How a wee Scottish village is shining a light — literally — on rising seas

At high tide each night, bright lights predict the underwater future.

(Niittyvirta/Aho)
  • Lochmaddy is a seaside village sitting at the encroaching edge of the North Atlantic.
  • Artists dazzling lights depict the town's submerged future as the oceans continue rising.
  • It's an unsettling visualization of global warming's impact.

The Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre sits in a hauntingly beautiful place, at the sea's edge in a tiny Scottish village. The name of this Outer Hebrides place is Lochmaddy, and it can be found, for now, in the low-lying archipelago of Uist off the country's west coast. It looks like a place the world forgot. But now, a new outdoor light installation chillingly illustrates the likely fate of communities such as Lochmaddy as Earth's warming seas rise.

Lines (57° 59N, 7° 16W)

Photo credit: Niittyvirta / Aho

Named for Lochmaddy's latitude and longitude, Lines (57° 59N, 7° 16W) is the creation of two Finnish artists, Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho. They've constructed horizontal LED arrays above low-lying areas and bridges that will be submerged if the Earth's temperatures continue to rise, and at corresponding high-water locations on the sides of endangered structures.

Floating sensors switch the LEDs on at high tide each night, bright, painful incisions in the otherwise peaceful dark. It's a troubling sight, not least due to the incongruous appearance of such a futuristic-looking intrusion in such a serene setting. A sad one, too, making starkly clear what's about to be lost if we don't act quickly to save the places we love too much to lose.

(Niittyvirta/Aho)

(Niittyvirta/Aho)

(Niittyvirta/Aho)

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