Along the fringe waters of Beadnell Bay, where the sand holds a warmth to make a slow paddle bearable, tatters, strands and hobnailed holdfasts are pulsed onto the beach with each incoming wave. Wearied, rotting and dried-out laminarias – the kelps – straddle high tide marks along the beach, with red epiphyte wrapped around their stipes or stems. Feathers, shells, crab parts, fishing tackle and other flotsam are gathered in their tangles.
I watch the slow flexing movements of oarweed (laminaria digitata) and cuvie (laminaria hyperborea) in the shallows, ripped by wilder autumn seas from deep-water forests of the lower shore and beyond. They move so gracefully in this last dance. The stipes lie horizontal now, pushed, pulled, pushed, as the waves edge them closer and closer to beaching. The fronds are swaying in the currents, slow-motion whips, the many arms of the Hindu warrior goddess Durga.
Water is a powerful force for such tall-growing seaweeds to contend with, and kelps harbour an incredible tensile strength in their alginic chemistry, engineered to bend when their cores are shaken. Dried out on the beach edge, they are steel cables. Try breaking one. In spite of this, autumn and winter sea-storms thin the canopy, sweeping the magnificent plants to dry land.
The thing that catches my attention is the way they move, and I want to find ways of visually describing the slow sweeping motion of the water trees. So I’m looking at the plants before they reach the shore, in the lift and suck of the flood tide. Frame by frame. Sway by sway.