Investigation Exhibit

compilation  specimen cabinetwith words copy

My investigation into beach litter  around Ullapool  and beaches along the Coigach and Assynt coast this autumn was completed this week . An Investigation Exhibit is now on show at the Macphail Centre, displaying evidence of various types of litter found including a selection of ‘future fossils’ under magnification and specimen bottles ready for analysis to determine the  type of plastic they are made from and how long they would last in the marine environment. I am intending to show all our findings  and resulting artworks as a temporary installation at the Ullapool Museum and in a range of  locations throughout the town in spring.

Closer examination

Arriving back at the A.T.S laboratory a closer examination began with  a significant help from Portfolio Students studying at An Talla Solais .  The largest stone appears to hold a  cross section of all the objects we are likely to find on nearby beaches.

sorting the finds  breaking in to the big stone   braking in 2  students opening big stone  

Tobacco pouch, plastic bag, rope,  cotton wool bud sticks. …..

inside the stone  cataloguing samples  samples waiting for categorisation  boxed specimen

The initial job of cataloging this weeks finds of our ‘ future fossils’ is now underway with samples being subject to  identification, to ascertain its possible origin followed by magnification, to establish the category of material such as polypropylene or polyethylene  which helps to determine the  timeline  of the object.

Specimens which cannot be identified are being boxed up and sent to the expedition consultant  Professor  Cowie at the Millport for further analysis. It is hoped that the full picture of what we have discovered this week will be revealed in the spring. Until then an initial display of the finds made along the coast over the past week can be seen at the Macphail Centre in Ullapool.

Cracking open the evidence

cracking open the stones  pening fossils together

Looking for a weakness in the stones we began to tap a way in order to carefully see if there was any evidence held within the stones. The stones broke easily with our fossil hammers, chisels and scrapers.

gregor close up foil food container smoking fossil fossil

Quite quickly we began to see that the stones held vital evidence in our beach litter investigation with materials from cigarette fibres, plastic caps, a lighter, fishing line to an aluminium food container. We discussed who might have dropped the evidence  originally and and how to came to be encased in stones like the fossils seen in the Geopark and museum.  It was decided to that the only way to understand what we had  found was to forensically  test our  samples. To do this we set off to the A.T.S temporary laboratory  with our array of specimens.

fossil cahe

  box passing Caley oil me and trolley box of stones  the walk up up hill  to the lab.

Ullapool stone cache

My last beach search on this trip to the west coast  took place today on the west shore  of Ullapool harbour  where  we  found many more  odd looking stones .  One of which was so big we had to borrow a sack trolley to transport it along.

ullapool cache   biggest stone found   carrying bggest stone  big stone on trolley

While pushing the trolley  along West Shore I received a call from the Ullapool CSI team  working unbeknown to us on the east side of the pier.

DI phoning CSI team gilly searching notes & photos

They informed me that they had found  three odd stones which I should take a look at . Sure enough they appeared to be of the same type as the ones we had collected so we compared notes of locations they were found in and we decided to crack open a few of the stones to see if there were also similarities within…..

Further finds at Badentarbet

Yesterday children from Achiltibuie School braved the gale force winds at Badentarbet beach to help me continue the hunt for more stones with their teacher and Highland ranger Melanie Gaff. The cold  encouraged us all to focus well and we  quickly managed to locate and collect 7  orange coloured  stones

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We also collected stones we normally find on the beach  which Meanie was able to tell us about which helped us to begin to sketch out the  prehistoric history of our time line after which we began to crack open the stones to see what they held within. On Friday I will collect more samples at Ullapool Harbur Beach and all will be taken to the lab at An Talla Solais.  Please join us  at 10.30 am on the beach and 1pm at An Talla Solais.

Hunting for unusual stones

Twelve pupils  their teacher Mrs Mason, Any Summers ( Head Highland Ranger) and I made a short expedition through the Culag woods at Lochinver to White beach,  a month ago we had  surveyed the litter on this beach. With a break in the stormy weather the children found 8 strange orange/yellow rocks which had been reported to me, some were almost buried in amongst the small pebbles or drifts of seaweed and one was caught between the big rocks at the top of the beach.

white beach search

Coming together we displayed our finds including samples of pebbles that making up the beach,  Andy was able to start us off on our timeline the oldest of which being the Lewisian Gneiss  at 3 billion years, Sandstone 1 billion, and Quartzite 600 million and Canis Porphyry that make up the beach normally.

   rock samples big rock all of us  listening to Andy

We returned to the school to begin looking closer at our bigger specimens and work out where they might fit into our future  timeline. I will resume my  quest tomorrow with pupils at Achiltibuie Primary school.