Sunday, 23 November 2008

Looking back

On a more quiet note, Jo and I have been to Spurn to say good bye for now.

Vehement elements

Ten days ago, when we had a test projection on the 1:3 maquettes of the threaded screens, a friend said: 'this looks like a body'. He was talking about the yellow buoy being tossed about in the video.
This comment brought back the vehemence of the sea as I had felt it during the performance. And again it brought to mind the book I had read about the history of the Spurn Lifeboat Station, the first one hundred years. (see: Books about Spurn)
Or rather, I recalled some of the countless tales that describe the life and drama of the lifeboat families at Spurn Point 100 to 200 years ago. - And in the light of these stories the buoys slightly seemed to shift their hue and meaning.

(Extract from Spurn notebook)

Images: Jo Millett

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Wide Screen

Another test to project the Fr-agile footage of the whole scenery (click here to see projection of close-ups). The curved screen consists of about 25 threads /inch and is composed of different materials to find out which threads work best.

Maquette 120 x 120 x 70cm (1:3) of wide screen

View from right hand side

Fr-agile / wide screen 2 from Onspurn Artist on Vimeo.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Another screen

A screen stretching between floor and wall (as in post of 10 Sept 08) seems to be good to project close-ups. So, I've been working to find a shape to project some footage of the whole of the scenery.

Currently I'm building such a 'wide-screen', about 1:3 in scale, as well as a new close-up screen.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Test screen

Working out possible proportions and shapes for a threaded screen. The warp is still on the loom but ready to be cut and transformed.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Taking up the thread

There are plans to project Jo's video footage of Fr-agile onto a gently curved screen - similar to the shadows cast on Aire - Wave.
For 1 1/2 years this warp is waiting on my loom to be used for maquettes I started making... was it waiting to be tested as a screen?

Thursday, 14 August 2008


Performance [morning]

Friday, 8 August. I leave the Warren Cottage after 4am. It is dark and windy and rain is pouring down on me. By the time I reach the blocks I know that my clothes - supposed to be weather-proof - aren't waterproof at all.

By 5am I have tied the yellow blocks to the fixings prepared the previous day.

The yellow glows in the twilight and when the rain stops the changing light makes me forget that I am wet to the skin.

The plan was to start filming at 6am when the water reached the blocks. However at six a thick cloud was shedding its cargo again into the wind. No good conditions for Jo's precious video camera... Sheltered in the car we waited for better times.

Finally, by 7:30 filming started. The northeasterly wind brought in the tide fast.

Agitated North Sea - and bitterly cold air in mid summer.

40 minutes later all the defence blocks had almost disappeared.

And within the next hour - while the light and atmosphere were changing constantly - all the yellow blocks, one by one, swam ashore.



The Silicone tubing which connected the 'yellow dots' with their concrete counterparts is very pull resistant and elastic. Yet the power of the waves, colliding with the defense blocks and the embedded metal bits, cut through the cords leaving the buoys stranded - like the longshore drift from the Holderness Coast that builds Spurn over time.



In the afternoon after the tide receded: The tubes were so flexible and light, they moved easily with the waves. The Sea created knots and plaits and drawings.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Building buoys

The floating blocks are almost ready. My old sewing machine did her job and I'm thankful she didn't leave me in the lurch. Now we just have to drink one more bottle of Volvic. Then I can do the last bit.

Yesterday evening I did a bit of 'project management'. Stefan's prophecy is that everything will be different ... however the three days we are planning to stay on Spurn to me will be pretty much defined by the tides and when the sea gives the defence blocks free. It is first quarter moon, so the tides are moderate - just four metres difference between high and low tide. At full or new moon it can be up to 7m.

The red line in the tide table shows when about the defence blocks are accessible without me being swept away. If all goes well and the weather cooperates Jo will be recording the movement of the Yellow in the rising tide next Friday early in the morning.

Today I gathered all the bits and pieces such as tools, nuts and bolts, ropes. As usual everything takes longer than planned. And the question remains: what did I forget?

Tuesday, 29 July 2008


4 buoys
Almost all materials I need to build some floating buoys have now been delivered. For example high visibility fabric, ropes, silicon tubing (the kind of tubes often used in hospitals for all types of fluids) and empty water bottles. So, towards the end of this week I will be able to actually build the floats. They will represent some of the yellow dots in the map about Shifting Spurn.

In order to find out the right size for these swimming devices I marked them into an image. - This is the way to do it when you haven't got a car to quickly drive to Spurn.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Rising tide

We walked to neck where the sea defence blocks are. The concrete blocks in the images below have been anti-tank blocks. Now they defend Spurn against the sea.
We arrived shortly after low tide and stayed until it was almost high tide. The rising tide was a stunning performance. The waves came in with enormous force to then collide with the blocks. Three days after full moon, this was a strong tide. - When we left after 6pm most of the blocks were submerged and the water level was still rising.

I had prepared some floats to try out another time but had them with me. They looked just ridiculous … far too small and not appropriate. So, I’ve changed and adapted my idea. It’s become simpler. And the materials I’d like to use will be stronger.

The subtleties of english language

We've been to Spurn last Sunday, Jo, Stefan and I. Finally an almost dry day after a rainy period. First we met Andrew Gibson and I learned that Spurn neck was never breached - as it said in my blog - but only washed-over! The breach was further south where the chalk bank is. So, I've updated my vocabulary and  changed these posts (About Spurn).

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Books about Spurn

• Spurn Lifeboat Station, the first hundred years: the history of Spurn Lifeboat Station from 1810 to May 1911 / Benfell, Roy
• Memories of Spurn in the 1880's / Jarratt, George
• The people along the sand: the Spurn Peninsula and Kilnsea, a history 1800-2000 / Crowther, Jan
• Sailing the rails: a new history of Spurn and its military railway Frost, Howard M.
• A history of the Spurn lighthouses De Boer, G.
• Spurn Head postal history / Ward, Ronald
• Growing up on Spurn Head / Kendall, Ronald
• The Spurn Head Railway: the history of a unique military line 3rd ed. Hartley, Kenneth E.
• An historical atlas of East Yorkshire / Neave, Susan

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Shifting Spurn

I had a closer look at an aerial view of Spurn's 'neck' - the area where the sea defence blocks are. I compared it with the same section of the 1852 map* and tweaked the two maps to the same scale. The image shows the maps overlaid. See the enlarged version.

The full yellow line shows what remains of the Spurn peninsula at an "ordinary spring tide" in 1852. The dashed yellow line running vertically through the middle of the image roughly outlines the former shore of Spurn towards the Humber - a strip of sand and shingles. On the enlarged version of the image you can see that the group of sea defence blocks are positioned between these two yellow lines. So, the defence blocks spreading along the seaside today in this area happen to outline the riverside of Spurn in the 1850's.

I'm thinking of the static blocks of stone - meant to protect against the dynamic forces of wind, weather and waves - and the shifting landscape. Taking these aspects into account I'd like to mark a stretch of the defence blocks which by chance outline some of the 1852 Spurn. I will need to have another look at the real Spurn - the tides in this area and the actual blocks.

*with thanks to the Dept. of Geography, University of Hull

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Another look at the sea defences

While the tide was receding last Thursday we walked along the sea side. I continued to have another look at the sea defense blocks. They are positioned at the neck of Spurn - the most vulnerable part of the spit I think. The images are views from the same spot towards south and north.
The image below shows an aerial view of the scene. Interestingly the old road is marked as it must have been before it was washed away. Now it would lead into the sand and towards the sea. (The almost continuous line of blocks on the beach are the remains of the road that has been swept away.)

Click here to see a larger section.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Tides at the tip of Spurn

OS mapsignLast Thursday we - Jo and I - went to Spurn for a day. I wanted to find out more about the movements of the tides at the tip of the peninsula.

First I felt confused whether we were really at the tip. Instead of the open sea - as I expected - there was a strip of land at the horizon. It's not easy to orientate yourself when there's water all around you.

A look at the OS map shows that Spurn points straight towards the opposite shore of the Humber - a fact I wasn't aware of previously...

I marked the line where high tide left some debris at about 11:10 with a flag. Another flag marked the edge of the water when we arrived at 13:10.

I came back 4 hours later after a walk - almost at low tide. I measured in steps how much the water had receded from high to low tide. It must have been almost 60m. And according to the tide table the water level receded by about 4.4 meters in height.

The dark cloud in the image threw water at me horizontally when I walked back to Jo who was waiting for me in the car. I arrived there soaking wet - luckily only at my backside.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Present Spurn

The present peninsula started to form around 1600. In 1849 a storm breached Spurn (see strip12 on the map below) and "the peninsula became a string of islands" at high tide.
From the 1850’s onwards sea defences kept Spurn artificially in the same position. During the World wars it became a military stronghold - a reason to further upgrade the sea defences.
In 1961 the Ministry of Defence sold Spurn to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. The trust now runs the area as a nature reserve. The sea defences are left to deteriorate and the natural process can take over again. - Today erosion continues to eat into Spurn. At spring tide wash-overs of the neck occur from time to time.
(amended 21 July)

The map shows coastal changes around Spurn over the last 150 years. It combines 1st edition OS maps (1851/52) with recent aerial photographs (c Getmapping 2000).
I found this info in the following files:
Development of Spurn Peninsula
The Holderness Coastline - The Management of Coastal Erosion

update 2019: all the original links as above (in small print) are no more active, but please see:

Spurn cycles

Earlier on I mentioned that I’m looking into the phases of the moon and the rhythm of the tides at Spurn. Now I found out that not only the moon is waxing and waning but that Spurn is cyclic as well: "[Spurn] is a fluid feature, it is thought to undergo a life cycle of some 250 years, during which it gets destroyed, is reborn some metres further westward, stabilises, and then is destroyed again."

The story in more detail: Spurn is built by the sands and gravels eroded from the Holderness cliffs. These cliffs north of the peninsula recede about 2 meters per year. The eroded material is transported south by longshore drift. It forms a spit in lee with the coast line.
Later, when the north easterly waves eat further into the coast, Spurn itself becomes exposed and prone to erosion. It seems that the peninsula has been washed away in a cycle of about 250 years. It then reformed west of its former position to keep pace with the erosion of the cliffs.

Another more recent theory by the Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies suggests that only the link to the Holderness coast has changed. The tip of Spurn Point is anchored to glacial moraines dumped after the last ice age. So, it should be stable.*

Who knows? Probably Spurn will keep some of its secrets.
(amended 21 July)

*From: 'Sailing the Rails' by H. M. Frost

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Another trial

15:1115:4215:4415:51I replaced the threaded polystyrene balls (see "Watching the tides") with another foam like substance: popcorn - a biodegradable form of polystyrene I thought.

At low tide (2:22pm) the sea looked very quiet. At about 3pm I marked the edge of the water with two sticks: to hold the thread and mark the water level (image 1).

The tide started to come in again and the waves showed their full power: image 2 and 3. The threaded popcorn looked nothing but fragile - it jammed and was torn apart.

After about forty minutes the water level was high enough to submerge the sticks - a last bit of the floating thread still swimming with the waves: image 4. It will eventually get loose and float away.

I got a big laugh for this from my companion. - Well... this is how my work develops.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Drawn by the wind

Drawings in the sands of Spurn made by wind and water. (Negatives)


A friend from Leeds, Max, came over to Hull and together we visited Spurn yesterday.
The sand at the Point was full of caterpillars. Some of them were on the edge of the water and seemed to be keen to get into it. Others tried to climb a sandy slope and reach the grass above. Max filmed their Sisyphus-like struggle. It was a pointless task: when we looked again 3½ hours later they were still at the same spot but didn't move anymore... Though they left their mark - on the skin of my neck. Some of their tiny poisonous hairs must have been flying about. They can cause rashes. They did and it itches.

More about caterpillars on Spurn or here's a video.
Images of: Brown Tail Moth & caterpillar

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Cotidal lines in the North Sea

Also in April I read a book about how lunar cycles influence living organisms: "Moon Rhythms in Nature" by K-P Endres & W Schad. There I found this map which shows how tidal waves in the North Sea move counterclockwise in circles. High tide runs along the east coast from Edinburgh to Bridlington. An hour later it arrives on Spurn to then turn eastwards to another continent - to the shores of Holland, Germany and Denmark - da capo al fine.

Monday, 5 May 2008

It's rainy

April provided excellent weather to stay inside and read. For instance some articles about climatic change in a German scientific journal (Forschung & Lehre 2/07). The texts are written in a sober style which I found good to read. I remember hearing some of this some twenty years ago in a physics lecture. One writer compares the task ahead of us with tiding the Augean Stables or rather that the Augean Stables are a perfume shop compared with what lies ahead of us.
I think there is a social aspect in all of this as well. It has something to do with the rapid technological development over the past 100 to 150 years and that humans - morally and emotionally - are barely able to keep pace. "The problem is not the atom bomb, but the heart of the people" Einstein said.

In a dialogue with F Mennekes Beuys states:
"[…] The only thing that is worth elevating is the human soul. I now mean “soul” in the extensive way[...] not only emotional life, but also the powers of realization, the capability of thought, intuition, inspiration, I-consciousness, and the power of the will. All these are phenomena which have been seriously damaged in our day.* They must be saved. Consequently, everything else is saved anyway. Without these very thoughts it makes no sense so to say, to try and grow better potatoes."
Beuys on Christ. A Position in Dialogue / Friedhelm Mennekes - Joseph Beuys (1984)

*Ralph Turner calls it "anaesthetised society" when writing about Julie Cook's work.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Earth and Moon

I'm looking at the rhythm of the tides at Spurn (EasyTide) and try to find out how they relate to the movement of the moon - recalling how earth, moon and sun relate to each other.

Earth as if seen from the Moon and .............vice versa (from Hull/UK)
15 April 2008 at 21h45: The waxing moon in its meridian (45.6°). At this time it is low tide on Spurn. - Seen from the moon the blue planet appears like a negative mirror image of its natural satellite. (View of Earth from the Moon)