A HEBRIDEAN artist is opening a major new exhibition inspired by research into mass whale strandings on Scottish islands.

Iona-based Mhairi Killin will mix whale bone sculpture, video, poetry and soundscape to explore the relationship between the militarisation of Scottish waters and its existing ecosystem as part of her installation on Mull.

Killin has been inspired by a spate of whale strandings on the Hebrides, specifically an event in 2018 where 45 badly decomposed Cuvier’s Beaked whales washed up on the shores of several islands. Around the same time, 23 whales washed up on Irish shores in a “unique mortality event”.

The National: Mhairi Killin spent 11 days on a research vessel as part of her preparation for the exhibitionMhairi Killin spent 11 days on a research vessel as part of her preparation for the exhibition

Scientists have been investigating whether these events were linked to the increased presence of military sonar activity in the area around Porcupine Bank, as confirmed by the Royal Navy in September 2021.

As part of her preparation for the project, Killin spent eleven days at sea in May 2021 with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) aboard their research vessel Silurian, during the Nato military exercise Joint Warrior - the largest tactically focused exercise in Europe.

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During Killin’s journey - which ranged from The Sea of Hebrides up to Cape Wrath - Killin and HWDT scientist, Becky Dudley collected sound and visual data using hydrophones and computer software.

The National: The Silurian research vesselThe Silurian research vessel

The result of this research is a series of new artworks that interrogate the power and reliance on sound as a survival tool and the impact of the legacy of military colonisation of vast areas of land in the Hebrides on the natural and cultural ecologies of the islands.

The National: Silurian vessel in an island baySilurian vessel in an island bay

Killin says: “By transforming how we tell the narrative of the 2018 mass stranding of 118 beaked whales - a narrative embedded in the overlay of two cryptic environments, the habitats of the military and the habitats of the whales – through a partnership of science, music and art, we transform how we observe this story, and perhaps in doing so we can tell reality differently and bring an audience towards the complexity of this issue.”

The installation is called On Sonorous Seas and will be hosted at An Tobar on Mull between July 8 and August 27.