This summer I embarked on a six week sailing expedition to Scotland’s Western Isles with scientists and artists to investigate climate impacts closer to home and engage with inspiring models of resilience and adaptation.
It was wonderful to be working back on board the marine mammal research vessel, the Song of the Whale. We sailed from Southampton to Oban and then via the Small Isles, Skye and the Inner and Outer Hebrides to Harris, Lewis, the Shiants and the mystical St Kilda. On route we explored the impact of climate change on island cultures and ecologies, and investigated stewardship projects that are revitalising the relationship between communities and their contexts.
Over a five week period we were joined by more than 40 people from beautifully diverse background, including artists, storytellers, film makers, playwrights, architects, politicians, designers, musicians, community leaders, social scientists, ecologists, marine biologists, oceanographers, poets, acclaimed Gaelic singers and a chef.
Days were spent exploring on land, meeting local craftsmen, being introduced to 100′s of species of colourful wildflowers, attending community meetings, exploring waste management systems, avoiding the lethal petrol dive, enjoying silence and views from lonely Bothies, imagining island life of days gone by, sharing song and folk tales, or sailing through islands accompanied by lots of conversations, questioning, pondering, making, writing and marine life. Many evenings were spent around the saloon table in lively serious, hilarious, gentle and thought provoking discussions. Other evenings were spent sharing knowledge and skills in on land at Ceilidhs, such as learning about the waulking women of Barra, or getting blisters on my feet from too much dancing on Eigg. Other nights were spent under the stars on the ‘h’.
Exploring the Western Isles was the launch of Cape Farewells three year Scottish project. Please see the Cape Farewell website to learn about the work that has been inspired by this year’s expedition and to follow the series of Cape Farwell’s work that inspires a human response to our changing environment and evokes a responsibility within in to protect the natural world.
The Song of the Whale holds a special place in my heart, as it was meeting her sister ship on a storm bound day in Penzance about 17 years ago that inspired me to pursue a life at sea. So all in all a very special journey!
To learn more about Song of the Whale please see http://www.mcsuk.org/
Follow Cape Farewell at http://www.capefarewell.com/2011expedition/