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Here is a screen capture from new video work titled cordite cove and a text to give some insight


Christopher Boyne, 2014


During a winter storm in 1942, the steamship Clare Lilley ran aground while waiting for a pilot to assist in entering Halifax Harbour.   The ship was fully loaded carrying steel tube, aircraft tires, a deck load of machinery and vehicles, and over one thousand tons of munitions including cordite pellets (multi-perforated smokeless powder grains). Most of the valuable cargo including the machinery and vehicles were salvaged immediately but most of the munitions were left to sink in the hold of the ship. On the sea floor, the ship eventually broke in half exposing this dangerous cargo to the tides and currents. In the mid 1960’s, Navy divers recovered over 600 bombs from the site but to this day, millions of pieces of cordite still litter the seafloor.

Cordite Cove itself is very small about the size of a tennis court. There are steep rock cliffs on three sides and the Atlantic Ocean bare to the horizon on the other. The beach is covered with course pebbly sand. The forest leading to the cliffs is scraggly and thick with brush and fallen trees and cutting a path is very difficult. The cliffs are steep but a natural pathway leads down to the pebble beach. You must time your passage through the lowest section of this pathway with the rolling swells coming in off the Atlantic or you could get swept into the rocky ocean.

On the beach, digging through the sand, you will find the small pellets of cordite. You can collect maybe a hundred pieces in half an hour if you were quick and focused with the work. I used to go when I was a kid to collect the pellets in glass jars.

We would burn the cordite to feel its heat and watch its white-hot glow. It burns at a very high temperature and I remember it being able to melt itself into asphalt. Evan and Colin and I would melt action figures with the little pellets, stick them in the entrance-ways of anthills and load them in film canisters or pill bottles making bombs that never worked. Mostly, we would make ‘cordite rockets’ by tightly twisting a piece of cordite into a small square of tin foil. We would lay this tin foil packet on top of a piece or two of cordite and light the whole mess with a match. The pressure would build inside the foil and the piece inside would take flight shooting through the air burning in a white flash. The rockets would fly in any direction.

Recently I visited Cordite Cove with two of my oldest friends. I filmed the two and myself as we searched for cordite amongst the sand and pebbles. Though we all participate in the hunt, it is Colin’s focus that is the most intense and of the greatest interest. He shares his technique with Donald who quickly loses interest and gives up to skip rocks over the waves and talk about cars and sailboats. I too mostly give up focusing instead on Colin’s commentary and the beauty and rawness of that place. Little pings are heard in the audio as Colin drops piece after piece of cordite into the glass mason jar and a big sweeping noise comes as he uses his feet to push the top layer of larger pebbles away to reveal the cordite rich smaller pebbles and sand below.

I see the project not so much as a document of cordite cove the place and its history, but something that chronicles the shared history of a group of boys: boyhood, brotherhood, pranks, pyromania, love and dirt.