On Saturday 18th June 2022 I went for an evening boating trip. As Deena was entertaining some friends at home I was on my own, but we had already had two good trips out together – to Jack Meades and Campile earlier that week.
I decided to have a quick jaunt across to Buttermilk and along up the Larch Ditch to Nuke and up as far as the Holly Bush. When I was approaching Nuke it was coming close to HW and I noticed a distinctive line of wet suggesting the tide had risen more than two foot above the tideline. This sometimes happens if a ship has passed and there’s a high wave, but in this case there had been nothing passing in or out. To be honest I didn’t think much about it, except that it was odd.
Not long after I put ashore to check out some driftwood for the winter firing and as I walked away from the punt it floated off the shore. I was perplexed but managed to haul it back in as I had a rope out, something I almost never do. I hauled it up, tied it tightly and when I came back a few minutes later the punt was aground. It was all I could do to get her back in the water.
I knew something was up at that stage but was blaming the fairies I promptly went home and opened a bottle of wine.
Anyway, the night was a beauty, a light NE breeze, and I never heard any sound in the river of a rushing inward or outward tide. Whatever happened was incredibly gentle. It was only the next day I heard online of some very strange tidal conditions in other areas. It later made the papers. And apparently, it happened along the south coast including Cork, Waterford and Wexford, as far as Wales, England and France.
Dr Gerard McCarthy, an oceanographer with the Irish Climate Research and Analysis Unit in the Department of Geography at Maynooth University said he believed the most likely cause of the phenomenon was probably a meteotsunami rather than an earthquake or landslide. Elsewhere I read that “identifying a meteotsunami is a challenge because its characteristics are almost indistinguishable from a seismic tsunami. It can also be confused with wind-driven storm surge or a seiche”. Gerald was later interviewed as part of a podcast with Sorcha Pollack on the Irish Times. Thanks to Seamus Fennessey for that link.
I often complain about social media being a drain on my time. But without it in this case I would have never mentioned these strange incidents on the Wexford shoreline in case people thought I was mad and would have probably thought the little people were playing tricks on me…but shur maybe they were!
Edit. There was another element to the Tsunami story that I didn’t mention when I first wrote this. TBH I thought people reading it would think I was mad. Anyway, it was prompted by listening to the podcast because they covered the most well know Tsunami event known to have happened in Ireland, in November 1755 after the Lisbon earthquake. Coincidentally Bill Sheppard had emailed to ask me recently if there were any local stories connected to this, as he was investigating the event in the context of exploring the Creaden Head project.
I mentioned in my reply that I had read in Roy Stokes most recent book (Adventures of the Famine Diver, William Campbell) that there is a folk memory of the event at Kilmore Quay in Wexford. But I also had a story from growing up in Cheekpoint that I was told. Now I was frank…I can’t remember who told me, and I never really believed it when I was told it…but this is what I was told.
The story as I recall it was that the tide ebbed well away from the shore and stayed away for several minutes. Locals were aware of this kind of event and immediately fled to higher ground. On looking back some were in two minds of returning and going back into the river to retrieve stranded fish and anchors and other materials that were of value. But those who thought they might chance it were held back by wiser heads. Eventually, the tide rushed back in and came up along the shoreline.