Close Examination

Close Examination

identifying plastic particles

Close Examination ULLAPOOL FERRY TERMINAL Fri 23 March 7.30 pm 

An investigative performance by S3 Ullapool High School pupils in collaboration with artist Julia Barton as part of the Littoral Art Project, telling the research journey that we have undertaken along Ullapool Harbour shoreline over the last few years.

Opens at 7.30pm for viewing the display of the Littoral Art Project findings recently exhibited at the Scottish Parliament. Plus updates on actions being taken to Beat Plastic Pollution by the Harbour’s Fishing for Litter Scheme and Ullapool Primary School’s ‘No Plastic Straw Campaign’. Performance starts 8pm – lasting approximately 30 mins

All welcome



Catch up – a week on an island

rowing across 1

After much anticipation waiting for the weather to improve, Sunday 18th saw a glassy calm loch before me in the late afternoon. Utter delight. Vital kit was packed into project dinghy and Johns’ support boat and we set off. The mile row across gave me time to absorb the stillness of the water and my happiness at making the final step to Isle Martin, a place I have observed from so many angles and have been acquiring information about.

row over map   kit to take rowing across 2 cal on look out

My notebook recalls the quiet, bird calls and the sheltered feeling that the harbour hamlet has. The keys the Trust gave me allow access to the Mill House where I am now resident, with the use of the Trusts information room in the Boat House for a studio. My days on the island are divided between the two buildings and the beach according to the weather and light

Mon: orientating myself, observing the beach from the raised beach, enjoying the sound of calling Oyster Catchers [calm, grey]
Tues: am steep climb looking for the water tank/ springs to turn water for the houses, no luck [sunny , hot] pm on the beach making notes setting up transect points on the beach for surveying[fog descends , followed by heavy rain and thunder] set up working in the Boat House testing out ways of stringing/lacing the litter together
Weds: am searched for water tank, fell in the bog but found a water tank only it serves a different building, [torrential rain] Set up Boat house with maps and information for High School visit. Beginning a map notebook

IM anticipation map IM fold up map

Thurs: High school visit [strong easterly wind] good engaging day,  hitched a lift to the mainland to buy supplies and a Dongle so as to be able to get internet connection.

Fri: Hitched a lift back to Isle Martin. Excited as I watched the laptop charge downloaded images but then charging stopped….. severe disappointment
Sat: am[clear, sunny] set about floating the first test litter lines in the harbour pm row across to Ardmair moorings to test computer battery connections.  Row back with another 12V battery [sunny, westerly wind, tide coming in] Tough going. Elated at making it!
Sun: laptop still not charging very frustrated[strong easterly winds all day] rowing not possible. Make notes about observations of litter line tests
Mon: Help arrives! Cables, battery and connectors tested non-functioning connector, duly cut off and strong new connectors fitted. Thanks to my wonderful support team ‘John’.  pm continued surveying the beach transect points. More details of key points to follow now I am back on line!
Many thanks to :
Isle Martin Trust for the access to the buildings and isle
John McIntyre for the loan of his Dinghy, a 12V battery, many cables and patience and persistence in making sure I have the power to keep the blog going
Ullapool Harbour Trust for ferrying the pupils to and from the Isle



Expedition preparations

Ullapool Museum has been a great place to research information about  Isle Martin in  between installing my ‘Future Fossil Collection’   (which is now up and running and I am hoping to be able to post a review soon) Isle Martin’s bird reserve records and documents on the Summer Isles have given me a quick over view of the history and wildlife which I am familiarising myself with when I have a quiet minute in the van. Local knowledge as always is proving invaluable.

looking out to Isle MArtin  Isle MArtin from Rhu

The lists and notes are multiplying  and  piles of materials & tools are being put together in the van (as far as possible)  in preparation for my residency on  on Isle Martin where I will carry out  my next beach investigation and to make my floating litter lines/rafts which will be towed  back to the mainland. Some at least I hope for recycling – we shall see. With the help of John MacIntyre local ecologist, engineer and boatman extraordinaire, I was able to make my first landing on the island last Friday to assess the beach I will be mapping the litter on and eventually cleaning .

John & Cal first landing on Isle Martin Back Beach the beach
Landing on the floating pontoon was easy and a great relief for Cal, though I’m sure by the end of the three weeks she will be a true sea-dog as we will have to make the crossing a few times.  Camas a’ Bhuailidh or Back beach is reached easily after a short walk from the harbour. For analysing beach litter it is unfortunately/fortunately perfect approximately 100m long and faces SW collecting litter easily from the prevailing winds and tides. As the island isn’t habited any more and their have been few visitors over the past few years the majority of the litter I note will be washed up, an unusual and  interesting factor. A quick recce along the strandline echoed many of the beach litter lists though much less carpeted with cut net pieces.
We shall see….I am hoping to paddle out to the island at the end of the week weather permitting.  Ullapool High School pupils will join me for a days mapping and constructing on Thursday 22nd.   Many thanks to the Isle Martin Trust for allowing me to lake my Littoral Art Project to the Island and to Kevin Peach and Ullapool Habour Trust for agreeing to ferry the pupils to the Isle and back.



‘That stuff never vanishes’

On Thursday  I caught up with Dougie MacCrimmond the official beach cleaner in Ullapool, who has been cleaning the beaches for the last six years, we walked and talked while  picking up pieces of  litter  along the western stretch of the beach.

 Dougie 1 Dougie 2 Dougie3

Dougie is employed by the Harbour Trust like his predecessor before him. As we walked I made my usual list of  litter objects  found each day while walking approximately 100m of the strand line along the beaches in and around Ullapool. I hope this catalogue of lists will  help me map the distribution of different  types of litter and its sources, some being more obvious than others .

As Dougie cleans the beach between three and four times a week.  This  explains why  the amount of litter seen on the beaches is relatively low compared to other coast towns and you only see the odd bottle, can or lump of polystyrene. He  tells me how the amount of rubbish depends on the wind & tides and when there has been a big storm he will come and do an extra days cleaning.  I must ask him next week whether the amount he collects is also influenced by the number of tourists in the town.

We discussed how  the smaller particles get caught and lodged between the rocks.  We talk about how overwhelming the amount of plastic on the beaches has become in the last 20 years and Dougie  adds ‘That Stuff never vanishes’.

Dougie portrait Dougie 4 litter in bag

We mused on the how to counter responses from people when we approach them about leaving litter.  Responses we have heard include’ The most usual response being ‘I am keeping you in a job’ or ‘I’m  keeping the council workers in a job !  Neither of us could come up with what words could persuade them to take their rubbish away and put it in a bin.  Any  ideas?

As we walked off the beach talking about  the issue of the day following a very wet and wild week  i.e the outlook for the afternoon  Dougie  told me ‘We say sometimes the  rain never forgets to go here’ ,  but as  I walked away the rain did stop but unfortunately  I could see another piece of plastic I had missed. By the end of our short walk he reckoned he had collected about 56lbs of rubbish in his bag , several hundred pieces of rubbish.