Photographers' Blog

No happy endings in nature

March 28, 2013

County Antrim, Northern Ireland

By Cathal McNaughton

When the snow started falling on Thursday afternoon nobody in the Glens of Antrim could have predicted the devastating impact it would have on the farming community. Sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow fall combined with strong easterly winds produced 30 foot snowdrifts.

The rolling hillsides, where just a week previously daffodils had swayed in the breeze in the watery spring sunshine, now lay covered in an unseasonable layer of deep snow. But below the beautiful winter wonderland landscape the tragic reality of nature lay hidden – thousands of sheep buried with their farmers unable to reach them.

Many of the ewes were ready to lamb and were buried alive as the snow blew into drifts several feet high. When I met with family friend Keith McQullan and his farm manager Donald O’Reilly at his hill farm in Aughafatten in Glenarm Glen on Tuesday morning they were unusually quiet. Keith owns several hundred sheep across the remote north Antrim hills – only accessible by quad or by tractor – where he has farmed all his life.

They had just managed to reach the area where they had last seen their sheep four days earlier. But where there had been flocks of 30 and 40, only a few remained. Those left were in a pitiful state with frozen limbs, stiff with the cold and barely strong enough to bleat. Many had lost their lambs as soon as they were born – others had left their babies to die in the snow as they battled for their own survival.

Keith and Donald were going back up the mountain to search the drifts for any sheep that were buried so I jumped onto the tractor and joined them. Snaking our way through giant drifts, the worst in living memory, we reached the search point. They walked backwards and forwards along these massive frozen waves, stopping whenever they sank into the snow. They explained that the snow would be softer in areas where there may be sheep trapped underneath due to the heat they would give off. Unless of course they were dead – which now seemed inevitable.

Miraculously they managed to locate and dig out some sheep that had survived but nature doesn’t do happy endings. All were to die later that day and early the next morning.

On the tractor on the way back to the farmhouse Keith explained that he had another farm with several hundred sheep which he still hadn’t been able to reach. What was he going to be faced with when he made it there? He said: “Last week we had livestock all ready to lamb – this week we have nothing but deadstock.”

As the tractor chugged its way down the Glen side nobody spoke as the snow began to fall again.

Comments
7 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Damn that Global Warming!

Posted by Rusty_S | Report as abusive
 

So any comment to the alarmists who warned us we never see snow in the UK again

Posted by JoeKiplinger | Report as abusive
 

30′ drifts in Ireland look just like 5′ drifts in the U.S. midwest.

Posted by harki | Report as abusive
 

No worries, Joel Kiplinger. No matter what contra-evidence accumulates, these events (any events), only strengthens their faith that Something Must Be Done™. Right now, the best idea they have is to take control over every aspect of your life to appease their god Gaia.

Posted by Brendon_Carr | Report as abusive
 

Farming has always been a hard way to make a living. A lot of hard work with the constant risk your crops or livestock could be ruined or die. I’m surprised those horny sheep were not able to survive the snow, a tough sheep able to handle bad weather, but they may have been cross bred. A beautiful part of Northern Ireland, maybe they should get a little tourism business started.

Posted by lmaginn | Report as abusive
 

Al Gore was unavailable for comment. He was too busy spending his billions made by fleecing the stupid. At the same time, his houses put out enough CO2 to have kept Ireland from having this snowstorm.

Too much?

Posted by Nunya_Bidness | Report as abusive
 

If you check the Greenland ice cores for the last 200,000 years what you will see is wild zigzags in climate. There is one period where the average temperature in Greenland dropped 27 fahrenheit (15 celsius) over a 10 year period with most of the change happening in the first year. These wild swings into cold conditions always happened after hot periods and were usually accompanied by large snowfalls in the northern Hemisphere just like we are having now.

What we may be looking at right now is the first year of a new ice age. The temperature drops in Florida between this year and last year during February and March are consistent with the drop into an ice age. On February 28, for example, our daytime temperature was 16 fahrenheit lower than last year and our night time temperature was 14 fahrenheit lower. If this is sustained then it will be more than enough to drop us right into an ice age in less than ten years

We will know by next year and if that has happened then there will never be any talk about Global Warming again because there won’t be any.

Berenson

Posted by Berenson | Report as abusive
 

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