I’d flown into Guernsey the day before my appointment with the environmental health team at the quarry site. What little I knew about Guernsey was it’s status as an offshore centre and as a holiday destination. It’s not a place I’d thought about much and it seemed that my obsessive inspection of maps of the island to get a sense of the quarry’s position on the island hadn’t given me a sense of the island itself. We flew in low over the channel and ahead of me I saw the island almost like a mesa or table mountain in the sea - steep sided and field topped with black granite rocks scattered around the coast.
I wanted to get a good sense of the area before meeting on site. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this place; even before starting the project I’d remembered reading about the quarry and seeing the extraordinary photos of the black oil filled quarry. I’m not sure which of the things had really come first in my imagination, the wreck or the final resting place of it’s pollution, but the sensation of being finally at the site made me hurry towards it.
Guernsey’s small and the headland that contained the quarry had the strange illusion of a model world, the golf course and sea defences, archaeological sites and shooting club all butted up against each other. I’d encounter this feeling of being in a model over and over again; in the Land’s End entertainment complex carpark, later in on the office park near by Hotel in St Peter Port I’d come across a model grouping of menhirs. And then there was the all too human scale of the neolithic monuments. I’d even find that the flat high ground over looking the side of the quarry was itself a model airplane flying club. I was getting this disorientating feeling of scale being out of whack - dealing with both impossibly deep timeframes but also an increasingly odd sense of scale in relation to my own body.
I found the quarry gates and looked in. In the break in the rain the sun had warmed the granite walls and oiled surface of the water and I could smell the crude oil. For the first time I wanted to own some of it. Not as an idle thought, I was overwhelmed with it like a hunger, to touch and ultimately have and keep some of this black shining dirt in the quarry.