sites/all/files/cape_farwell_350.jpgOur sea-faring friends at Cape Farewell are getting ready to set sail for a new voyage. This time, instead of bearing witness to an unraveling Arctic, they will be setting sail for Scotland's islands. Their mission will be to creatively convey how these vulernable islands are already seeing the impacts of a changing climate, as well as how their inhabitants are leading the way in innovative climate solutions. Below is an exciting guest post from expedition leader, Ruth Little, about what lies ahead for this unique crew of artists and scientists…and how you can follow along!

For the last 9 years, Cape Farewell has led sailing expeditions with crews of artists and scientists to the high Arctic regions of Greenland and Norway, to experience first-hand the accelerating impacts of climate change in these fragile areas. Last year,’s Kevin Buckland joined the crew on the Noorderlicht and sailed around the north coast of Spitsbergen, where we encountered a spectacular and threatened wilderness of drift ice, polar bears, high winds, and rocky coastlines exposed by rapid glacial retreat.

Now Cape Farewell embarks on a journey to local frontiers, with a focus on island cultures and ecologies. Islands have been described as the moral compass of international climate negotiations, and it is in their seas and around their coastlines that the evidence of climate change is becoming palpable in warming and rising oceans, extreme weather events and resource stress, and here too that both the race for new hydrocarbon sources and pioneering efforts at mitigation and adaptation are being played out.

On July 15 Cape Farewell will marks its 10th anniversary with a four-week expedition by boat across the western isles of Scotland. With a crew of 13 Scottish and international artists and scientists joining the boat each week,  the journey launches a new programme of research, dialogue and engagement around the subject of resource use and stewardship among island communities.

Jumping off from the Oban in the Scottish Highlands on our sleek blue marine mammal research vessel Song of the Whale, our first port of call is the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Dunstaffnage, where we’ll be introduced to their pioneering seaweed biofuel research programme by Director Lawrence Mee. Then it’s all aboard for an evening sail up the beautiful Sound of Mull to the town of Tobermory. From Mull we’ll sail via the volcanic island of Rum, home of the white sea eagle, before arriving at the ‘beacon’ island of Eigg, where a community buyout has led to the creation of a mixed renewables scheme which now supplies 100% of the island’s energy. From there it’s wind, waves, and wanderings island by island as far as St Kilda, the most remote of the British Isles, and north to Lewis before returning via Eigg to the mainland.

Islands – including Great Britain – are significant repositories of the world’s terrestrial and marine biodiversity and home to one tenth of its human population. Their ecosystems are unique, diverse, complex and extremely fragile. Over the last century island biodiversity has been subject to increasing stresses associated with invasive species, resource depletion, pollution and climate change. A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warns that rising sea levels are likely to have a severe impact on much of the UK’s coastline in coming decades, in particular across the outlying ‘bellwether’ islands of Scotland, which are directly exposed to increasing extreme weather events and to the economic impacts of the decline of habitats and species vital to local industries and tourism. Serious impacts are already visible on the islands of Benbecula and South Uist, where coastal erosion, flooding and increasingly violent storms have led to significant loss of agricultural land, wildlife habitat and human life.

But islands are also niche environments, holding a wealth of local knowledge fitted to specific ecological and cultural locales – knowledge now considered invaluable by many climate scientists to adaptive resilience. From land management programmes which support the ancient symbiosis between the fragile machair lands of the Uists and farming practices such as seaweed fertilisation, wild meadow grazing and haymaking, to the ingenious integration of small-scale renewable energy sources on Eigg, Scotland’s islands are leading the way in the range and diversity of renewable energy, sustainability and adaptation programmes being trialled and implemented across the region at both local and national levels.

Cape Farewell’s Scottish Islands Project will reach out in subsequent years to island communities in the Arctic north and the South Pacific Ocean through a programme of residencies and artist exchanges.

The 2011 crew includes island, mainland and international poets and musicians, visual artists, designers, architects, chefs, filmmakers, marine biologists, ecologists, climate scientists, oceanographers and geographers. Their research interests vary from the invisible life of the sea to underwater acoustic data collection, from narratives of seafaring and survival to human and bird migration, species decline and the psychological impacts of change. The boat is packed to the gunwales with talent and curious minds, and we can’t wait to begin the journey, with its conversations, story-telling, knowledge exchange and adventures on and offshore in this remarkable, beautiful, ancient and precious region.

For more information, visit the website ( and follow the journey with live diary feeds, interviews and blogs from the boat.