Coffs Coast Artists Collaborate to Show White Bluff Project

Chris Armstrong drawing inspiration on White Bluff. Photo: Mark George.


ARTISTS of different mediums and marine scientists are currently collaborating on a project set to open at the Regional Gallery in March.

The White Bluff Project.explores the headland off Headland Road, Sapphire Beach which has a white portion and is the eastern point where Split Solitary Island was connected to the mainland.

The project originated with Ray Rixon and Sarah Mufford.

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Mr Rixon lived near the headland for 40 years, surf, swam and painted there.

Sarah Mufford told News Of The Area there are so many extraordinary points to what was considered ordinary.

The collaboration brings together different creatives from writers, filmmakers, musicians and visual artists.

Ms Mufford is currently collaborating with poet Chris Armstrong and Gumbaynggirr artist Tory Donelly on a diptych.

“The poem is translated into Gumbaynggirr and the work references the geology and the post colonial history.

We have used a community sourced typography from the Coffs Harbour Museum used on the banana packing cases as White Bluff was the first site for growing bananas in the area,” she said.

“The project has a great crossover from the arts and sciences,” said Ms Mufford.

Artists and scientists involved in research and fieldwork for The White Bluff Project have stumbled on a rare find in the water off White Bluff.

Marine Biologist, Dr Karina Hall, and artists Jo Elliott and Julie Nash joined forces to study, explore and sample the microscopic life found in the seawater off White Bluff’s coastline.

The group made two excursions to collect seawater samples with the idea of investigating the microscopic phyto (algae) and zooplankton (animal larvae) that provide the foundation of the marine food chain.

“Our first trip involved all three of us armed with buckets and funnels sampling the seawater from the rockpools at Sawtell Headland,” explains Marine Biologist Dr Karina Hall.

“And the second trip I completed on my own because of Covid restrictions.

“On that trip I took samples from the rockpools at White Bluff having obtained permission from the marine parks manager.”

Artist Jo Elliott describes how they collected a combination of seawater and surface scum as they were all interested in what critters may reside in both.

“We used funnels and buckets to collect a large quantity of seawater which we carried back to our cars in large plastic tubs to be analysed at the Marine Science Centre.

“We also found some structural phytoplanktons with groovy shapes.

“But our favourite by far was the discarded exoskeletons (known technically as exuviae) of the rock barnacles.

“Most people know barnacles from their outer crusty shells that are fixed to rock surfaces. But barnacles are not molluscs, they are crustaceans living inside these houses,” Ms Elliott said.

“They actually have another finer exoskeleton similar to prawns or shrimp, as well as their barnacle house.

“Like other crustaceans they periodically shed this exoskeleton as they grow.

“Looking at our samples we were amazed to see an extremely long attachment to one of the exuviae so, I consulted an expert planktologist to find out exactly what it was.”

Ms Elliott was surprised to find out exactly what it was.

“It turned out to be the covering of the male barnacle’s reproductive appendage,” she said.

“Apparently, barnacles have the longest penis relative to body size in the animal kingdom, which they use to pass sperm from the male to a female nearby, while remaining fixed to the rock!

“According to the planktologist this was quite a rare find and he asked if he could use the image in the next edition of his book.”

Apart from this unique find, Dr Hall and the two artists were amazed at the wide diversity of creatures they found.

For all the artists collaborating it has been a treasure trove of secret and magical forms that have informed their final artworks for the White Bluff Project exhibition which is due to open on 12 March 2021.


By Sandra MOON


Julie Nash, Jo Elliott looking at their phytoplanktic find. Photo: Dr Karina Hall.

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