In August 2013 we set sail from Stromness on our second Sea Change expedition, aboard Lerwick community boat The Swan, with a crew of 27 artists, scientists and informers. More ›

The Crew

The expedition crew of 27 includes a wide range of scientific and creative folk.
Meet the crew ›

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Video highlights

Watch video highlights from the expedition ›

Cape Farewell


I start noticing stuff as soon as I am in Kings Cross waiting for my train….the cab I’ve just used and its petrol, the whacking great lit notice board, the train…particularly my sausage roll and offer, with its tinfoil, plethora of service totes, greaseproof paper, curly thing to carry hot coffee with…

Then I’m in first class with everybody and their smart phones, iPads, being served carefully wrapped sandwiches and pieces of paper telling us what we will be eating…

Through all the great cities – York, Durham, Newcastle – confused about which country I belong to – Berwick, Holy Island looking all Arthurian and misty and Avalonish – the countryside looks remarkable, burgeoning, until I look closely at the weather-stunted barley.

Just before Edinburgh, the waiter carefully aligns the four cups and spoons on our table into the neatest grid pattern, leaving the surrounding shiny surface studded with crumbs….

Edinburgh is en Fete…very Festival…Indian dancer in the concourse. I ask the way to platform 1 and am called Sir…

Under the rocks that support the castle, on the “now departed train to Inverurie” after teeming rain half an hour ago, it is sunny and bright, but I see from the window we are heading into some dirty fluffy cumulus…Ruth Little sends an email to say The Sawn has not set sail…so all plans may change.  I pray for the weather to keep us onshore.  ‘Not my fault, couldn’t go sailing …weather said no, honest’.

Crossing over Firth of Forth…so…is that bridge to the left the Forth bridge?  Nobody painting it…sea looks very smooth. That’s what we want. Admire number of rivets in the struts of the bridge carrying me and my train. Going through somewhere called Burntisland.  I rehearse several ways of saying it.  There is a big fair on the green.  More plastic, more stuff to amuse us human beings…On my right, iron cranes and industria from old shipyards…plus, someone hanging in a hang glider thing. the stuff we need to believe we we are having fun.

I’m thinking about my day on the Great Barrier Reef, trip to the Farne Islands, the Hudson River…all the seas and water places are slushing about in my brain.  At the moment I am NOT sick with Dread at the thought of going on a boat. Is it because the sun is shining?

I’m eating “ENERGISER Trail Mix…with trans fat.

I think of Kevin and his replanting of deciduous trees in his forest.  Pines on the brow of hills.  Wyre forest trees.  Trees start a reunion meeting inside my head now!

Wait a minute…is it the Trail Mix doing this?

Spot two volcanic plugs, which is the one thing I learned in five years of geography.

No! Wrong! Now I’m identifying cloud formations…cumuli nimbus, folks…

Now in wild and woolly Aberdeen, where everybody but me is kicking into their Saturday night…Girls in very high heels and skintight leopard skin…men in kilts…quite a lot of friends holding up an even drunker friend…seagulls shrieking, everybody shrieking. Me? Room service, TV and some M&S wine in my sweet little room, virtually on the docks by the ferries….

So, now, after a walk through Aberdeen, shopping paradise of the north, and a meal at Molly’s bistro (the whole city seems to be run by very nice, ultra-polite Eastern Europeans), I’m catching up on news…not sailing tomorrow (most wimpish sailor in the world breathes sigh of relief) but staying in hostel!  Crew have been sailing for 24 hours through choppy sea.

Ruth Little sends email saying weather is getting better next week…which is good as we are sailing through Pentland Firth ‘the most daungerouse place in all Christendome’ (some equally wimpish sailor in 1543 …. )

Leaving Aberdeen….

We ferry passengers are all about displacement activity…We are drinking, on the Internet, watching football, smoking, phoning, eating crisps, full steaming meals…as we leave harbour, overseen by one seagull on our stern keeping a very beady eye on the men winching and whatever.  I flip film lots of stuff…and there is lots of stuff…oil and containers and big ships called Maers Lifter and Explorer etc…A whole load of seabirds follow us screaming ‘Wait for us! We were gonna come with you, let us on the back!’

I have a four-berth cabin, which seems a bit excessive as there are plenty of places to sit and sprawl and eat and drink and play stuff or watch stuff…

So far…calm sea…let’s see if I get seasick!

Very pleased I am in a cabin.  I have been eating, sporadically, crisps, water, cream crackers, fruit…snoozing…The boat and the sea are clearly having some sort of a domestic. Boat has been muttering and grumbling for some while, and now is juddering and shrugging its shoulders and kicking off big style.  Horizontal is best position I am finding.  Made exploratory sortee outside to have a look at the sea. Choppy…as the girl in the pharmacy opined this morning.  Have had lots of advice re sea-sickness (lady on train: ‘My lad was sick for the first day when he was on a tall ships thing..they do that at Gordonstoun’ Ginger tea not quite working…okay…lying back down now…

Ferry docks exactly on time.  I get a cab with a driver from Somerset who has been on Orkney for ten years and still hasn’t decided whether she likes it…Kirkwall hotel is on a fishing quay….a nice man gets me a ham and cheese sandwich and a glass of Highland Park.  Bath and bed.

At breakfast, trying to converse with a New Zealand couple who are tracing their ancestry while I am negotiating eating a kipper. Orkney has a feeling of surface calm, with furious paddling underneath, like a duck.  Arrive at Stromness suprisingly quickly.  Find Stromness Hotel and meet there Ruth, Jen and Ben and we start to swap stories and learn who each other is.  People start assembling…Ruth Little and Teresa, then Karine Polwart…we have coffee outdoors, then find a way up the hill to Fiona and John Cumming’s house for soup and talk.  Immediately an interesting, informed conversation about Scotland, economy and strategies.  Need to listen closely…

Charlie (Charlotte Main) arrives with her friend Dan.  They climbed The Old Man of Hoy in a gale a day ago.

We all go up to ICIT (International Centre for Island Technology), and meet a group of lovely scientists and marine biologists…we listen to them talk about their research areas…The room hums with intelligence and passion.

Odd new phrases and terms and futuristic wave and tidal energy machines in bright primary colours…Paramus Wave Power, Aquamarine Oyster, Wells Penguin, and the tidal installations…Atlantis, Open Hydro, Kawasaki, Tidal Generator…warming waters, and unexplained fish!   Anchovies and pilchards are appearing in the seas up here, even a red mullet!   A seaweed called fungustistimus….a solitary fan mussel found lurking around a wreck where horse mussels usually hang out…Invasive sea squirts possibly on their way. Seas of change…

Wave upon wave of new information:

‘Wave distribution defines what goes where and who lives where’ on rocky shores

Shell morphology

Animals and species divided here into winners and losers

Anchovy abundance index

Energy extraction

www.Issmer- network.org/

Brown crab tagging…females move inshore to moult and mate, then offshore….One intrepid female walked 125miles from Orkney to the Butt of Lewis.  Females are the Big Walkers.  The longest recorded male stroll has been a mere 28miles.  The crab breeding cycle is highly sensitive to changes in water temperature…

We go to the Ferry Inn.  Very jolly bunch.  I try to buy a welcome round, but we all organise a kitty…very democratic.  Andy Crabb (aptly named) and James Brady arrive.  I am so knackered…we walk back to the hostel and I’m sent to the Snorers room. Blackout.


Author: Bryony Lavery


Joins the expedition for week 1 Bryony Lavery is a playwright. Her plays include Her Aching Heart (Pink Paper Play Of The Year 1992), Last Easter and A Wedding Story (2000).
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James Brady’s expedition blog for ecoartscotland

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See James Brady’s blog here:   http://ecoartscotland.net/    

Leaving Fair Isle

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Andy Crabb’s Sea Changes Part 1 now on vimeo

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Sea Changes, part 1 featuring Karine Polwart from Andy Crabb on Vimeo. Part 1 of a film about Cape Farewell’s Northern Isles expedition, on board the Swan LK243. The Swan is a traditional Shetland fishing sail boat, restored and operated by a community based trust in Shetland swantrust.com/. She is a truly beautiful boat. The film... Read more ›

Carbon Cycle

1.carbon sink
CARBON/SINK Site-specific organic drawing, North Haven pier, Fair Isle (peat and fresh water / 12” x 120”)     A musing on the ecology of the Carbon Cycle and the human intervention within it’s system: the symbiotic links between the entropy of organic matter – moorland as a carbon sink – fossil fuels – carbon... Read more ›

Wind, stone

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Wind, stone: by Teresa Elwes

Fish For The Table

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FishForTheTable 03 vimeo from Tam Treanor.

Microcosms: Eons, Tides and Dreams

‘I go to the rockpool at the slack of the tide to mind me what my poetry’s for.’ –      Jen Hadfield (from the poem, Daed-traa*)           ‘The parent materials were gathered together as volcanoes poured them out in fiery streams, as waters running over the bare rocks of the continents wore... Read more ›


bunk and deck
quota n 1. the proportional or part of a whole that is due from, due to, or allocated to a person or group 2. a prescribed number or quantity, as of items to be manufactured, imported, or exported, immigrants admitted to a country [from Latin quota pars how big a share?, from quotus of what... Read more ›

Freedom Come All Ye” performed by Karine Polwart in The Italian Chapel, Orkney August 2013.

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“Freedom Come All Ye” performed by Karine Polwart in The Italian Chapel, Orkney August 2013. from Andy Crabb on Vimeo. In August 2013 members of Cape Farewell’s “Sea Change” project explored the landscapes, history and future of the Orkneys whilst sailing on board The Swan, a beautifully restored Shetland Fifie. The group consisting of artists,... Read more ›

Pelagic Gannets

When the seas calmed and I was no longer confined to my sick bunk, it was wonderful to be on deck and to observe my new watery surroundings, I saw gannets flap and glide past the Swan and was amazed to see their large wingspan for the first time. They truly are a majestic bird!... Read more ›

Sea change See change

Go  2
Poet. Climate change.  Environmentalist.  Scientist. Carbon economy. (Ex-)soldier. Renewables. Conservationist.  Fishing quota.  Artist. Sustainability. Writer.  Everyday words susceptible to our own interpretation, predisposition and characterisation.   Words that can be polarising and divisive.  So what happens when you mix them with a few associated ingredients?  On the one hand there is the potential for an explosive... Read more ›

Big words + Lumpy times

scalloway map
LUMPY adj lumpier, lumpiest full of or having lumps (Transport / Nautical Terms) (esp of the sea) rough confused seas We headed south on ‘lumpy’ seas from Scalloway towards Sumburgh Head.  Our direction towards the East side was guided by the weather forecast and I was pleased to be moving at last. I have been... Read more ›