Thursday, September 11, 2008
Asgard II sinks in the Bay of Biscay - Update
It has been reported this morning (10/09/2008) that the Irish sail training ship Asgard II has now sunk in Bay of Biscay after taking in water and sending out a distress call. The crew were brought to safety earlier this morning..
According to RTÉ News the sailing vessel went down at 08.25 local time (7.25am Irish time) some 20 nautical miles from the French coast, south west of the island of Belle-Île-en-Mer.
The Asgard had been en route from the Cornish port of Falmouth to La Rochelle in France where it was due to undergo minor maintenance.
The alarm was raised and the distress signal was picked up by the UK Marine Coastguard at Kinloss in Scotland.
It has been reported that the 5 crew and 20 trainees (most of them Irish) were rescued by a French naval ship and taken to Belle-Île-en-Mer off the French coast where they are safe.
Most Cork people will remember the Asgard II best from the Tall Ships Race of 1991 but she has been a regular visitor to the port since she went into service after completion in 1981. It was at the time of the Tall Ships race that the Cork singer / songwriter Jimmy Crowley wrote the song "My Love is a Tall Ship" dedicated to the Asgard.
The name "Asgard" resonates through Irish history. The original Asgard, owned by Erskine Childers Snr, was used in the Howth gun-running incident of 1914 in which German guns were imported into Ireland for use in the uprising which eventually took place in 1916. The first Asgard (from the Norse name for the "home of the gods") sailed to Hamburg with Childers, his wife Mary and two others to to collect the guns which were landed in Howth in July 1914. Childers was later executed during the Irish Civil War in 1922. His son Erskine Jr. was to go on to become President of Ireland.
In 1968 the Asgard I was bought by the Irish government who established the Coiste an Asgard as a new sail-training authority and the ship was used for training young people in navigation and seamanship until it was retired and replaced by Asgard II. The first Asgard is now being restored but it is unlikely it will ever take to sea again.
Asgard II, a 106 foot brigantine, was built by Tyrell's Boatyard of Arklow, County Wicklow, under the personal supervision of designer, the late Jack Tyrell.
The loss of the Asgard is a huge blow to Ireland, not just because of her importance in sail-training but as a symbol of this country and the good work she has done in promoting tourism she has also been involved in work with a social element along with involvement in research and environment.
It is of course very good news that the crew of Asgard II are safe. We still don't know if there is any possiblity of raising the vessel. That will, no doubt emerge in time.