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Thursday, 3 August 2017

Dursey Island

By John Eagle

John Eagle
In 1994 when I was starting out on my adventure to photograph all the lighthouses of Ireland, Captain Mick Conneely flew me to the Bull Rock off the southwest corner of Ireland. After landing the helicopter to let out the lighthouse attendants, he flew me round the rock a few times, and then asked if I would like an aerial of the Calf as well. That I readily accepted! As we flew to the Calf I looked through the window and saw this amazing sight of Dursey Island looking like a giant bear’s paw. Alas, I only took two shots, one really good, the second not so good. I shot them on colour slide film, which I processed myself. But there was a problem with the dev [developing] tank. I heated it up too much, so the spiral, which holds roll film evenly spaced for chemicals to reach all the film, got stuck to the base. I had to empty the liquids out into a fresh tank and start over. That is why the Bull Rock pic has a green cast and the Dursey pic a couple of scratches.

Dursey Island, 1994
Local writer and historian Penny Durell wrote a book on Dursey and agreed to write the text for the back of the postcard I had printed of the Dursey shot. The Dursey postcard sold and sold, as many as 15,000 copies. Prints of the shot were high in demand, but there was always a problem with the scratches. In 1994 Photoshop was in its infancy, but even in later years, ironing out the marks proved difficult. I yearned to re-take the shot, but didn’t get my chance until June 2016 when I took my drone, Eagle Eye, to Dursey and flew it off the end. Some people have said it was a bit of a risk flying it off the end of the island, but if it is going to crash it is going to crash. In fact, I sent it up twice, having brought it back only to discover I was shooting at 400 asa. I changed it to 100 asa and sent it back out for new shots. I could have changed the asa in the air of course, but didn’t notice my error until I had brought it back. Of the new shots, I tend to like the angled view where you can see along the south coast side of the island.

Dursey Island, 2016

From a lighthouse point of view you can make out a small building on the right ‘paw’ of Dursey. This is the ruin of the old temporary lighthouse that was built after the Calf Rock lighthouse was destroyed in a storm in 1881. Trinity House had been advised not to build the lighthouse on the Calf Rock, that the Bull was the best location, but they wouldn’t listen to the locals. However, Trinity House had to heed to their advice after the Calf lighthouse was destroyed. The temporary lighthouse was built on Dursey while the Bull lighthouse was under construction.

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