Seachange Expedition

2013 Expedition

Cape Farewell's expedition 2013 took place from the 19th of Agust 'til the 8th of September. Two crews of artists and scientists set off and sailed from Orkney to Shetland via Fair Isle in Scotland.

Cape Farewell’s second Sea Change expedition has set sail on the 19th of August 2013 in order to traverse Scotland’s Northern Isles.  27 leading artists and scientists have explored technologies, projects and practices supporting the resilience of Scotland’s island communities and their ecologies and cultures. First launched in 2010 Sea Change is a four-year programme that brings together artists and scientists to investigate the relationship between people, place and resources and what it means to care for one’s ‘place’ in the context of climate change. This latest expedition, and the 2011 voyage, will form the basis of a major exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh from early November 2013 until late January 2014, bringing together for the first time the work of artists and scientists who sailed to the Western and Northern Isles of Scotland as part of Cape Farewell’s Sea Change project.

27 artists and scientists, including the English dramatist Bryony Lavery, Scottish singers Karine Polwart and Inge Thomson, visual artist Ruth MacLennan, Scottish textile artist Deirdre Nelson, emerging Scottish photographer Jennifer Wilcox, artist and sculptor John Cumming and the sailor Jo Royle – best known for sailing from America to Australia in a catamaran made entirely from plastic bottles - have sailed on the 113-year-old community owned Shetland Fyfie ‘The Swan’ around Scotland’s most northerly coasts and islands.  They have visited on- and offshore renewable energy sites on Orkney and Shetland, artisanal and commercial fisheries, Fair Isle’s Bird Observatory, archaeological sites, and local art centres and community projects based on stewardship of the islands’ terrestrial and marine ecologies, economies and cultures.

The aim was to investigate the multiple impacts of climate change on the cultures and ecologies of Scotland’s island communities, and their approaches to sustainability, resilience and the concept of ‘faring well’ in times of change.  Islands, including Great Britain, are significant repositories of the world’s terrestrial and marine biodiversity and home to one tenth of its human population.  Their ecosystems are diverse, complex and extremely fragile. Over the last century island biodiversity has been subject to increasing stresses associated with invasive species, resource depletion, pollution and climate change.  

The Northern Isles of Scotland are made up of hundreds of miles of spectacular coastline, one of the world’s largest peatlands, important seabird colonies and magnificent landscapes shaped by thousands of years of human interaction with the environment. These outlying ‘bellwether’ islands are vulnerable to extreme weather events and to the economic impacts of the decline of habitats and species vital to local industries and tourism. However, the islands have become pioneers in terms of sustainability programmes, wind, wave and tidal technologies, and adaptation projects, and they offer exciting, new approaches to the relationship between place, stewardship and community.

Leading the voyage is Ruth Little, Cape Farewell’s associate director.  She said:

Like boats, Scotland’s island communities and ecologies offer palpable and symbolic evidence of the reality of resource constraint; the relationship between needs and limits that is the stuff of climate change.  These islands, with their exposure to natural forces, deep human histories and rich and fragile ecologies, remind us that we face the same challenges across the planet.  Together the artists and scientists will witness first-hand the disintegration of coastlines, the costs of obtaining resources and removing waste; but also community projects that strive to deliver economic, social and environmental diversity and resilience. Their journeys will help shape new art-science collaborations, residencies and projects which will culminate in a major exhibition this November.”  

Have a look at the expedition blog: