New sculpture on Portland highlights man’s violation of the sea

The Ocean Stone is unveiled

The Ocean Stone unveiled.

The Portland Sculpture & Quarry Trust (PSQT) and Greenpeace UK have unveiled a new artwork in Portland limestone called ‘The Ocean Stone’, to highlight the importance of protecting the oceans and raise awareness of the destruction human activities wreak on them.

The Ocean Stone is one of 12 ‘Memory Stones’, an artwork by Hannah Sofaer, a major player in the PSQT. The Memory Stones overlook Tout Quarry on the island of Portland, off the coast of Weymouth in Dorset.

Each of the stones has its own significance, linking the historical culture, crafts and land use in Portland to the future. The Ocean Stone is the first of the 12 to be unveiled.

In September, Greenpeace built an underwater barrier of 18 boulders in the English Channel’s South West Deeps Marine Protected Area (MPA) to protect the seafloor from destructive industrial fishing.

The boulders were of Portland limestone and artists from PSQT carved one of them into an ammonite sculpture, evocative of the ocean’s role in sustaining life for millions of years and of our responsibility to preserve it for future generations.

The Ocean Stone unveiling

The unveiling of The Ocean Stone on Portland on 16 February.

The Ocean Stone faces out to sea in the direction of the underwater boulders. The stone is inscribed as follows: “Stand with your back to this stone and look out to sea. 307 miles southwest of here lies an underwater barrier of boulders like these protecting the ocean from destructive industrial fishing and, with it, all of our futures. This ocean stone commemorates the collaboration between the Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust and Greenpeace defending and safeguarding the UK's marine protected areas in an ocean that has sustained life for millions of years.”

The inscription moves in waves across the natural surface of the stone, reflecting the waves of the ocean.

The surface of the stone was prepared for the inscription by having ribbons carved into it for the lettering, which flows upwards to represent the potential for a positive future if man respects and protects the oceans and its lifeforms now.

Artist Hannah Sofaer said: "Here in Tout Quarry we have a long history of regenerating the land and believe art can bring people from different backgrounds and disciplines together to effect positive change.

“That’s exactly what we did with Greenpeace last year. The Ocean Stone stands as a record of this and an invitation for visitors to look out to sea and contemplate our responsibility to protect the ocean for future generations.

“Unveiling this work now is significant because next week UN talks will resume to agree a strong global oceans treaty. It’s a crucial moment for us here in Portland and for the whole world.”

Greenpeace UK’s continued work on the protected areas of sea around the British Isles links to the global goal of conserving at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 – a goal that has failed to reach any of its internationally agreed targets so far.

Will McCallum, Co-Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, said: “The unveiling of this magnificent and beautiful stone is a powerful reminder of the importance of our oceans and the need for urgent action to safeguard them for future generations.

“Crafted from local Portland stone, it’s a poignant reminder that ocean protection is vital for coastal communities – people across the world who depend on the ocean for their livelihoods need politicians to act now.

“The UK government’s position, when it comes to negotiating for a strong global ocean treaty, is drastically weakened by the fact that protection for UK oceans is still completely inadequate.

“One simple step to ban industrial fishing in UK Marine Protected Areas would secure the future of our oceans at home and make the UK government truly world leaders in ocean protection, increasing their influence on the world stage.

“This stone is a symbol of hope that one day that vision will become a reality.”

Destination Art (Art Essentials) by Amy Dempsey, published by Thames and Hudson in 2021

Tout Quarry Sculpture Park & Nature Reserve is featured in Amy Dempsey’s latest book called Destination Art, a grand tour of more than 60 destinations containing thousands of artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries.


The Ocean Stone

The beginning of the inscription that flows across the stone in waves, like the waves of the ocean.

Carving the Ocean Stone