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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Video highlights

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Showdown! Hydrocarbons versus Renewables!

Hydrocarbons vs Renewables ...

Hydrocarbons vs Renewables …

All ten of us – Cape Farewell’s crew – got to Shetland using fossil fuels: by plane, train, boat and car. Modern life runs on oil. Hydrocarbons 10, Renewables 0

Our  boat – the lovely 120 yr old Swan – was once a sail-powered herring boat, able to catch several ton of herring with nothing but drift nets and manual labour. Those original sailors had no engines, and the skill required to maneuver the Swan in and out of harbor spins my head (anyone romanticizing days gone by should think hard about where their food comes from). A retrofitted diesel engine eases the Swan’s way today. Hydrocarbon 11, Renewables 0

Today’s modern pelagic trawlers – modern variants of the Swan – are massive affairs that catch a thousand ton of herring a day: they’re all buttons, radar, engines and motors. Hydrocarbons 12, Renewables 0

The Swan hit some lovely winds over the last two days. With three, or sometimes all four sails up, we hit cruising speeds over seven knots each day. Diesel cruising speed was four knots. At last! The powerful winds that sweep this island gave us an edge and we beat fossil fuel it’s own game! Hydrocarbon 12, Renewables 2

As we move out of the carbon age to a world powered by low-carbon energy, we face challenges even greater than those faced by the Swan’s crew a hundred years ago. We must somehow preserve the comforts and convenience of modern life, yet do without the muscle of oil, coal and natural gas – and make that change in the face of loud skeptics and entrenched interests. Building a low-carbon economy fast enough to avoid catastrophic climate disruption is the biggest challenge humans have ever faced.

But we’re up for it – renewables can compete!

As we sailed out of Lerwick this morning, in the background were the five wind turbines that provide 20% of Shetland’s power. Any more and the system gets unstable. An electric cable to the mainland would help – at a price tag of $100 million. For less (maybe $70 million) Shetland could put up a couple dozen more turbines and feed their power to an Underwater Compressed Air Energy Storage system (UWCAES) for use when the wind isn’t blowing enough. Around here, that’s not often.

If Shetland moved to wind and air, their 20,000 residents would be off carbon-based electricity … Hydrocarbons 12, Renewables 20,002!

… but filling those trawlers’ tanks won’t be so easy …



Author: Tom Rand


Joins the expedition for week 2 and 3 Tom focuses his efforts on carbon mitigation and is active in Cleantech venture capital, technology incubation and commercialization, and public advocacy.
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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 ›