February 11, 2005

the antenna

Landscope was built by myself, Daniel Jewesbury, Paul Moore, Mike Hogg and Nicky Keogh. Mike made most of the shed, while Daniel, Paul and myself assembled the antenna mast.

We built the mast on its side, bolting together the sections of aluminum tubing and rigging the antenna itself, two 23 and a half foot dipoles. The tricky bit was attaching it to its base, a cross made from 4 lengths of 4 by 2. Each of the arms of the cross were made from two lengths, between which the ends of the mast had to be bolted. Typically, we didn't have a drill bit long enough to go through two widths of timber and the mast, necessitating a trial and error approach, drilling in from both sides.

By the time we'd attached the base and lifted the mast to its upright position, night had fallen. The weather had cleared, the rain had finally stopped, the sporadic gusts of wind had died down and the lough, into which we had to carry the mast, was calm.

The attendant BBC crew had had the foresight to blag four dry suits for us to wear . . . all in one wellington boots and rubber overalls, black below the waist with yellow tops, trimmed with tight rubber collar and cuffs. The diagonal zips, from hip to opposite shoulder, leant the appearance of a retro future space man crossed with oil rig worker.

Taking a corner of the wooden frame each, and lifting, we slowly walked to the bank of the lough, now lit by the BBC, and carried it out into the water, into the ink black void of moonless Lough Neagh, step by careful step.

With its wooden frame base, it had begun to resemble a strange craft, a raft rigged for abstract purpose, to be launched on a journey into the unknown, flighted on the geometry of its inverted sails, the negative space of the masts poles.

Setting it down on the stony bed of the lough, it floated up, surprisingly buoyant, completing its metamorphosis into a vessel, ready to float beyond our reach, toward the horizon, where the lough melted into night.

While one man stood at the apex of the base, holding the mast, like a castaway, a voyager, we piled rocks on the wooden beams until it rested, anchored by their weight, on the lough bed.

Thanks to Marcia Farquhar for some of these images.

Posted by Jem Finer at February 11, 2005 7:48 PM