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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.

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Author: Gorm Ashurst

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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/    

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