Published: March 2005

Underwater Ireland

Selkie

Beneath Irish Isles

With warm currents supporting healthy habitats and a startling host of creatures, these Irish Isles are smiling.

By Jennifer S. Holland
National Geographic Staff
Photograph by Brian Skerry

Above a cold, swollen sea, a sunny day gives way as clouds wrap the sky in silver gauze. Rain, as always, is coming. The boat slaps a drumbeat as we motor from Valentia Island, just off Ireland’s southwest coast, toward the stone teeth of unnamed isles farther offshore. Bogged down by weights and a cumbersome dry suit with its puzzle of hoses, I can’t bend to put on fins, so one of our four-diver crew does it for me. Approaching the 300-foot (90-meter) rocky sky-rises, the pilot throttles down, and I am escorted to the boat’s edge, the waves bucking below. When the sea calms for a moment, I press my mask to my face, breathe shakily into the regulator, and jump.

Diving is hardly a typical pursuit in the Emerald Isle, where leaden skies, serrated shorelines, and soggy velvet hills tend to send visitors crawling to the nearest pub. What incentive could there be to skip the frothy pint and splash into a stretch of Atlantic sure to be skeleton cold and nearly as lifeless?

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