Mystery as videos show strange tsunami-like surges in West Cork bays


Mystery surrounds a bizarre tidal incident in West Cork on Saturday which saw at least two ports nearly empty and refilled in rapid succession.

Many at Union Hall and Courtmacsherry said they had never seen anything like it as videos show the tides rushing in, leaving ships in the mud, before very quickly coming back.

The surges lasted for at least an hour and a half, and there are a number of unconfirmed theories as to what could be the cause.

Some have speculated that there may have been a distant offshore earthquake or an undersea landslide leading to a small tsunami. There was a small one (magnitude 2.7) reported off Portugal on the island of San Jorge at 8:32 a.m. Saturday morning.

Others suggest it could be a combination of atmospheric pressure and a northerly wind at the time, although locals dismissed the idea as they say it would be a more regular occurrence if that was the case.

The area where a small earthquake occurred on Saturday morning

Adrian Nowotynki of Irish Deep Sea Charters was arriving at Union Hall when it started around 3.40pm and described the whole thing as a bit “crazy”.

He said: “I had just got back and it was a fairly calm and normal day. I was ready to get off the boat and noticed them all rocking around.

“My boat barely touched the mud at the lowest tides but it dropped well below.

“The tide came up a meter higher all of a sudden and cut its way across the mudflats. I rowed to another boat and then it started to come back again within a matter of a few minutes.

“I watched the bridge at Union Hall until about 5 p.m. and saw it go in and out about five times.

“Each one was a little less than the previous one.

“There are parts of the bay that have dried up, I’ve never seen them like this before. One of the fishermen in the harbor heard the sound of it from his house and came out to see it all happen.

“I didn’t see any damage.

“The tide at Union Hall would be like a wide river when it usually starts to come out, but this all happened when the water level was low, so there should have been a tide at all.

“No one has ever seen it go this low and it’s never been like this either on a normal astronomical tide.

“We think there was either some kind of pressure or wind event or an earthquake at sea that caused some kind of tsunami.

“He came in like a tidal wave, but that’s not happening at Union Hall.

“We have made a few calls but at this time we are still unsure. All we know is that there have been similar incidents reported across the chain and on beaches in Wales also.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.”

As Adrian recorded, at Courtmacsherrry there was a similar scene, with West Cork Charters saying ports along the south coast had ’emptied out like never before’.

They wrote: “It felt like an earthquake off the coast today, ports along the south coast emptied like never before. Then started to fill again.”

CorkBeo has contacted the Marine Institute of Ireland and the British Geological Survey to see if they can shed some light on what caused it.

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