Geological Survey of Ireland

You probably drive past the old army building at Beggars Bush frequently but aren’t entirely sure what happens behind those stone walls.
One of the buildings houses the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) but what exactly does that mean to us? GSI gather information on geology in Ireland, so in essence everything that is beneath our roads, houses, playing fields and under our sea – they survey it, collect this information and store it safely, so any agency, school or individual can access it.

They were founded in 1845 and are now part of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with 50 staff employed there. One of the biggest projects they have conducted is INFOMAR which surveys the seabed around Ireland looking for shipwrecks.

Perhaps of more interest to our readers is when the wreck of a local ship the W.M. Barkley was discovered. On the 12th October 1917, Guinness’s first merchant vessel W. M. Barkley set sail from Dublin bound for Liverpool with a cargo of stout, she was the first Irish merchant ship to be ‘defensively armed’ with guns against attack by the German Navy.

The W.M. Barkley was hit by a torpedo from a German submarine, the impact from the torpedo broke the ship in two and she sank within minutes. Luckily, the survivors were able to get into the lifeboats and row away to safety. Thomas McGlue, a survivor described, “Then we saw the U boat lying astern. I thought she was a collier, she looked so big. There were seven Germans in the conning tower, all looking down at us through binoculars. We hailed the captain and asked him to pick us up. He called us alongside and then he asked us the name of our boat, the cargo she was carrying, who the owners were and where she was registered. He spoke better English than we did. . . . he said we could go . . . then he pointed out the shore lights and told us to steer for them.”

They were finally rescued by the crew of the passing collier Donnet Head, on course for Dublin. For over a hundred years the W.M. Barkley remained alone in the darkness of the sea. A diver in 2003 described how the starboard side of the ship was gone but that the stern seemed in good condition. Images of what remains of the first owned Guinness ship as it lies on the seabed can be viewed in GSI in Beggars Bush.

If you want to read more about shipwrecks like the WM Barkley and where they might be located around the coast of Ireland, then pick up this recently published gem of a book -‘Warships, U Boats and Liners: A Guide to Shipwrecks Mapped in Irish Waters’ published by GSI. What is truly unique about this book is that rather than read about shipwrecks in a vague, mythical way, we can see exactly where they are located, when they were discovered and what they look like now.

By Joan Mitchell