First glimpse inside

At last, a first look inside the stone. Here, we have picked out one of the air cavities in the roach and turned it red. We took quite some time to find a suitable Portland Screw to work with, but after a morning hunting came across this beauty. This is just the beginning… Thanks Jack for your help with this. 

In exactitude lies beauty

Just revisiting the work of nature writer Richard Mabey, and in particular his radio essay The Scientist and The Romantic. He is so precise with his prose, and many of his exquisite descriptions of birds and their songs have stuck in my mind over the years. I am looking for something here; perhaps it is his emphasis of ‘exactness’ that is relevant to Portland. I am not sure. (The picture is a still from a short ‘video drawing’ I made a couple of years ago, entitled ‘Birdsong’, which is itself made from recorded birdsong.)

µ-VIS (Volume Imaging Scanner)

The CT scanner at the University of Southampton is a whole room! The door is made with four tons of lead, and once that is closed then the only way to see what is happening is on the CCTV. You can see the column of roach stone on the left, with the x-ray source next to it; the right hand picture shows the same from above. What is vital to this scanner from my point of view is the ‘µ’ in the title, which stands for ‘micron (that is one thousandth of a millimetre). This scanner is very high resolution, so should be able to show up the minutest details of the fossils within the stone. I say should, as it is going to take 19 hours of scanning, so I won’t see the results until tomorrow. Thanks Mark for a fascinating day.

A Natural History of Pseudomorphs

With the fieldwork now completed, it feels like I am back where I began, ready to start out on the next phase of the commission: tomorrow I am off to Southampton University to start the CT scanning of the roach stone and onto Winchester School of Art to look at 3D printing. The project is now shaping up under a new working title: A Natural History of Pseudomorphs. Looking back at this image, the first on the blog, it now appears to me to have some pseudomorphic qualities (a shape that could be made up of a number of different substances: water? radar equipment?) – but then again it might just be that I am seeing pseudomorphs everywhere at the moment!

Transforming the roach IV

Spent yesterday evening in the cathedral (re)filming the cutting of the roach stone into a cylinder, this time with Oogoo recording sounds for the commission. Looking forward to working with Oogoo over the next few months on shaping the sounds from the whole process – quarry, cathedral, scanner and Bill –  for the final show. The commission is now focussing on the concept of the pseudomorph and how this relates to Portland; what is interesting talking to Oogoo is that in acoustic terms there is the ‘envelope’ of a sound, its outer shape as it were, and it is possible to take the envelope from one sound and fill it with another sound: a sonic pseudomorph. Lets see where this leads!

Here be dragons

In days gone by when you came to the edge of the known world, to terra incognita or (in the case of the sea) mare incognitum, cartographers were allowed to let their imaginations roam with the depiction of a threatening sea serpents or in some cases the caption “here be dragons”! Today, just off the southern tip of Portland, sadly there are no dragons, just the edge of the scan: the point at which the airborne scanning equipment was switched off as the airplane turned around ready for its next sweep inland. So the area I am interested in, The Race (in the dotted square), is somewhat incomplete, but fascinating none the less… (PS. looks like I have found a boat to go out onto The Race and film it close up. Can’t wait!)


Showing Oogoo (musician/composer) around Portland today in preparation for collaborating on the soundtrack for the project. It is the first time we have worked together, so feeling our way into how this might be. As luck would have it, the weather today has been fantastic so we have both ended up sun drenched and wind blown, with some good sound recordings made during the day. Great start!