Petrichor [Smell of the Earth after Rain] in the West of Ireland - Natural Sights, Sounds and Smells of Summer

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Smell of Rain in the West of Ireland Smell of Rain in the West of Ireland

There's something about the smell of the coast - a fresh Atlantic Ocean breeze, sunshine and recently passed rain.

And it's the smell of nature after rain that will be very familiar to anyone who spends much time outdoors, even in the urban environment, indeed a typical Irish town will have that particular post pluviam odour caused by a mix of geosmin from gardens, parks and hedges and ozone from conrete and tarmac.

Of course the smell of the countryside, fields and forests the same.

And that smell has a name, Petrichor which comes from the Greek petros for stone and ichor which was the blood of the gods.

The term petrichor was first coined by Australian scientists in 1964 but has been studied and described for many decades before.

So what is petrichor?

It is suggested that petrichor, the smell of nature after rain, comes about from the release of a chemical called geosmin which is aerosolised by falling rain droplets hitting the ground. Geosmin is produced by Streptomyces bacteria.

And it is interesting that such bacteria produce a chemical that smells so evocative to humans, Streptomyces are the source of chemotherapy drugs such as bleomycin; antibiotics such as streptomycin and tetracycline; and various antifungal treatments.

In fact, geosmin is one of the few chemical compounds that humans can smell with a great degree of sensitivity, much more than other compounds and indeed we are more sensitive to geosmin than many animals more renowned for their olfactory senses. 

Years ago I found a sweetly-scented incense stick from a French company called 'Nature après la pluie', unfortunately they no longer make it but do still produce a room perfume by the same name.

The same chemical compound, geosmin, is found in beetroot and while humans mostly enjoy the smell of petrichor the musty-earthy taste is something different.

Mind you, I do enjoy growing and eating beetroot.

And I also enjoy photographing in the Irish countryside, here a cow grazes on coastal grasses as the petrichor-laden air gently blows across the landscape; rain moves into the distance the moistured sky bearing a rainbow and soon sunset over the Atlantic - the smells, sights and sounds of summer in Ireland.

Smells and sounds do combine with our sight to create memories that are more than just photographs. A photographer and artist typically rely on sight but enjoyable memories are made of more - the smell of the countryside, taste of local food, sounds of wildlife and feel of the wind by the coast when photographing waves will cause a single image to stand out in the mind for years to come.

Join me, Panoramic Ireland, to photograph in Ireland and to learn more about the fine scenery to be found in the Irish countryside - places are available seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Last modified on Thursday, 24 June 2021 00:51
Darren McLoughlin

International travel photographer and Irishman in search of the best bits of Ireland. Leading photography tours and experiences in Ireland.

Contributor to New York Times / Sunday Times / Irish Times

Cancer survivor.

Ask me about Ireland or about photography in Ireland.

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