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The Cape Farewell Expeditions

Cape Farewell is a series of expeditions into the Arctic, through a route previously icebound but now passable. The journeys explore the very seas that hold the key to understanding the health of the worlds' ocean currents.


Cape Farewell - Sea Change 2013

The aim of this project in 2013/14 is to shape and curate a programme of research, exchange and place-based making which specifically addresses the role of the artist as ‘change navigator’ in the encompassing context of climate adaptation. To this end there will be a 3-week sailing expedition from Orkney to Shetland via Fair Isle with 2 crews of 12 artists and scientists. more information


Scottish Islands Expedition 2011

This July Cape Farewell marks its 10th anniversary and embarks on its biggest project yet, in partnership with Cove Park: a four-week expedition by boat across the western isles of Scotland. After 10 years exploring distant environments (Arctic and Andes), Cape Farewell brings its focus to local frontiers, to investigate climate impacts closer to home and engage with inspiring models of resilience and adaptation.


The engagement begins with 4, week-long voyages (15 July - 12 August 2011) across the Scottish islands, each with a crew of up to 12 artists and scientists. Travelling on a marine mammal research vessel, the Song of the Whale, from Oban via the Small Isles, Skye and the Inner and Outer Hebrides to St Kilda, Harris, Lewis and the Shiants, the journey will explore the impact of climate change on island cultures and ecologies, and investigate stewardship projects which are revitalising the relationship between communities and their contexts.


The Scottish Islands Project seeks to bring many forms of knowledge – traditional, technical, cultural, scientific and common – together, with the aim of learning and communicating more widely what it means to care for one's 'place'. What actions and decisions are involved in good stewardship? What notions of community, needs and limits form the basis for local agency, and how can they be expressed in both physical and symbolic forms?


The expedition crew of 40 includes island artists, storytellers, film makers, playwrights, architects, designers, musicians, community leaders, social scientists, ecologists, marine biologists, oceanographers, poets, acclaimed Gaelic singers and a chef.


Disko Bay, Greenland 2008

6 October 2008. An exploration of place, landscape, discussion and debate with a creative crew of visuals artists, architects, comedians, playwrights, composers, engineers, film-makers and musicians working alongside two science crews, both completing research in the Arctic waters.


Cape Farewell hosted two launch events in London, a private event for funders and voyagers and a public launch at the Science Museum, IMAX cinema. The Science Museum was sold out and attended by 300 people. The day the expedition departed, Cape Farewell also received a letter of support from Prime Minster, Gordon Brown.


Starting in the Kangerlussuaq Fjord, the Arctic journey lasted 10 days. It covered 1000 nautical miles. From Kangerlussuaq we traveled to Disko Island and Disko Bay, crossing the front of the Jakobshavn Glacier. This Glacier is retreating at a rate of 1m per hour. It is the glacier that is “draining” the Greenland ice cap the fastest, draining 6.5% of the ice sheet area. The speed it moved doubled between 1997 and 2003, and it now contributes 0.06mm rise in sea level per year (4% of the 20th century rate of sea level increase from one glacier).


After visiting the glacier and local town of Ilullissat the voyage continued north to Uummannaq, the most northernly settlement on our expedition. From Uummannaq we visited two glaciers – the Perdlerfiup Sermia Glacier and terminated glacier Sermeq Avangnardleq Glacier where we were able to walk to the mouth of the glacier, over ice. After spending two days around the glacier, we visited our most northernly point, Nuugaatsraq 71.50 degrees north before deploying the ARGO float into the west Greenland current and returning south for our onward travel.


Onboard science teams from the British Geological Survey (BGS), National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) completed scientific research during the expedition. As well as completing the science research, the scientists contributed to the daily lecture series that took place onboard the Grigory Mikheev. At the same time and during the entire journey some of the onboard artistic activities were performed.


All the activity was recorded by film director Peter Gilbert (‘Hoop Dreams’ and ‘At Death House Door’) and his crew, documenting the expedition for a co-production between Cape Farewell and Cactus Three Productions, New York, a feature film to be made for theatrical release and broadcast on Sundance TV, 2009/10. We also worked with cameraman Matt Wainwright to record and edit 13 short video clips

about the expedition, all sent to the website during the voyage and since our return used by voyagers in various presentations and events.


The inspiration of the journey and work of the crew both onboard and since our return will stimulate future exhibitions and events. The combination of the onboard creative and scientific crew led to a critical mass of activity, culminating in a wealth of positive energy and potential for collaboration. Since our return, these voyagers have been working together sometimes prompted by Cape Farewell, but increasingly the network is developing to produce events and stimulate engagement without our management. The voyage acting as a catalyst for ongoing individual and collaborative activity.



Svalbard 2004

The September 2004 expedition achieved beyond its initial ambitions in all areas, the oceanography, the education program, the artists work and the filming and documenting of all the work. Subsequently, Cape Farewell has achieved real successes in serious media coverage, in the exhibition program and in the initial construction of the education program. It has been an extremely busy four months with extra demands which have put the Cape Farewell central office under pressure. This workload has been made bearable by the fact that each element worked on has been very fruitful in our overall ambitions.


The ‚Noorderlicht’
Throughout the voyage the crew was continually monitoring the high arctic oceans.

The science program, education program, arts program

The oceanographers from Southampton Oceanography Centre [now called ‘The National Oceanography Centre’] arrived at the airport with over 300kgs of equipment which all safely reached the ‘Noorderlicht’. Throughout the voyage they were continually monitoring the high arctic oceans for temperature, salinity, plankton life, current movement, water sampling and colour monitoring. All the information was recorded in the form of data and graphs, all their work was filmed and they also worked tirelessly with the education team to make material for the science module.


All the glaciers the "Noorderlicht" came across were in retreat, one even leaving a new island which one of the artists has mapped, named and submitted data to the authorities for official recognition and titling. To be named ‘Farewell Island’ which has only come into being due to glacier retreat. A report on this work is due to be published in the National Oceanography magazine.


The ambition of the education module is to deliver, in about 14 hours of teaching time, an understanding of global warming, its historical context, what is causing it and what actions are required to halt its progress. The oceans of the High Arctic are crucial in this debate, the control of worldwide temperatures, the ice melt and as a sump for CO2. The team carried out many experiments that can be performed at classroom level, worked with the students and performed to the camera to show how to work in this environment and collect data in a cold in inhospitable place.


There were eight artists on board who all engaged very intently with the environment, the science and ice. In terms of fieldwork, they have produced an enormous body of work which they are now working on for planned exhibitions and performances in 2006. The art-exhibiting program is only just getting underway and will become a very important event, probably worldwide.


Director David Hinton continued his work with a full film crew documenting the work of the whole Cape Farewell crew and, from the 35 hours of material he has, has cut a small 15min promo which is with two television broadcasters to gain a commission. Initial response has been very encouraging and we are working toward getting a commission in time for the March expedition.



Cape Farewell: Sea change 2013

Cape farewell: Final report 2008 (pdf)


Project partner:

Cape Farewell (CF)

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