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 ›

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The expedition crew of 27 includes a wide range of scientific and creative folk.
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Part of my research, before heading up to (and subsequently down from) Shetland, was in to lighthouses, in particular the Lighthouses built by the Stevenson family from around 1787-1937 for the Northern Light House Board (NLB).

The need for lighthouses grew mainly out of the need to stem the loss of cargo and shipping and not primarily to save lives.  In 1786 the NLB was formed by Act of Parliament to oversee the construction and operation of Scottish Lighthouses.

I had hoped to visit or view a Stephenson built lighthouse on my trip.  The Author Robert Louis Stephenson, is grandson of Robert Stephenson, the NLB’s most famous engineer. Although Robert Louis did not follow in the path of his family and instead pursued a literary career, he had great admiration for his ancestors and the men that operated the lighthouses. It has been speculated the Treasure Island was inspired in part by the loneliness that the keepers of Shetland’s (and hence the UKs’) most northerly lighthouse at Muckle Flugga experienced.

Interestingly on many remote areas around scotland were the lighthouses were not initially welcomed.  These were places where locals would owe part of their survival to scavenging wood and supplies from washed up wreaks.  Shetland has very little in the way of trees, This is because there is no where on any of the isles that is more than 3 miles from the sea, wind is a factor as are the levels of salt in the air and soil. What trees have grown in the past have been used by the islanders.

One has to wonder with the Shetland Isles being ripe for the deployment of renewable energy technologies, if there are parallels between the arrival of the technology of lighthouses and wind turbines and wave power. All are much needed, but all have effects on the local community that need to be considered: Then with lighthouses, it was where would the islanders get their supplies, and now, how will turbines and wave power installations effect these areas of outstanding natural beauty?

Pictured below, is not a lighthouse as such, but a modern automated navigation aid (designation: SCO 267) on the Point Of Punt, at the entrance of Scalloway Harbour.


Author: Gorm Ashurst


Joins the expedition for week 3 "We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of a dream" -Willy Wonker
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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 ›