In July 2011 Cape Farewell embarked on a month-long expedition by boat across the Scottish Islands, bringing the notion and experience of expedition home to the UK, with an exploration of island ecologies and cultures, and of the strategies for sustainable and resilient futures being implemented across the Scottish Isles. More ›

The Crew

The expedition crew of 40 includes island artists, storytellers, film makers, playwrights, architects, designers, musicians, community leaders, social scientists, ecologists, marine biologists, oceanographers, poets, acclaimed Gaelic singers and a chef.
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Video highlights

Watch video highlights from the expedition ›

Plankton sampling over the Mingulay cold water coral reef

After the excitement of the basking sharks in the bay at Mingulay we head out East again to deeper water, to the area of the cold water coral reef. I’ve been asked to take a plankton sample for a scientist who’s working in Dr Kate Darling’s lab at the Grant Institute in Edinburgh University. During the last couple of years I’ve been really fortunate to be able to use the microscopes and cameras in her lab, working alongside her own research – it’s been a fascinating time.

Kate’s research involves DNA sequencing of foraminifera (they are beautiful microscopic single cell organisms) and through this research she is looking at rising sea temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean. Kate has equipped me with a plankton net, plastic bottle and clear instructions, but I’m very grateful to the Song of the Whale crew, Mat and Jo, for their experience and help. I’ve never handled a plankton net before and I’m just a bit nervous about losing or damaging it, especially as it has survived journeys from the Arctic to the Antarctic – no pressure then! It’s a rather beautiful object – a big white cloth cone, almost squid like. Our skipper Jim slows down the boat to a couple of knots and we lower the net in to the sea measuring off the rope – 70 meters – the reef is around 200m depth so there’s no chance of it catching the bottom, I hope. We drag it for about a mile, watching the tension of the line cutting the surface of the water, then rippling beneath. I ask Andy to film the line – I’d like to do something with that later.

When we pull it up after half an hour I’m nervous – is there anything there at all? Kate said there could be nothing, but that would show that there are no planktonic forams over the reef. Possibilities of not finding.

We hose down the net and decant the contents into the bottle, then search, with anticipation… Lots of jumping life (shrimps?) and wobbling transparent forms (miniature jelly fish?), some grains, particles, maybe forams? I’ll have to wait until we get back to the lab to find out what’s really there, or not there.

The excess water is drained off and replaced with alcohol, preserved for the rest of the journey, hidden in the fridge.

I talk to Ruth, a social scientist from SAMS about her research into politics of the cold coral reef, this will be an interesting discussion for the future, to be continued.



Author: Anne Bevan


Joins the expedition for week 2 Anne Bevan is an artist whose work combines sculpture with sound, video and text and she often works collaboratively with people from other disciplines. She has recently formed a new cross-disciplinary research project, CORE, which aims to bring together a network of practitioners from visual art, anthropology, landscape architecture, creative writing and geo-sciences.
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Sea Change Programme

Puffin from the Bird Yarns project, part of Cape Farewell's Sea Change programme.
Grown out of the Scottish Islands Expedition, Cape Farewell’s Sea Change is a four-year programme of research and making across Scotland’s western and northern isles. Sea Change involves over 30 UK and international artists and scientists, working collaboratively and independently to consider the relationships between people, places and resources in the context of climate change.... Read more ›

A timely reminder of how valuable an outsider’s perspective can be

Community Energy Scotland’s annual conference offered a timely reminder of how valuable an outsider’s perspective can be.  It was reported on some research into how different countries are taking forward the development of renewable energy. The study looks at several European countries including Scotland, as well as five states in America. The most striking feature... Read more ›

First there was an island – then there was a boat

Shiants 2
“First there was an island – then there was a boat”, so begins a poem by Shetland writer Laureen Johnston.  Since owning my first boat at the age of eleven, I have been an obsessive explorer of islands, the smaller and more remote the better.  Once, in the grip of a sudden attack of aquatic... Read more ›

‘On these isles’

Lawrence has a 7am coffee break after feeding cattle.
‘On these isles’ is a project by photographer Ed Smith, whom we had the great pleasure of meeting when visiting the Island of Eigg. Ed has spent large periods of time on Eigg and other Inner Hebridean isles capturing life there in pictures. Have a look at more of his images and this project at... Read more ›

A gaelic song

Mary Jane Lamond, Jo Royle and Julie Fowlis Video by Ruth Little

Cape Farewell – we know what to do, can art help us get on and do it?

The following is an excerpt from Sara Parkin’s article found on the Forum for the Future website. …I was fortunate enough to join the crew for one week of a four week tour of Scottish Islands, starting with Skye and Canna before crossing the Minch to Mingulay, Barra and South Uist. The weather was kind,... Read more ›

Islands and Visions

Eigg Barbecue on Song of the Whale
There is a sea view when travelling from Eigg to Mallaig where you have a 360° vision of the Small Isles, Skye, the mountains of Scotland, Mull and, far into the distance, the Outer Hebrides. At 6 am yesterday the grey of the sea bled into the numerous blues of the mountains all dramatised by... Read more ›

Annie Cattrell and Jo Shapcott in conversation about week 4 of the expedition

Annie 1
JS Annie, what is it about islands? AC I like the fact that there’s a larger proportion of sea than land mass visible. There appears to be a completeness and self-sufficiency about the individual islands even though they are all distinctly different. There seems to be a big distinction between uninhabited and inhabited islands –... Read more ›


Photo by Sion Parkinson
(1) On the crossing from Ullapool to Stornaway on the Calmac, I wrote myself a list of rules, a set of behaviours that would concentrate my efforts, or assuage any guilt from any feelings of impotence, in my seven days aboard the ship. (1.1) Rules: (1.1.1) Take photographs, more than you need to, get in... Read more ›


Cotton Grass marking  Dwelling Rona
It was my birthday when I went to Rònaidh first. A place I wanted to see since I was little but I had always missed the boat. It is about forty miles north of my house near the Butt of Lewis. I went on the sixth of August aged thirty eight on the yacht ‘Song... Read more ›

Mary Arnold-Forster

Skye architect Mary shows the house of Fred Taylor she designed and reflects on the progress on Eigg and other green based aspirations for the islands architecture and energy supply.   Video shot by David Buckland     Sketches by Mary Arnold-Forster

Farewell and Ahoy: Log of a Voyage

Photo by Mary Smith
“Back in the kitchen.  A new group has joined Song of the Whale. There is an overlap of crew, Cape Farewell folk, and the artists and scientists who will sail together this coming week. They are planning to sail to North Rona, the Shiants and the coasts of Skye. But I’ve left the ship though... Read more ›