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In the National Museum of Ireland is a small collection of material donated by Mrs Thomas Townshend: ‘Some native marine shells including specimens of the Pecten maximus var. anomia’, donated on 8th March 1859; and later ‘A few scallops, Pecten maximus from Loughine’ donated on 6th June 1859. Other material donated by Mrs Townshend includes five specimens of Ianthina communis [Janthina janthina] Lough Ine, Co. Cork 1861, and Cardium edule [Cerastoderma edule] Lough Ine. Although these are the first known molluscan specimens collected in Lough Hyne, the first scientific investigation took place from a small rowing boat on the morning of 7th July 1886. The Lord Bandon, used for research on the south Irish coast (1886 Royal Irish Academy cruise, led by W. S. Green), made a chance visit as a result of rough seas, to Barloge Creek for shelter (Haddon & Green, 1888; Minchin, 1991b). The North and South Basin shallows were examined (dredging in ‘dense fine malodorous mud’). A general description of the lough was published (Haddon & Green 1888). It was noted that ‘this beautiful lough is worthy of a detailed investigation, both from a physical and biological point of view’. The scientific results of the visit were published in Chaster, (1898), under ‘Log 39 Lough Hyne depth 0-20 fathoms; fine dense, foul mud’. 19 species were found, plus one now known to be an error.

The information gleaned persuaded Rowland Southern to visit the Lough in November 1916 for five days, whilst the research vessel Helga was stormbound (Renouf, 1931). It should be noted however, that Renouf also refers to fieldwork by Southern in Lough Hyne in 1914 and 1915 (Renouf, 1931, 1937). Southern’s notebooks were passed to Louis Renouf (1887-1968), who first visited the area in February 1923, at Praeger’s instigation, who had suggested the Lough as an area for study when he met Renouf in 1922.

Renouf (the first Chair of Zoology at University College Cork) undertook research in the area into the 1960s, but most of his work was concentrated here between 1926-1940s. The studies began first in 1925, with rented accommodation at Baltimore; then with a packing case set-up beside the Rapids in which to shelter equipment from 1926 until 1929. A hut was used by the Rapids from 1928 to 1962, until it was borne away in a storm surge. Further wooden buildings were constructed that were used for student field trips. He described the dredging in the main lough as disappointing, due to there being only a small area of hard ground, and large area of mud (Renouf, 1931).

dromadoon'Dromadoon' under construction

Following the publications by Renouf in the 1930s, further studies were undertaken by the British workers Jack Kitching and John Ebling. This led to a continuous and detailed series of publications following annual visits with students, principally from the University of East Anglia, until the early 1980s. They constructed two laboratories from which they based their work, one bedside the Rapids (Dromadoon in 1954; renamed John Bohane) and the other near Glannafeen (1952-57).



The majority of their studies were centred about the South Basin, the Rapids, Southern’s Bay, Barloge Creek and at the exposed headland at Carrigathorna.

These laboratories were later donated to University College Cork, who established a concrete building in 1987 close to the site for two adjacent wooden huts that students had previously been used and had fallen into disrepair by the late 1970s. Presently this is the main working area on the Lough, and is known as the Renouf Laboratory. Prof Trevor Norton describes these studies in more detail in his book Reflections on a summer sea (2001) and in NORTON (2002).



The work by the Kitching group of researchers included studies on: Sacchoriza polyschides (Ebling et al., 1948; Norton, 1971); other laminarian species (Sloane et al., 1957; Norton et al., 1977); Himanthalia elongata (Kitching, 1987a); undergrowth algae (Sloane et al., 1961); 33 littoral stations for distribution of general species (Ebling et al., 1960); Amphisbetia [Sertularia] operculata (Round et al., 1961); Patella spp. (Ebling et al., 1962); Mytilus edulis and Nucella lapillus (Kitching et al., 1959; Ebling et al., 1964; Kitching et al., 1967; Kitching, 1977); diurnal rhythmns in Gibbula cineraria (Thain, 1971); Gibbula umbilicalis (Thain et al., 1985); Paracentrotus lividus (Kitching & Ebling, 1961; Kitching & Thain, 1983); boulders (Lilly et al., 1953); sea caves (Norton et al., 1971); Western Trough (Kitching et al., 1967); tidepools at Carrigathorna and Barloge Creek (Goss-Custard et al., 1979); Whirlpool Cliff (Kitching et al., 1990).


Over a period from the 1960s to 1980s, caravans were used by Keith Hiscock and by Dan Minchin on or close to the North Quay. Although their work covered the entire reserve area, it was concentrated within the North Basin. All of these investigations yielded information on the distribution of marine species within the Lough.

Since the late 1970s however, especially with the advent of SCUBA diving, considerable fieldwork has taken place. Diving observations in 1979-1981, principally of nudibranchs, were recorded in reports to the Praeger Committee, Royal Irish Academy, by Bernard Picton. Hiscock (1976) studied the sublittoral faunal rock communities at Whirlpool Cliff, Labhra Cliff and Carrigathorna resulting in detailed species lists from 1971. A number of species studies took place in the Lough on Patella vulgata, and littorinids in the 1980s (e.g. Little & Williams, 1989; Little et al., 1990, 1991), mainly by students from the University of Bristol. The deeper fauna of the south basin was studied by Thrush (Thrush & Townsend, 1986). Mark Holmes (NMI) has been studying the crustacean fauna of the Lough since the late 1970s.

In November 1993 and April 1994, 14 sites (littoral and sublittoral) within Lough Hyne were investigated as part of a European Union Life Programme. This was undertaken by BioMar (based at Trinity College Dublin) as part of a survey of the marine biotopes around the coast of the Republic of Ireland. It included important marine fauna and flora, but not any specialised groups (Picton & Costello, 1998). As a result of all this intensive study, there are more than 250 scientific accounts from this area since it was first studied in 1886 (Wilson, 1984; Myers et al., 1991). This needs to be updated. Barnes group; monitoring by Little etc.

The Lough up until the 1980s had little human interference. Diving had been mainly limited to scientific studies. In advance of the setting up of the marine reserve, there had been an interest in developing the area for finfish and mussel cultivation; some fishing activities by permit continued for a short time for the capture of mullet and trapping of shrimp. Human activities greatly increased during the 1980s, mainly boating, swimming, snorkelling and wading by horses. All of these will have had some impact on some shallow water areas, in particular near to the North and West quays. In November 1986, a cargo ship (Kowloon Bridge) carrying ore struck rocks near to Lough Hyne, releasing 1600 tonnes of oil. No oil reached the Lough itself due to the placing of a boom across Barloge Creek (Kitching, 1987c). No long-term affects are known from this event. Since the turn of the millennium, activities such as kayaking have increased in popularity, together with swimming from North Quay. The Skibereen Heritage Centre has been established in the town of Skibbereen; part of its web site is dedicated to Lough Hyne.

Copyright © Julia Nunn