Essential renovation works to begin on Skellig Michael
Seven tonnes of stone airlifted to island to repair road leading to lighthouse
Essential maintenance work is taking place at Skellig Michael in Co Kerry. Photograph: Gareth McCormack/Getty Images
Specialist Air Corps helicopter crews were dramatically dropped down on to a small landing pad some 37 metres over a sheer drop to the Atlantic Ocean.
Pilots in an Agusta Westland AW139 were then directed into the area with its heavy cargo suspended underneath the aircraft.
Seven tonnes of essential materials were flown from Valentia Island in Co Kerry to Skellig Michael over the course of the mission, which took several hours.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) said the Defence Forces delivered stone which will be used for repairs to the walls on the road leading to the lighthouse on Skellig.
“The works will take place in 2014 and when weather conditions allow safe access to the island for all involved in the work programme,” it added.
The jagged Skellig Michael is home to one of the earliest monastic settlements in Ireland.
It stands in the Atlantic Ocean some 12 km southwest of Valentia Island and is renowned as being one of the remotest locations in the country.
The helipad on Skellig Michael was constructed in 1969 with reinforced concrete and is partially supported off the cliff face by three five metre high concrete columns.
The mission was carried out as the Defence Forces celebrated 50 years since the first helicopter arrived in Ireland at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.
Captain Brendan O’Dowd, of the Air Corps press office, said the AW139 can carry 2.2 tonnes underneath the helicopter which allows the transport of heavy loads into remote and otherwise inaccessible areas.
“This is the second time the Air Corps have flown cargo to the Skellig Islands for the OPW in the recent past. but they also help out with other government organisations when asked,” he said.
“For example in October they assisted the National Parks and Wildlife Service bringing materials from the conservation area on Inishkea Island to Blacksod.”