Jewels Of The Sea
Art Seaham County Durham

Jewels Of The Sea

Art In Seaham, County Durham

34 pieces of enlarged micro marine life made from weathered Corten steel by Andrew McKeown at East Shore Village, Seaham.

When driving or walking along the Vane Tempest East Shore end of Seaham you may notice some curious artwork which resemble a box of chocolates or Maltesers. These sculptures are not in homage to Cadburys, but are actually diatoms. What is that I hear you ask? They are a type of algae.

If you have a good mooch around you will find 34 of these cast-iron sculptures by Andrew McKeown known as the Jewels Of The Sea.

Diatoms are single-celled, have an opaque appearance, are made from a form of glass (opaline silica) and are minute.

Stephanopyxis is a very tiny diatom. From its pointy bits to other pointy bits it is 24-71µm (1 µm = 0.001mm). Apparently, diatoms are fascinating under a microscope here's a photo on the right courtesy of

The artist, Andrew McKeown, is also known for organic work such as walnuts, sycamore seeds, apples, and pears. He is also the artist for Word Beacon at South Shields. He works in casting Corten steel.

The idea behind Jewels of the Sea is the regeneration on what was the Vane Tempest mining site. He was commissioned by the Yuill, Miller, Haslam Consortia for the entrance site to the East Shore Village housing development and worked on this project between 2003 and 2006.

Diatoms were first discovered/observed in 1703 under a microscope. To quell your interest you can find information in the World Register of Marine Species (WORMS) There are 20,000 to 2 million species, so that should keep you busy!

The spiral one is called Helisira which I guess is to scale in this sculpture at 300 x 120 cm x 300mm. That's 30 metres unwound. Those Maltesers are quite aesthetically pleasing. I counted 50.

The diatoms are neither plant nor animal and produce 20% of the oxygen we breathe. They form an important part of the food chain for marine and freshwater plankton. They are asexual and some have dense cell walls which cause them to sink rapidly. Here's a microscopic photo from Wikipedia on the right.

The round one is called Asteromphalus and there were several around the park. Like all diatoms they live for about 6 days, which Wikipedia describes as boom and bust. Their lifecycle is dependent on the level of sunlight and nutrients, however, their silica cell walls can last for hundreds to millions of years in sedimentary rocks.

I think you can tell which one is the gull's favourite! It's called Diploneis. There are 400 known species of this one at the moment.

The sculptures are all close together, so it's a nice easy wander to find them all.

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54.845664, -1.338231

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54.846337, 54.846337

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Parking is available opposite at Vane Tempest car park. Please take care crossing the road.

Contributed by Rosalind Parker

Thanks for reading through and getting to the end of this post. I enjoy exploring the Fabulous North (Especially as a Southerner residing up North). I like 'snippets' of information, and more so, if they are obscure, amusing or meaningful. The photographs are taken on a mobile phone, without any enhancements.

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Jewels Of The Sea was listed in Art // County Durham // Seaham