If anyone can explain why 10,000 people each year make the stomach-churning passage to Skellig Michael, a desolate rock pinnacle eight miles off Ireland’s southwest coast, John O’Shea can.
From spring to early fall for the last 15 years, the ruddy-cheeked Kerryman has ferried passengers across the roiling Atlantic from Derrynane Harbour to Skellig Michael aboard his stripped-down fishing trawler, one of only 14 boats authorized to make the trip. If conditions permit a landing on the 54-acre crag, and often they don’t, passengers must then hop from a pitching boat onto a concrete quay and scale 618 stone steps. The steps are rough, narrow and slippery when damp, which they usually are, without so much as a flimsy handrail as a barrier between you and oblivion hundreds of feet below. And all this to view a scattering of ruins below the 714-foot summit.