A team of Irish club divers who train to search the River Shannon for missing persons have been attracting attention – because they keep surfacing with ancient weaponry and other artefacts they have come across by chance.
Shannonside Sub Aqua Club, based in Banagher, Co Offaly, forms part of Ireland’s Search & Recovery system.
Its Offaly SAR team comprises some 10 members who train regularly in the silty river, with a beat ranging as far north as Athlone in Co Westmeath and south to Portumna in Co Galway. And the training has helped the scuba divers to become sharp-eyed, despite the often-murky conditions.
Finds over the past 18 months, as related to the Offaly Express, include weapons ranging over thousands of years.
The divers have found three Bronze Age spears and another thought to be 800-1000 years old, a 6000-year old polished Stone Age axe, six medieval swords, three Irish battle-axes, a 13th-16th century Gallowglass helmet, shields and 18th-century muskets and pistols.
The divers' discoveries are passed on to Dublin’s National Museum of Ireland for conservation, although five log-boats – canoes used by Stone Age hunter-gatherers – have been left in the river for expert examination.
The club’s SAR activities are carried out in co-ordination with the Irish Coast Guard and police.