1. Rain Gear: Ireland is called the emerald isle for a reason! Even when it's pleasant at sea level, the mountains are shrouded in mist, which has its own eerie beauty until your teeth start to rattle. The temperature will probably not drop below 50*F (10*C) but if you are wet, you will be cold! You must have a waterproof raincoat, rain hat, gloves, rain pants, and sturdy boots. Let me repeat: rain pants may not be your idea of a fashion statement, but they are not optional; they are required.
Having said that, it could conceivably get as hot as 80*F (25*C) so you will need shorts, T-shirts, a sun hat, and a bandana to protect your neck. The solution: layers that you can pop on or peel off.
2. Footwear: Foot comfort is so important that it merits a separate heading. If you have not bought boots yet, please do and break them in so you don't get blisters on day 1. Waterproof synthetic materials have the advantage of being lighter than leather and drying faster. However, leather boots are more waterproof, as long as you use saddle soap to keep them flexible.
Comfortable socks are essential. Think thick, thermal, and tumble-dryable! You can wash your socks in the sink but that's not the same as fresh laundry, and you will only have 1 laundry day every 8-9 days (unless you miss your turn). So bring several changes of socks. Also, outdoor footwear is removed at the front door (i.e. not allowed upstairs and in the sitting room), so you should bring house slippers.
3. Other clothing: Even field geologists like to dress up in the evening. However, bear in mind that your bags will be tightly squashed during transportation and your clothes will be stored in your bag plus one drawer while at camp. Wrinkle-proof and drip-dry is the way to go. Also note that Irish washers use hotter water than those in the US; so avoid bringing clothes that bleed in hot water. The facilities we stay in provide duvets, but a top sheet is recommended (i.e. bring your own twin sheet if you want a covering sheet under the duvet).
NOTE: You will need to bring your own bathroom towels for showers, etc.
4. Equipment:Check that you have all of the following: geological hammer, hand-lens, map board, 3 field notebooks, 2-3 quart water bottles (i.e. Nalgene type for the drinking in the field), see through ruler/protractor, 5 graphite pencils (#3 or HD lead; don't use #2 pencils - your notes will disappear when they get wet), pencil sharpener, soft erasers, 20 color pencils, Zip-lock bags to protect camera, etc.
A flashlight (or headlamp) is handy for walks into town in the evening. We recommend that, when in the field, each student always carry a whistle (for emergency/crisis alert) and a personal field aid kit. We will provide Brunton Pocket Transit compasses for each student for the duration of the camp. However, if you own your own compass, feel free to use that instead.
NOTE: you are required to bring a handheld GPS unit (inexpensive ones can be found for near $100). You will need these for most of your field exercises. Laptops are also recommended, although these aren't required. We will have a dedicated computer for email in the evenings - but keep in mind that we will have a SLOW internet connection.
NOTE #2: Ireland runs on 220 current, and has a different type of electrical outlet from the U.S. and from the rest of Europe. Most computers will run on either 110 or 220 (using an appropriate adapter), but hair dryers, shavers and the like WON'T WORK IN IRELAND (unless you buy a special unit that works on 220 current).
5. Text: A field methods reference book is helpful for identification and measurement techniques, among other things. We recommend: Compton, R. R. (1985) Geology in the Field. New York: John Wiley and Sons. There are other field geology texts out there; feel free to ask your own professors to recommend an alternative. We will have several field reference books available for your use at the center.
6. Address for mail, etc: For the first 4-5 weeks of the field course, we will be staying at the Petersburg Outdoor Education Center, in the hamlet of Clonbur, Ireland. There is a phone there available for emergency use only. General calls to the U.S. will need to be made from pay phones in town (or international cell phones). The final week of the course we will be staying at Doolin Outdoor Activity Lodge. Contact Information for each place:
Petersburg Outdoor Education Center Doolin Activity Lodge
Clonbur, County Galway Doolin, County Clare
Telephone: 353 94 954 6483 Telephone: 353 65 707 4888
Fax: 353 94 954 6705 Fax: 353 65 707 4877
7. Food: The facilities where we will be staying supply breakfast and lunch food, and cook dinners for 6 days per week. The 7th day is your day off, and you will be responsible for supplying your own meals (although you are welcome to use the kitchen to cook). You will probably want some cash for snacks, pub visits, etc.
8. Medical:Proof of insurance, etc. will be handled through the JMU Office of International Programs. If you require prescription medicine, bring a 6-week supply. Non-prescription medications are available at the local "chemist" (pharmacy), although some names vary (e.g. Paracetamol = Tylenol)
9. Luggage: You should pack only as much as you can carry unassisted. This basically means a maximum of 2 checked suitcases plus a carry-on "day pack." Your hiker's "day pack" will be necessary to hold your field gear every day in the field.
10. Passport, money: GET YOUR PASSPORT EARLY if you don't already have one. Your passport must be valid for 3 months beyond the end of your trip. Citizens of the U.S and many other countries do not require a special visa: if in doubt, check with your embassy. Buy a week's worth of Euro's before departure; there will be limited opportunities to exchange currency after arrival, until your first free day in Galway.
11. Flight: Most of you arriving from the U.S. are flying overnight and will be expected to keep going throughout the following day. Try to adjust your sleep schedule in advance (and sleep on the plane, if possible). Note that we will have our first field exercise the afternoon of the day that you arrive - no sleep for the weary!
12. Arrival: We will assemble in Shannon Airport on the Tuesday morning. Please arrive at the airport by 9am, as we plan to depart from the airport by 10am. If you have problems with this schedule, contact us ASAP. The faculty will meet you at the airport and drive you 2-3 hours north to the town of Clonbur, which will be your home for the next few weeks.
Please email me (whitmesj*AT*jmu.edu) a copy of your flight itinerary as soon as you have booked your flights, so that we can keep track of any flights that might be delayed.
13. Departure: We will return all students to Shannon Airport by 11am on the last Saturday of the course - at which time the Field Course will officially be finished. You will then be free to return to the States or head off on other travels as you desire.
Feel free to contact me with other questions:
Dr. Steven Whitmeyer
Whitmesj *at* jmu.edu