On the morning of 15 June, 1919, a Vickers Vimy biplane swooped low through the skies over Clifden…
John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown were at the controls. They mightn’t have had Derrigimlagh in their sights at first, but the pair was soon to become very familiar with its landscape.
Alcock and Brown had taken off from Newfoundland just over 16 hours earlier, flying some 1,890 nautical miles through fog, darkness and a series of technical malfunctions before reaching landfall in Ireland. “At times the two voyagers found themselves flying upside down, only 10 feet above water,” the New York Times reported. But they made it, completing the world’s first transatlantic flight by crash-landing in Derrygimlagh Bog.
“Yesterday I was in America,” Alcock announced after clambering from the wreck. “I am the first man in Europe to say that.”
Not your average bog
Today, their landing point in the middle of this bogland is marked by a wind-buffeted beacon found a mile or so down a boreen (a cow road) outside
on the R341. It’s a beautifully desolate spot, spotted with black-faced sheep, shards of limestone and wild Atlantic views.
But it’s not the only history hidden in Derrygimlagh. At the foot of the beacon, look for large squares of concrete foundations. They belonged to a Marconi station from which some of the earliest transatlantic wireless messages were sent (the station operated from 1907 to 1922). It’s amazing to think a Connemara bog could once have lain at the centre of such cutting-edge technology.
If you’d prefer not to get up close and personal with Mother Nature here, don’t worry. An elevated viewing point nearby provides an expansive panorama over the area – it’s marked by a tailfin monument bearing a plaque to Alcock and Brown, and can be reached by car.
While up on this platform, take a moment to breathe in the surroundings, and imagine yourself viewing this expanse before you back in 1919. Not much has changed over almost a century; after all, these boglands took around 4,000 years to cover the landscape, they’re certainly not going to disappear for some time to come.
Geographical coordinates: Latitude 53.407511; longitude -10.120935
(note, if you use your car’s GPS to go directly to this point, you may not always remain on the Wild Atlantic Way route.)