Mizen Head, Ireland
Mizen Head Reviews
Mizen Head May 31, 2008
Mizen Head Signal Station was built to save lives off the treacherous rocks at Ireland’s most south-westerly point, five miles from Goleen. The station is today is open to the public.
In this far corner of Europe a group of locals have managed to create an award winning Maritime Museum and Heritage Attraction. I was very pleased visiting this authentic all-weather experience with its spectacular location on high cliffs with swirling Atlantic Ocean tides.
From the Car park and Visitor Centre, the Signal Station is a ten minute walk along the path, down the 99 steps and across the Arched Bridge. The Mizen is famous for its wildflowers and sightings of wildlife, dolphins, whales, seals, gannets, kittiwakes, choughs – the bird migration north-south flight path is just a mile off shore.
South, the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse, Ireland’s Teardrop, was the last landfall seen by many emigrants to America and one of Marconi’s first telegraph stations. Mizen Signal Station had the first Radio Beacon in Ireland, 1931; the history of Safety at Sea communications is here, Wireless Signals, Racon, GPS and DGPS.
The sight displays about the lives of the Irish Lights Keepers who left the Mizen in 1993. There is a Bridge with full Navigational Aids Simulator, Automatic Weather Station, Maps, and Guided Tours.
A little bit about the history of this point;
In 1847 when a 1034 tons American liner, SS Stephen Whitney, sank off Crookhaven with a loss of 92 lives, the Irish Lights Board decided to build a lighthouse on the Fastnet or Fastness Rock as the existing Cape Clear Island Lighthouse, the marker for the Cape and Fastnet Rock, was too far inland.
The original Fastnet Lighthouse was used from 1854 to 1891, but the tower was not sturdy enough to with strand the power of the sea as it was built in steel. A new tower was built in the period from 1899-1903, at a cost of £84,000. This is a magnificent engineering feature topped by powerful biform oil light with Fresnel lenses which can be seen for 19 miles. It is in the unique position of being the first landfall after America.
In 1906 the Board of Trade together with the Irish Lights Board decided to build a Fog Signal Station on Cloghane Island, Mizen Head. In 1909 the fog signal was established and in bad visual condition the Keepers manually set off a charge of explosive at three minute intervals.
The Arched Bridge was built between the years 1908 – 1910 to connect the island to the mainland. The design was chosen from many that were entered in a competition. It is 172’ across and 150’ above sea level. An early example of reinforced concrete, it is made from the local hard stone. Even the aggregate used was crushed on site from the same rock.
In 1931 a wireless beacon was installed at Mizen and in 1959 a light was placed on the rocks at the end of the head at a height of 180’ with a range of 13 miles in clear weather. The fog signal was discontinued in the 1970s when sonar and satellite navigation (GPS) took over. Mizen head Signal Station has participated in the whole history of radio communications up to the DGPS mast on the site today.
In 1993 Mizen Head Fog Signal Station was automated and demanded by the Commissioners of Irish Lights. The automation coincided with the first LEADER programme of EU funding for rural development. In 1993, with a lease from the Irish Lights and funding from Leader, the local community in Goleen Parish registered a co-operative to develop a visitor attraction at Ireland’s most southwesterly point. Murphy’s Irish Stout, West Cork Bottling, Cork County Council, Ford (Ireland) Ltd. all contributed to the matching funding. The core of the funding came from the shareholders in the co-operative society. Shares are sold at 35 euro and at present there are over 600 shareholders, local and international. In April 1993 the last Light keepers left the Mizen and the facility was opened to the public in June 1994.
In 2001 Phase 2 of the project was completed with the opening of a new visitor facility near the car park to replace a port cabin! Now gales, rain and fog cannot close the centre with exhibits, a café and shop undercover for our visitors in all weather. Presently nearly 50,000 visitors a year make their way to Mizen Head Visitor Centre
In 2002 the Committee of Management has applied for funding for Phase 3 which will include an observation tower, research area, seminar/classroom, environmental gallery, displays in the Transmission Hut, revamp of the existing displays in the Signal Station. Work started in 2005 for completion in 2006 and today Mizen Head Visitor Centre can to accept 100,000 visitors a year.
Part of the Ireland on high speed May 2008 travel blog
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