Deep Maps

Deep Maps

Deep Maps

Deep Maps: West Cork Coastal Cultures

From the mid-eighteenth century onwards, there exists a rich record of cultural engagements with places along the Atlantic littoral: responses in different cultural media by individuals drawn to the unique cultural and biological aspects of a unique maritime environment. The romantic period in particular sees a diverse range of such literary texts in the form of translations, original poems, tales and novels; as well as a significant body of sketches and paintings of sea and land. The enormous impact of the Great Famine on this coastline drew further attention to the area from writers, journalists, artists and illustrators. Later in nineteenth century, an important photographic record emerges, now preserved within the National Photographic Archive. Such texts capture information related to reefs, sea cliffs and vegetation; as well as representing such practices as farming, fishing and seal-hunting; and depicting historical processes including land use, work, family life and migration.

Writers, folklorists and painters who were drawn to Ireland’s south-west coast in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries encountered its particularities at a time before our modern division of the disciplines. In joining the research skills of a cultural historian with those of a marine biologist, the project promises to reconnect aspects of this maritime environment that are often disconnected in modern debates. In doing so, it responds to needs emerging from both humanities and science research: in the case of the former, the environmental humanities have posed urgent new questions about the scope and scale of human interactions with the environment as represented in literary and other texts; while in the case of marine biology, scientists are increasingly aware of the need to deepen and enrich their apprehension of marine environments via a more nuanced sense of the histories and cultures of these storied places. 

If you would like to learn more about our project you can visit our website here


Aims and objectives

The project investigates the biological, cultural and historical context of the south west coast of Ireland from 1700 to 1920. The focus is on the rich maritime environment found along the arc of Cork’s Roaring Water Bay, from Clonakilty to Bantry Bay, as it is shaped by sea and land and as it is imagined within eighteenth- and nineteenth-century cultural texts. The period to be researched begins with the emergence of wide-ranging antiquarian inquiries and poetic responses to the Cork coast and ends with the start of serious biological field research in this area. By advancing a transdisciplinary understanding of this coastline, the project forms a link between cultural history, scientific research and environmental priorities while communicating a sense of cultural identity and fostering ownership of maritime heritage.

Central research questions

Illustration of Bantry Bay

Questions to be addressed include:

How can interdisciplinary research that joins expertise from cultural history with and marine biology deepen knowledge of the heritage of European coastal and maritime regions via a focus on this particular stretch of coastline along Roaring Water Bay in south-west Cork?

What can literary, cultural and visual representations of this coastline tell us about the origins of environmentalism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries?

How can the interests and knowledge of diverse audiences – cultural historians, environmental scientists, community stakeholders, tourists — be related and integrated so as to influence the health and sustainability of maritime areas?

What questions emerge from eighteenth and nineteenth representations of coastal environments and how can these questions inform contemporary environmental priorities?

Advisory group

The research team will be advised by an advisory group comprising stakeholder and stakeholder expertise. The West Cork Coastal Cultures Advisory Board will guide the project development, provide advice on communication and ensure strong dissemination and academic network building. Its composition is to be announced.

Project Team

Co-Principal Investigator : Prof. Claire Connolly

Claire Connolly is Professor of Modern English in the College of Arts, Celtic studies and Social Sciences (CACSSS) at University College Cork. Her research and teaching interestsinclude Irish writing; the novel in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; romanticism in Ireland, Scotland and Wales; Welsh-Irish cultural exchanges; and Ireland and cultural theory.  Claire Connolly was formerly a professor at Cardiff University and also held the position of visiting professor in Irish Studies at Boston College (2002-3) and Concordia University, Montreal (Fall 2011). She is Vice Chair (Ireland) of the International Association for the Study of Irish Literature, and Co-Director of the Wales-Ireland Research Network.


Co-Principal Investigator : Dr Rob McAllen

Dr. Rob McAllen is a Senior Lecturer within the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences and is also research coordinator for the University College Cork labs at Lough Hyne Marine Nature Reserve in West Cork. He has been in Cork since 2002 with previous positions held at University of Aberdeen and University of York. He is a marine biologist with a number of different research areas including conservation, sustainability, public awareness and outreach, and animal adaptations to natural and anthropogenic disturbances. He is currently  an External Examiner for the Marine Biology degree at the University of Aberdeen in the UK (2013-2017) and was an external examiner for Coastal Marine Biology at the University of Hull prior to that (2009-2012).In addition, he is the Programme Director for the MSc in Marine Biology at University College Cork; a scientific advisor for the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO); and the European Science Foundation and a reviewer for the UK Natural Environment Research Council. Rob is heavily involved at School and College level in Academic Programmes and Curriculum Development being chair of both of these committees.


Postdoctoral Researcher : Rachel Murphy

Rachel is based in the School of History, University College Cork,where she is completing a PhD in Digital Arts and Humanities. Her research explores the interaction of space, place and community on four different locations on the Courtown Estate during the nineteenth century, and she has been using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to map parts of the estate. Rachel is a graduate of the University of Oxford where she studied English Language and Literature. She holds an MA in the History of Family from the University of Limerick and a Higher Diploma in GIS from University College Cork.


Research Assistant : Breda Moriarty

Breda Moriarty is a full-time research assistant on the Deep Maps Project and works in the School of Biology, Earth and Environmental Science. She will be responsible for designing questionnaires and organising multiple stakeholder and policy maker workshops with different user groups in coastal communities to establish the perceptions of key marine environmental issues and legislation. These perceptions will be used to map scientific priorities with a view to understanding the role that heritage and culture has played in forging them. She holds an M.Sc in Rural Development from University College Dublin. Previously, she worked in Banff National Park, Canada as a researcher studying grizzly bear mortaility on railway tracks. She also has experience in volunteering on various ecological projects with Parks Canada Agency. 


Research Assistant : Seán MacGabhann

Seán's work in the marine environment began at the age of 16, when he started a career in the recreational SCUBA diving industry. He is a fully qualified PADI Divemaster with Oceandivers Ireland, having experienced the underwater worlds of Ireland and South East Asia. Sean undertook an MA at University College Cork focusing particularly on marine mammals and their parasites. His love for all things marine allowed him to branch out into several different study areas, including bottlenose dolphin surveys on the river Shannon, post mortem examination of stranded cetacean species, and photo identification, to name but a few. After graduating in early 2016, Seán was selected to be part of the Deep Maps Cork project, where his focus will be on the wide range of marine issues effecting coastal communities on local, national and international scales. Seán also has a side passion for wildlife photography which will also be featured on our various social media platforms.


Research Assistant : Michael Waldron

Michael has recently completed his PhD at the School of English, University College Cork with a thesis titled Elizabeth Bowen and the Art of Visuality, for which he was awarded an Irish Research Council postgraduate scholarship. His research and teaching focuses on the intersection between literature and the visual arts, and he has published in the areas of cybergogy and nineteenth-century Irish art. He holds a BA in English and History of Art and an MA in English (Irish Writing) from University College Cork. He has previously conducted collaborative research on The Samuel Forde Project, co-curated the resulting exhibition at Crawford Art Gallery, Cork and co-edited the companion publication, Samuel Forde: Visions of Tragedy (2014). Michael will be responsible for investigating and collating archival material pertaining to the West Cork area between 1700 and 1920.


Research Assistant : Orla-Peach Power

Orla-Peach is a recent graduate of the MA in Digital Arts and Humanities at University College Cork where she studied the application of photogrammetry in recording at risk commemorative stone monuments from the sixteenth - seventeenth centuries respectively. During this time Orla-Peach developed skills in content management, 3D visualisation techniques and GIS. She has recently begun her PhD within the same discipline to assess the role of 3D visualisation techniques on a larger dataset within the West Cork area. Orla-Peach will be responsible for visualising and communicating the range of data collated as part of the Deep Maps project, and is also charged with the task of developing and maintaining an online presence via social media platforms and an integrated website.



School of English

Scoil an Bhéarla

O'Rahilly Building, University College Cork, Cork. Ireland