Soundscape Røst

Soundscape Røst is an ongoing sound art project, that investigates and documents the changing soundscapes of the Røst archipelago in Nordland, northern Norway, and it´s struggling and endangered pelagic seabird populations, as well as the living coastal culture. Soundscape Røst traces the sound history of a truly unique environment.


“The United Nations declared 2010 To Be the International Year of Biodiversity. The world is invited two take action in 2010 two safe guard the variety of Life on earth: biodiversity.”

Pelagic seabirds such as Kittywake, Puffin, Razor Bill, Common Guillemot, Tystie (Black Guillemot), feed primarily by diving in the water. They spend most of the year out at sea but return to mainland to breed in birdcliffs between March and August. The Røst archipelago of the Northern coast of Norway holds the most numerous seabird colony in Europe. The Puffin is according to Norwegian polar-biologist Tycho Anker Nilsen:

“The most numerous seabird breeding in mainland Norway with ca 1,7 million pairs spread in 35-40 colonies along the coast…The vaste majority of these birds breed in Northern Norway west of the North Cape, with the largest number in the Røst Archipelago, at the tip of the Lofoten Islands.”

The bird mountains of Røst. Photo: Håvard Eggen


There has been a steady decline in the pelagic seabird populations of the coast of Northern Norway since the 70íes, or possibly even before. Most, but not all species are struggling. There is just not enough food in the ocean. Why ? Scientist don´t know the exact reason yet, but there are several theories and research into the matter is being done by amongst others Nina, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research: Seapop

Collapses of the herring and caplin stock in the 60s and 80´s, due to excessive fishing, is part of the problem. Research done so far also indicates that climate changes affect seabirds in various ways. The seabirds mentioned above are all redlisted in Norway, and in August this year, senior biologist Tycho Anker-Nilssen at NINA, reported that 2012 had become yet another disastrous breeding seasons. For the once 1,5 million pairs strong Puffin colony, the last successful breeding season was in 2006. Now the population is down to 450000 pairs or so. The grown Puffins strategy is to prioritize their own lives when food supply is scarce. The Kittiwake population is also struggeling heavily and this trend is seen across most colonies along the Norwegian coast and in many other colonies around the world.


The Kittiwakes of Kårøya Rorbucamping. Photo: Anja Høvik Strømsted


Another major threat to the future of the Puffin and arctic seabirds is the search for oilreserves along the Norwegian Coast and the Barents Sea. Potential oilspills in these areas would be a terrible and irreversible disaster. It is home and also breeding ground for many fish species, such as cod and herring, and thus home and breeding ground for pelagic seabirds and home of precious oceanic ecosystems. The health of the fishstocks are also vital for the local fishermen and their communties.

The arrival (March) and departure (August) of the pelagic seabirds have defined the life on the archipelago of Røst for centuries. Today their exsistence on Røst is still a major source of income due to generated tourism. In the years leading up to the 1960´s Puffin, and eggs of  the other seabirds, was a crucial part of human diet together with cod, herring, and other fish species, – cooked , dried, salted and so on. There´s even a Puffin dog only found in this part of the world. The seabirds are vital to Røsts identity. And the magical variation of sound of the Pelagic seabirds and it´s natural soundscape are rapidly changing due to environmental changes, and this artproject seeks to shed light on how and why we need to preserve and protect the seabirds and other endangered species and their natural habitats and soundscapes.

The Puffin – Fratercula Arctica. Photo: Håvard Eggen

Soundscape Røst is supported by:

and Komponistenes Vederlagsfond



Dr. Tycho Anker-Nilssen på Norsk Institutt for Naturforskning.

“Soundscape Røst” is collaborating with photographers and artist such as Carsten Aniksdal, Anja Høvik Strømsted, Jason Rosenberg (US) and nature photographer Håvard Ellingsen. Some photos on this website are courtesy of Tycho Anker-Nilssen.

Videoediting: Carsten Aniksdal and Andreas Schille.

Joonas Siren (FIN), Terje Urnes (Ny Musikk, Bergen), Peter Ringset (Soundscape Studios, Trondheim) have all contributed in various ways with their technical skills

BEK, Bergen and Trond Lossius

NOTAM  in Oslo.

TEKS in Trondheim

Soundscape Studios in Trondheim

Røst inhabitants: Steve Baines, Kårøya Rorbuer ved Kari Og Finn-Olav Olsen, Steinar Greger (Røst), Røst Bryggehotell.