Kelp – Spring Tides

Kelp – Spring Tides

After years working along the high tide lines of the upper shores in Scotland, over the last few months I have been able to take advantage of the extreme low spring tides and venture into the lower shore which is only accessible on foot for a limited number of hours a year. rocky Coigach shoreline 4Extending my investigations into the lower littoral zone has involved a series of slow and tricky journeys. Most of the shorelines of Coigach are extremely rocky so the lower shores have to be reached climbing over crags, boulders, pebbles and navigating narrow inlets. Inlet to lower shoreline 4

thongweed CU low tide 4

I’ve been documenting and identifying the changing seaweed forms noting their colours, textures and taste .

As the tide finally stopped receding l was aware of having reached the extreme low water line, a fascinating dynamic place. Calm, good weather made perfect conditions to observe the largest of the brown marine algae, commonly known as Kelp.

Kelp exposed low waterline 4

Varietties of kelp at low water 4For a few hours I examined the kelp beds, formed mostly by a strong leathery expanse of seaweed, including several of the Laminaria species, holding fast onto boulders beneath my feet and rock surfaces all around me.

Kelp hanging 4

kelp holdfast 4 Under their fronds I glimpsed a little of the sea life they attract and protect, including sea urchins and orange cushion starfish.

I have collected and dried bundles of Laminaria as I am contributing to a Kelp experiment being conducted by local archaeologist Cathy Dagg, who is researching            how the Kelping industry operated in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

My passion for seaweed grows exponentially every time I walk onto a beach and look into a rock pool. I am looking forward to making contact with other Seaweed-obsessed artists. Next year I will be curating the Isle Martin Seaweed Festival originally planned as part of Visit Scotland’s Year of Coast and Waters #YCW2020, now rescheduled to take place in 2021. Many unique activities and events with scientists, artists, chefs, archaeologists, seafarers, musicians, students, residents and visitors will take place.

photographing kelp 2

 

Until then I will continue enjoying observing, recording and experimenting on the shoreline and in my studio.

 

Kelp stretched covered rock Dornie 2

 

Littoral reflection

Littoral reflection

Winter snowfalls are providing a welcome respite from seeing strand-line plastic – allowing time for focusing on the natural forms of familiar Northern shorelines.   IMG_8703 (3)                         One of the lowest tides this winter took place on the 2nd February- allowing access to see some of the biggest and heaviest of our marine algae – Laminaria (Kelp) beautifully bowed over, shiny and relaxed in the slack water . IMG_8791 IMG_8790 IMG_8793 IMG_8798                 The ‘stand of the tide’ provided me the opportunity for a few hours observation of these brown  seaweeds. Close up its easy to appreciate that they produce the main plant material for the coastal food web. Anchored along the low water line and out into the sub-tidal zone the submerged kelp form ‘forests’ – a perfect habitat for fish, shellfish and other animals to get food and find hiding places. img006The rich biodiversity of our coastline is fascinating and clear to see when walking through this dynamic inter-tidal world/zone .

IMG_8800 IMG_8830 As the media begins to wake up to the ‘Plastic Pollution’ issue evidenced on our shore lines, I revel in my momentary ‘Plastic Free’ time in the Littoral Zones

reinvigorated  by many winter walks in this rich dynamic environment I am preparing to seek out support for my work – to visually tell the story of this important ecological CONTACT ZONE that is now constantly  battered and often smothered by our litter.

I am looking for online help to crowd fund for the next  phase of this project focusing on making work in public settings this year, to be toured to Harbours, Ports, Museums, Street Festivals next year. Please get in touch if you can offer any help by leaving a comment below or emailing me Julia Barton littoralartproject@btinternet.com