Inspiring Outer Hebrides sea kayak expedition

Inspiring Outer Hebrides sea kayak expedition

The rugged coastline of the far west of Scotland was the backdrop for an expedition with a difference enjoyed by students from the University of Cumbria.

The sea kayak trip to the Outer Hebrides has inspired a film, journal article and presentation to be made at an international conference to be held next year in Australia.

Eleven students from the university’s science, natural resources and outdoor studies department took part in the trip with each carrying a camera to chart their progress across 60 nautical miles.

With no curriculum or module outcomes, the course was run through the departments ‘upskill’ programme. The staff’s role was to facilitate student learning, oversee safety and share knowledge and experience as the students requested. The students kept daily diaries and were interviewed at the end of the trip.

“After an orientation day, the students packed all their food, camping equipment and clothing in their boats and set off south, from Berneray in the north to Eriskay in the south along the east coast of the Outer Hebrides,” Nigel Dykes, programme leader for outdoor adventure and Environment who led the experience together with Beau Miles, a visiting lecturer from Monash University, Melbourne Australia said. “This coastline is rugged and rocky with dramatic cliffs, mountain backdrops, sandy beaches and there are hundreds of islands. Beau is a worldwide experienced paddler, a time served outdoor educator and he added much spice and expertise.”

Students reported learning many different things about the place, people and themselves. They were very pleased to be free to explore what they were interested in rather than have this imposed.

“For many students, this experience was a first, travelling for multiple days in a sea kayak making decisions about the weather, tides, route and locations to camp,” Nigel said. “They enjoyed seeing wildlife close up and traversing the spectacular coastline. On reflection though, students were impacted on by the issues of fish farming - this impactful approach to food production and ocean plastic pollution. This was surprising for them given their perception that they were to travel through quiet and beautiful places. They hardly saw human habitation but our impact as a society was clearly prevalent.”

Students are now hoping to share their experiences at an international conference for sea kayakers in November 2018 and write an article for a journal.