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.
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Fifteen folk on a wooden boat from a century ago

LK 243

LK 243

Fifteen folk on a wooden boat from a century ago. We share stories and experiences, speak our minds, and listen. At the end of long days we sleep like corpses in coffin-sized bunks. Cabin space is in short supply so we must share it and look out for each other.

Orkney is a small group of islands that has ended up in a pivotal position. It was critical previously during wartimes and is important again now as the place of intense renewable energy research, testing and development. It remains the home of people, birds and marine life too. Five thousand years ago people were living in settlements on Westray and farming. We see from an arrangement of stones in the earth that they had art and lived in groups together as an island community. Now, as then, some of the islanders work the land, doing what they can to survive modern competition.

We hoist the mainsail on our herring drifter – throat and peak together. A tonne or so of canvas and the wooden gaff. Hoops that hold the sail are the way to climb the mast. We must cooperate and work together to manually lift the sails and gear without killing someone.

We try to harness some power from light winds and make passage through the night to Fair Isle – a place so worthy of that name. The islanders here are unanimously proposing a no take marine reserve to protect fish stocks and conserve marine species. We walk to the top of a hill in the dark to photograph the northern lights, and take a small boat into a cave and through tunnels in a huge rock the shape of a shark’s fin, seals watching us with interest.

Both on Orkney and Fair Isle the islanders are encountering challenging layers of politics, law and socio-economics, as stakeholders from elsewhere are interested in exploiting natural resources from where the islanders live. Energy extraction, fishing, and impacts on the environment are issues that will ultimately affect us all. We have applied the concept of ownership on land for thousands of years but systems developed there have not existed before recent times in the marine context, bringing conflicts of interest into focus. Meanwhile, the ocean continues to rock our boat and our bodies’ motion compensation systems try to respond accordingly.

The ocean is sometimes serene, it can be unforgiving, is often terrifyingly beautiful and always awe-inspiring. With engineering – from ropes and sails to tidal turbines and enormous snakes of wave power generation devices – we have learned to take power and food from the ocean. Our challenge is now learning to take only what we need.


Author: Charlotte Main


Joins the expedition for week 1 and 2 Charlotte's research is concerned with pollution and what happens to ecosystems in the event of a huge oil spill.
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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

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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 ›