I love and I can appreciate both what happens above the water and what happens underneath it. It’s a very meditative experience, I feel like I relax straight away and there’s that the sense of weightlessness.
I also love the strength and physicality of storms at the beach and in the ocean – feeling the power of the waves, the wind and rain. As a child I used to and still do go out in a storm just to feel it and to experience the wrack filled with different organisms left by the aftermath of a storm. That physical feeling is something that I love and makes me feel part of it.
In terms of my internal or emotional world or landscape, my connection with the sea has a strong sense of relationship with my family.
My marine research includes an interest in people and the way they use the coast whether it’s just sunbaking or collecting or it has cultural importance for them in some other way. All these things influence how and why people value the coast and what they want to protect there. People are part of the ecology.
Going underwater not long after a storm is an incredible experience as well to see what’s changed. If you’re familiar with the place and you know it very well, you can clearly see how things have changed after a great big storm, how huge amounts of kelp have been ripped off. So areas of seabed they were covered in kelp before and are now completely bare. It regrows, but for the time being, it’s a very different and more barren landscape than what it was before. The colours are very different, the whole landscape looks entirely different, and the sand has changed as well. The huge amounts of kelp and other seaweeds, or the fish that didn’t survive — that’s another part of that whole mix of debris, living or dead organisms.
They’re all part of that mix of dead things that you find on the beach after a storm. It becomes a much more complex, for me, odour or smell than just seaweed, because seaweed’s only one part of it, but to me, I don’t find it a distasteful odour because it’s reminiscent of marine life. Its just part of the natural cycle of things and it’s a whole mix of — we call it “wrack” — [the] remains of things that get washed up on the beach. It is paradox of that strong physical sense; being underneath the wave as it’s rolling over the top, it could be on the one hand a quite a scary experience, but on the other hand, it’s also very peaceful.
The fact that I know something so well through science doesn’t take away [or] detract from its magical qualities or its wonderful qualities.
Briny air, living algae and rotting wrack
Prof. William Gladstone