A Wildfire In Ireland Has Revealed An Incredible Lost Message From The Past

Katie Spalding 06 Aug 2018, 15:01

In case you hadn't noticed, the world is on fire right now. And even though some places are seeing borderline apocalyptic consequences, elsewhere, it's leading to some amazing discoveries.

The (frankly unreasonably) hot weather has already turned up new historical revelations in the UK and Ireland dating from as far back as the Iron Age, but this week a gorse fire in County Wicklow, Ireland, has revealed something altogether more modern: a message from the Second World War, carved into the land itself.

Police helicopters were the first to notice the markings, which spell, in huge letters, "ÉIRE" – the name of the country in Irish.

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"The Air Corps helped put the fire out and then the Garda helicopter, which we fly, noticed the sign emerging from the past," a spokesperson for the Garda Síochána (Irish police force) told Irish broadcaster RTÉ.

Measuring a massive 12 by 6 meters (39 by 20 feet), more than 80 of these markers were literally carved into the landscape during World War II – and then built with up to 150 tonnes (165 US tons) of whitewashed stone set in concrete. 

"The signs were built by the Coast Watching Service by the summer of 1944 to warn 'belligerent' aircraft that they were flying over a neutral country," Michael Kennedy of Guarding Neutral Ireland told local news outlet Dublin Live. "At the request of the United States Air Force the number of the nearby lookout post was added, turning the signs into air navigation aids... This assisted American bomber pilots in navigating across the Atlantic."

The County Wicklow marker had been hidden for decades until last week's fire destroyed the thick undergrowth covering it. Being found on Ireland's east coast marks this new discovery as unusual, but there are many other examples to be found along the country's 3,200-kilometer (2,000-mile) coast – as plenty of Twitter commenters were happy to share.

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Skycam Ireland pointed out that the fire alone was not responsible for the sign's sudden visibility – in true Irish fashion, the area had also experienced heavy rainfall, which was what eventually exposed the letters.

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Although Ireland – still reeling from civil war after a long struggle for independence from the UK – had declared itself officially neutral during World War II, in practice the country was sympathetic towards the Allies. British pilots were allowed to fly through Irish airspace, and Ireland often shared intelligence with Allied forces – in fact, it was Irish intelligence that was instrumental in the success of the Normandy landings later immortalized in Saving Private Ryan.

Although this is just another amazing spectacle to add to the long list of breathtaking discoveries turned up by recent extreme environmental events, it's important to remember that, you know, everything's dying. Happy Monday!

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