An estuary is continual turbulence. The tidal forces of the open sea move hard against the higher regions of land, the regions from where maps are made. Those maps mark the two lands, split by the tides and softened by the imperative of rivers as they run to the sea. Maps can chart a channel, a changing sandbank, a buried ship, a danger zone. But they cannot show the restless pull of sea and wind. Or mark the intimacies between the life of the sea and the life of the land.
The tides of the Solway Firth are among the most turbulent around this island, a fast sweep from the Irish Sea into the soft sands of the rivers Esk, Eden and Nith. A line across the blank blue of a map etches the division between Scotland and England. The middle of that sea is not a place where humans can live, but we can find sanctuary in the unfolding of life in the tidal muds and in the migrations of the human imagination across the sea surface. The Latin word vastus described the immensity of the sea, its emptiness and its waste.
The UK Ministry of Defence fired at least 30 tonnes of artillery shells containing Depleted Uranium into the Solway Firth, to test those munitions on behalf of an unnamed ‘Customer’. The firings began in the 1980’s from the Kirkcudbright Training Range in Dumfries and Galloway, and on land at Eskmeals in Cumbria. The date of the latest confirmed firings is not certain, possibly 2011 or 2013, and the license to test fire may be continuing beyond that date. The MOD have justified this illegal dumping of radioactive waste into the sea as being ‘placements’. Attempts to retrieve the shells have failed. Their locations are unknown. MOD scientific reports declare that there is no hazard presented to human military or civil populations from this dumping, or from the misfires or contaminated materials on land.
The firings were a rehearsal and were hostile fire on a homeland, not only the infusion of nuclear waste into the wild sea. How can one understand the slow corrosion that remains? What does it mean for a place, a people, to cohere with the unseen objects of war? What is it to be a target? How do you make a life with, or disavow, the symptoms of the civil-military nuclear complex?
Outrage is a power. This arts project intends to transform those energies and make them work in other ways.
‘the sea cannot be depleted’ is not a continuation of the investigative journalism or activist research that brought this situation into the public domain. Rather, this project sees the firings as episodes in the interlocked mesh of relations between the military, the nuclear industries, the arms corporations, capital, colonialism and political desires for international status. Uranium makes the situation timeless and without location. It casts a silence around the sea, and around the human place.
The Journal charts the research process. Together, the audio piece and Journal research materials comprise a Solway repository.
The Journal page, Where the sea has travelled, lists the places where the audio performance has been played to a public audience and the essays and interviews that are accompanying the piece.
‘the sea cannot be depleted’, the spoken word piece and the content of this website, is by Wallace Heim. The project is funded by Future’s Venture Foundation.
Camille Marmié, Vincent Friell, Lisa Howard
Composer & Sound Designer
Writer & Producer