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History

Cork Harbour, is a large natural basin at the mouth of the river Lee, on the south coast of Ireland. It has had a long maritime tradition, with evidence of prehistoric Mesolithic coastal communities, and with trade between Ireland, Britain and the Continent dating back to earliest historic times

Britain's colonies provided a strategic importance to Cork, not only as an assembly point for convoys, but as a major victualling port for the Royal Navy. This resulted in the extensive series of fortifications, still standing on the shores of the harbour, as well as the former Royal dockyard at Haulbowline.

The booming emigrant trade to America and Australia from the mid- eighteen hundreds increased the importance of the harbour both as a point of departure and as the first landfall for cross-Atlantic traffic.

In an ironic twist, the Irish Famine provided a boon for the port, both as an emigration port as well as a distribution point for the ineffective government provisioning squadron. The Atlantic passenger trade continued up to the advent of air travel, and the offices of various shipping companies can still be seen in Cobh town, formerly known as Queenstown

The name of Cork Harbour, and the town of Queenstown, is probably best known as being the final port of call of the Titanic in 1912. This infamous ship however never actually entered the harbour, but stood offshore while the passengers and mails were ferried out by tender.

The port probably assumed it's greatest importance during the Napoleonic Wars, when Cork was the main provisioning port of the Royal Navy, It was also a major trooping port during conflicts such as the Boer War.

Queenstown again became well known to the public during World War One, again for tragic reasons. Many of the victims of the Cunarder Lusitania, sunk nearby off the Old Head of Kinsale, were brought ashore in May 1915.


With the advent of the Convoy System in 1917, Cork Harbour became an important assembly point for large groups of ships destined throughout the world, and received the survivors of torpedoed and mined ships. It also became an important port of refuge for disabled ships.

Cork was also the base for the first United States Naval Force under Admiral Sims, with a fleet of destroyers and subchasers based in Cork Harbour, and battleships and submarines in Berehaven.


In 1918 the first US Naval Airbase was located in the eastern part of the harbour. With such large amounts of shipping traffic calling to, and passing the harbour, it was inevitable that there would be strandings and wreckings.

The causes of these varied from mechanical failure, human error and weather, to wartime actions. Wrecks include sailing ships, steamships, submarines, and fishing trawlers.

The two natural hazards at the harbour entrance are the Daunt Rock on the western approaches, and the Cow and Calf Rocks at Roches Point on the eastern approaches.

The improvements in modern seafaring technology have not spared shipping to the port. Up until now the most recent wrecking was that of the Tomfield, seen below, in 1996.