Locals perplexed by sight of tide ‘going the wrong way’ off Cork coast

Boat operators reported seeing tide dropping rapidly in event that may link to northerly winds or distant undersea earthquake

Unusual tidal activity spotted in west Cork on Saturday has left local people puzzled.

The tide began rushing out of the harbour at Courtmacsherry at around 2pm just when charter boat operator David Edwards was cleaning the hull of his boat moored at the local pontoon.

“I was upside down and I could see the water was going the wrong way, it should have been coming in,” he said.

“Then I saw local people were all looking at the water and it was clear something very strange was happening. The water was rushing out like a river. I’d never seen anything like it before. The first thing you think is ‘tsunami’ and to be honest if it was going any faster I think we all would have been heading for the hills.”


A few kilometers down the coast Adrian Nowotynski was mooring his boat in the harbour at Union Hall and was about to row to shore when he noticed the tide beginning to behave in an unusual way.

“I’d just come back from dropping some people in Rosscarbery and was rowing for the shore when I noticed it at around a 3.15pm. I realised I wasn’t making any headway rowing my small boat and the tide was really racing against me,” he said.

“It was going out so fast that my boat was keeled on the bottom and so were a number of yachts and fishing trawlers and I’ve never seen that before. My first instinct was it must be an earthquake somewhere, nobody had ever seen the like of it Union Hall before.”

Mr Nowotynski said the tide dropped 1.5m in about five minutes and came in and out twice in less than half an hour.

“People were very concerned, when you see something like that you’d wonder what’s going on. There were some people trying to get in from a yacht and they were grounded as well. They were a bit further out and said they could see a large wave coming in like a tidal bore,” he said.

Tim Forde, commodore of the Glandore Harbour Yacht Club on the other side of the bay from Union Hall noticed the unusual tide when he was driving back along the harbour.

“I’d collected my daughter from work and we were crossing the Poulgorm bridge across the top of the harbour when I noticed it. It was unbelievable. The tide must have been flowing out at six knots two hours after low water, and then six minutes later it was coming back in just as fast. There were boats lying aground in the mooring field. It was like tidal bore conditions and changing direction in minutes with mud being carried out to sea.”

In Union Hall the tide was witnessed going in and out five times over the course of about three hours and dropping to levels lower than have been witnessed in living memory in Glandore Harbour, locals said. There were also reports of unusual tide fluctuations further east along the coast in New Ross and Kilmore Quay in Co Wexford.

According to the Valentia coastguard station, a combination of northerly winds and high tides may have been a factor in the unusual events.

The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre did record a 2.6 magnitude earthquake at 11.28am Irish time west of Portugal near the Azores about 1,900km southwest of Ireland which could account for some tidal anomalies. The 1755 earthquake off the coast of Portugal, which caused massive loss of life and destruction in Lisbon, had an impact as far away as Ireland, sending tsunamis to the southwest coast in particular.