The British Isles are remarkable for their extraordinary seabird life: spectacular gatherings of charismatic Arctic terns, elegant fulmars and stoic eiders, to name just a few. Often found in the most remote and dramatic reaches of our shores, these colonies are landscapes shaped not by us but by the birds.
In 2015, Stephen Rutt escaped his hectic, anxiety-inducing life in London for the bird observatory on North Ronaldsay, the most northerly of the Orkney Islands. In thrall to these windswept havens and the people and birds that inhabit them, he began a journey to the edges of Britain. From Shetland, to the Farnes of Northumberland, down to the Welsh islands off the Pembrokeshire coast, he explores the part seabirds have played in our history and what they continue to mean to Britain today.
The Seafarers is the story of those travels: a love letter, written from the rocks and the edges, for the salt-stained, isolated and ever-changing lives of seabirds. This beguiling book reveals what it feels like to be immersed in a completely wild landscape, examining the allure of the remote in an over-crowded world.
Stephen Rutt is a birder, naturalist and freelance feature writer whose work has appeared in Earthlines Magazine, Zoomorphic, The Harrier, Surfbirds, BirdGuides and the East Anglian Daily Times. In 2016 he escaped his hectic, anxiety-inducing life in London to spend seven months at the bird observatory on North Ronaldsay, the most northerly island in the Orkney archipelago, where this book was born. He currently lives in Dumfries.
– Winner of the Saltire First Book of the Year 2019
– Longlisted for the Highland Book Prize 2019
"The writing lures you in, making you feel that you too might benefit from venturing out in inclement weather, just on the off-chance of seeing something remarkable on the wing to lift your spirits"
– The National
"A beautifully illuminating portrait of lives lived largely on the wing and at sea [...] In this intimate guide to the wild beauty and complexity of seabirds, Stephen Rutt has written a powerful chronicle of resilience and fragility"
– Julian Hoffman, author of Irreplaceable and The Small Heart of Things
"An evocative book [...] I could taste the salt on my lips and smell the perfume of storm petrels. The Seafarers is a pelagic poem about the birds that exist at the coastal edges of our islands and consciousness. The stories of these hardy birds entwine seamlessly with Stephen Rutt's personal journey to form a narrative as natural and flowing as the passage of shearwater along the face of Atlantic rollers"
– Jon Dunn, author of Orchid Summer
"An arrestingly vivid turn of phrase [...] An accomplished debut from an exciting new voice in Nature writing."
– The Countryman Magazine
"5* [...] One of those great joys of a book [...] I look forward to reading the next book from this author, although I acknowledge that he has set his own bar very high"
– Tonto Williams Electronic Scrapbook
"Writes as beautifully about Shetland as he does about seabirds"
– Sally Huband, raingeeseandselkies.blogspot.com