Speaking of which, one shipping container at Basecamp will form the Mobile Research Station (MRS) which is an integral part of the project’s data communications system. In the coming days, the MRS will be moved to Inis Meáin where it will form a node in the network, communicating data from PODs (collecting primary data) across the 18 km stretch of water to a data mast above Rossaveel. The data will then be streamed to Basecamp and on to UCD where it will be made available to me and all the other project researchers.

After touring Basecamp, we headed to the nearby small lake identified as a potential site for small-scale breaking wave observations, the lake has been dubbed “SMALLWAVE”. The ideas for the uses of SMALLWAVE are still in their infancy but it was interesting to see the site for me to better contribute to their development.

On Friday, Arnaud and I took the ferry on, what I would call a rough crossing (2-3 m waves) and what Arnaud (a seasoned seaman) might call a pleasure cruise, to Inis Meáin. On the island we first met with Ciara, head of the island’s cooperative. Together we discussed plans for our research and how it may benefit the people of Inis Meáin.

Arnaud and I then made our way to one of our potential research sites, the eroding sand dunes next to the island’s airstrip. Behind the sand dunes we found many medium sized rocks (up to 6 kg) that appeared to have recently been transported over the sand dunes from the beach. Exactly how the rocks were transported is unclear, whether in one extreme event or by multiple storms. The effect of rock transport on sand dune erosion is an interesting question and one that should be answered before the effects of erosion are felt by the nearby airstrip.

After a quick lunch, Arnaud and I made our way to the sheer cliffs around Cathaoir Synge (Chair of Synge) where the project may record images of the breaking waves below. The MRS will be located nearby, with a line-of-sight with both the video cameras atop the cliffs and the mast above Rossaveel. We discussed the potential for data capture as we watched the breaking waves below, the churning water, and the incoming rain. Shortly after, we decided to walk back to port for our return passage. After a slightly calmer crossing, I returned to Dublin and Arnaud to Basecamp.

Apart from being a thoroughly enjoyable experience, the trip was invaluable to me as a researcher to see first-hand the data collection sites and discuss the project with some of the local people. The trip has given me a sense of how my role within HIGHWAVE will impact the Aran Islands and how I can do my part to ensure those changes are positive.

smallwave lowresSMALLWAVE, the fresh water lake in Connemara in which primary data may be collected.